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Plastic waste is everyone’s problem

Images of plastic waste littering a beautiful view is the only reality check most people need to prompt thoughtful disposal of recyclables.

However, what happens to used agvet chemical containers?

Since drumMUSTER started operations in 1998, the national recycling collection program has saved more than 29 million agvet chemical containers from landfill, a volume of more than 500 gigalitres, bigger than Sydney Harbour!

Today, more than 800 collection sites take in empty, clean chemical containers displaying the drumMUSTER logo, with sites established on council lands and rural equipment suppliers around Australia.

But there’s always room for more collectors.

By hosting a drumMUSTER collection site, businesses and community groups demonstrate a commitment to environmental safety in their region.

More than 140 groups such as local charities, fire authorities, service clubs, schools, sporting clubs and Landcare groups have turned in more than four million drums and raised more than $1 million between them.

Riverina Co-op is an independent rural supplies store for farmers in the grazing and grain region around Wagga Wagga, NSW.

Since 2010 the co-op has hosted a drumMUSTER collection site with a difference – proceeds from the 72,000 containers collected to date go Country Hope Trust, which assists country children diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, and supports their families.

Riverina Co-op General Manager, Kevin Salmon, said the program was two-fold in giving back to farmers.

“We thought about what we could do to stop illegal dumping and make the return process easier for farmers by providing a convenient drop-off point,” Mr Salmon said.

“And as a self-funded local farmer’s co-op it’s nice to help people in our community.”

Placing a collection cage outside a business is good business as it encourages more traffic as drumMUSTER donors use the disposal site then replace the empty containers with new products: drums in, sales out.

Hosting a drumMUSTER service has multiple benefits. It can stimulate discussion on the significance of recycling used containers and why it’s important to have collection sites for used agvet drums throughout regional Australia.

It boils down to reducing the amount of plastic and metal taking up space in rubbish dumps.

Every Australian generates more than 2000kg of waste each year and that volume is growing fast.[1]

The majority of waste not recycled or reused goes to landfill and that figure is growing with well over 20 million tonnes dumped annually in Australia.

Landfill waste has the potential to contaminate soil and groundwater and emit greenhouse and toxic gasses, so committing non-biodegradable plastic to recycling diverts that waste into worthy, practical products.

Plastics make up the majority of agvet containers and those in the 1 to 205-litre capacity and displaying the drumMUSTER logo, have a suitable recycling pathway aimed at reducing Australia’s carbon emissions and conserving our resources.

Once the stored, empty, clean containers are collected, they are shredded and granulated, processed into pellets via heat extrusion, then sold to manufacturers to make wheelie bins, fencing, pipes, bollards, road markers and public furniture.

To date, drumMUSTER has saved more than 300,000 cubic metres of unwanted plastic from entering landfill sites, and that diversion of containers into recycling programs has saved Australian local councils a massive $24 million on land costs for waste management purposes.

Allan McGann, drumMUSTER National Program Manager, said there was always room for more local groups and suppliers to get involved.

“Community groups have played a significant role in drumMUSTER’s success, especially in the broadacre cropping regions,” Mr McGann said.

“In some areas, community groups are supported by reseller collections who donate their inspection fee to local charities”.

Businesses and the agvet chemical users who frequent drumMUSTER sites are setting a good example of how the simple act of recycling can keep land and waterways cleaner and litter-free, and families safer.

Eligible containers are those that display the drumMUSTER logo on the label or container and contain products for:

  • agricultural and livestock production
  • industrial and recreational pest and weed control
  • forestry
  • household pest control operations.

To find out more about hosting a drumMUSTER site, businesses and community groups can call 1800 008 707 or visit www.drummuster.org.au.

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics, Measures of Australia’s Progress, 2010.