The Huffington Post recently reported that San Francisco has achieved the milestone of recycling or composting 80% of its waste. Very impressive, and they have the goal of diverting all waste from landfill by 2020.

How does Australia stack up in comparison? Recent data is a bit hard to come by, but according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the recycling rate in 2006-2007 was 52%. Before we hang our heads in shame, it’s worth noting that the figures vary considerably between states and territories. For ACT, the rate was 75% (maybe they’ve caught up with San Francisco in the meantime?), while WA languished at 33%. Maybe space has something to do with it. On the other hand, South Australia also has a high recycling rate, just behind the ACT. Surely their container deposit scheme has something to do with that.

Part of the good news is that by 2009, 99% of Australian households were actively participating in reuse and recycling. We’ve got the foundation of the right habit, now it’s just a matter of extending it to more items. For example, nearly all households recycle paper, glass and plastic bottles, but nearly half of households still dispose of kitchen and food waste into landfill.

So well done San Francisco. You are an example of what can be achieved. We have some local champions that we can learn from them so let’s strive for the lead. After all, if recycling was a sport, it would be one in which everyone wins.

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