As part of an Inspiring Australia project, the Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC), with the support of the Alice Springs Town Council and Charles Darwin University, conducted a waste audit of the Todd Mall Markets with a team of volunteers on Sunday 17th June.
The waste audit of the Todd Mall Markets is inspired by a similar audit that was conducted at the Parap Markets in Darwin earlier this year. The aim of the audit was to gather waste composition data from the markets, in particular that of single-use plastics. This information will be used to inform a single-use plastics reduction campaign that ALEC will be running as part of Plastic Free July.
Single-use plastic is an overwhelming challenge of the modern world. Humans produce over 300 million tons of plastic every year, much of it designed for single use. The top five sources of single use plastic are plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic containers, plastic takeaway cups and plastic straws.
Plastic Free July is an international movement, which encourages people to participate by refusing single-use plastics for the month of July.
Sunday 17thJune was a cold day (17 degrees) and as such it wasn’t considered a ‘large’ market audience. Market audience numbers are unknown due to no previous data being recorded on attendees, and for the process of this audit there were too many entry points to the markets to monitor to record numbers.
In total approximately 119kg of waste was collected.
- Coffee cups and coffee cup lids, plastic cutlery, takeaway food containers and plastic drink cups were the predominant single-use plastics found.
- Over half of the coffee cups collected in total were already biodegradable (some stall holders are already using them)
- A range of strategies could be implemented to reduce single use plastic through promotion of alternatives such as biodegradable/compostable service ware
- With waste education to food market stalls some items could be removed from the waste stream entirely by converting to bio-degradable packaging, eg. plastic straws
If the vendors converted to biodegradable serviceware and Alice Springs had kerbside organics recycling67% of waste would be compostable25% would be recyclable (12% CDL and 13% other)< 5% is actual wasteThis means 80% of the waste from the markets could be either composted or recycled.
- Recycling of plastic bottles is already occurring through the Container Deposit Scheme
ALEC is a strong advocate of recycling, however, given the current challenges with the China ban on Australian recycling, ALEC is supportive of the introduction of a kerbside organic waste collection service so households and businesses can compost their food and garden waste.
Once the national challenges are addressed, Alice Springs can have both a kerbside recycling and composting service. Education and policies that support waste minimisation are important to help reduce single use plastics in Alice Springs.