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Blog · Community & Lifestyle

Creating a smaller footprint: Aveo resident leading by example

Residents doing their part for the planet

At a local level too, older Australians are recognising the importance of doing their bit for the planet and passing on their learnings for future generations. Aveo Newstead resident Valerie (Val) Hay, pictured above, is one such person. Now aged 75, Val grew up in a post World War II era. As a result, she was raised in what she calls a “make do and mend” environment. 

“You never got anything new, so you had to make the most of what was available,” Val says. Having always had a hand in helping local charities source and recycle goods to extend their life, when Val retired in 2008 she donated all her business clothes to the not for profit community organisation, Suited to Success, which helps dress men and women to reenter the workforce. When she moved into her Aveo community nearly four years ago, Val rescued a wheelie walker and zimmer frame that someone was attempting to put into the bin. After giving them a quick clean, she donated them to Rotary International’s Donations in Kind scheme. 

Val says she always tries to lead by example. During her time at Aveo, she has developed a reputation as the go to recycling queen. Her initiative has seen flip top bins placed on each level of Aveo Newstead, where around 2,000 cans per fortnight are exchanged for cash and the money given to registered charities. All eWaste, old spectacles, used Nespresso coffee capsules and batteries are repurposed. Spare furniture from those who are downsizing or moving to the apartments with services is given a new life and either donated to homeless shelters or given to a charity aiding domestic violence victims. 

While she does her rounds, Val is trying to educate her fellow residents about what can and can’t be recycled. During her time gathering unwanted goods for recycling, Val says she has been given everything from a tutu to a golf bag. “I’ve had it all really and people mean well but a golf bag isn’t much use to someone who is homeless.” Val says while she finds her work incredibly rewarding, she is merely a “post box” who needs buy in from her fellow residents to continue in her voluntary work. “There’s too much consumerism, I think. We’ve got a beautiful country here with lovely waterways and beaches and we need to protect what we’ve got and use what we’ve got.”

Valerie Hay - Newstead Residences resident

Aussies generate about 7.6 million tonnes of solid waste annually, equating to about 312kg per person.

The reciting of Australia’s waste statistics does not make for a comfortable read. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Aussies generate about 7.6 million tonnes of solid waste annually, equating to about 312kg per person. Of this, around 27 per cent of the waste – which includes plastic, organic and hazardous materials – ends up in the landfill. The ABS figures show the majority of waste is generated by the manufacturing and construction sector which produces over a third (33.7 per cent) of all debris. Household waste accounts for 16.3 per cent or 12.4 million tonnes, which costs around $595 million each year for its collection, treatment and disposal. The ABS report also confirms that households contribute the highest proportion of plastic and organic waste. Over half of household waste is organics (6.4 million tonnes). The remainder is made up of plastics (1.2 million tonnes), glass (1.2 million tonnes) and textiles, leather and rubber (247,000 tonnes). Households also contribute around 40 per cent of the electrical and electronic equipment waste generated by Australians each year.

Not all news is bad 

While the figures are alarming, there is good news for those advocating for a more sustainable future. In late 2019, a National Waste Policy Action Plan (NWPAP) was developed and agreed upon by all levels of government to set out a new unified direction for waste and recycling in Australia. The NWPAP set out seven targets and 80 action items aimed at avoiding waste, improving resource recovery and increasing the demand for recycled building products. Designed to guide investment and national efforts to 2030 and beyond, the targets include:

  • A ban on the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres; 
  • A 10 per cent per person reduction in the total waste generated in Australia by 2030; 
  • An 80 per cent resource recovery rate for all waste streams by 2030; 
  • A significant increase in the use of recycled content by governments and industry; 
  • A phasing out of problematic and unnecessary plastics (including plastic straws, bowls, plates and utensils, lightweight shopping bags and microbeads in personal healthcare products) by 2025; 
  • Halving the amount of organic waste sent to landfill for disposal by 2030, and; 
  • Making timely and comprehensive data available to support better consumer, investment and policy decisions. 

People power taking the lead 

But it’s not just at a state or federal government level where changes are afoot. A Gumtree Australia report looking into trading in the Circular Economy (a model of production and consumption that involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible) found an estimated 130 million items have been kept out of landfill in the last year alone in Australia. Over 80 per cent of Australians now say they are changing the way they purchase and consume goods, to make more environmentally friendly choices, compared to their behaviour a decade ago. 

A glance at online trading sites such as Etsy or Facebook Marketplace shows how businesses are recognising the value of repurposing items destined for the scrap heap. This includes inner tubes from tyres being made into belts, discarded cable ties being reborn as ornate light fixtures and old cement bags being crafted into stubby holders. Plastics that have been recycled are shredded and made into new products such as outdoor furniture and play equipment. Research groups are also doing their bit, such as Victoria University’s Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities, which has developed a flexible film from pea starch left over after food processing.


Aside from the obvious things such as using reusable takeaway cups and avoiding fast fashion, there are many ways you can help lessen your environmental footprint. Below are some ideas: 


  • Download the Recycle Mate app which on receipt of a photo of your product offers disposal advice specific to your location 
  • Cash in your cans through a container deposit scheme 
  • Recycle aluminium foil by scrunching it up into a small ball and putting it in your yellow bin 
  • When doing your grocery shop, purchase products that include the Australasian recycling label 
  • Drop your used batteries into battery recycling receptors at places like Aldi or Battery World 
  • Recycle old mobile phones via Mobile Muster or resell via Mazuma 
  • Recycle your printer toner cartridges at Officeworks stores 
  • Return good quality clothing and textile items to charity stores and remember that some clothing manufacturers run take-back programs 
  • TerraCycle has recycling schemes for products including used contact lenses and blister packs, bread bag closures, coffee pods and dishwashing and beauty products. 
  • Paintback takes unwanted paint and packaging for responsible disposal and innovative reuse 
  • Siltech and CMA Ecocyle Australia accept x-ray film to prevent it from going into landfill. It has collection centres throughout Australia.

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