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  • Monday, September 16, 2019 11:19 AM | Lesley Van Staveren (Administrator)

    Cairns residents may be closer to driving on roads made of glass bottles (recovered through kerbside collections) thanks to recent successful asphalt trials at Cairns Regional Council (CRC) facilities.

    Cairns Regional Council in partnership with local company Pioneer North Queensland have just completed trials using 18 tonnes recovered crushed glass to create more than 120 tonnes of asphalt for new roads installed across Council facilities in Portsmith. 

    Though large quantities of glass bottles and jars placed in yellow top kerbside recycling bins in Cairns are recyclable, a portion of this material is unsuitable for use in glass re-manufacturing due to the particles being too small or contaminated with ceramic, stoneware, pyrex and plastic.  This material is known as glass fines. As part of the mechanical sorting process of waste sent to the CRC Materials Recovery Facility, glass fines are diverted through a crushing unit, which is able to crush the fine particles into varying sizes, to produce a sand like output.   


    Government and commercial construction of roads require large volumes of sand, this material mostly sourced from quarries in the Barron River Delta, Cairns Tablelands and from South East Queensland dune sites.  As an alternative to this material being excavated out of the environment, Cairns Regional Council has demonstrated that large volumes of this glass sand (in this instance 90,000 bottles worth) could be used as a substitute.   Staff of Pioneer North Queensland noted that during the trial pour (and after final quality inspection had been made) that ‘there was no noticeable difference in terms of its placement and performance versus normal sand/asphalt'.  Staff involved in the trial also commenting “There is no doubt that recovering glass for this use helps protect our local Cairns environment, in having less dependency on virgin material, but also shows that material traditionally sent to landfill can instead be used as a resource”.


    A lesser known fact, that though Australia is far from the most populated nation on earth that we are still one of the largest contributors to municipal (household) solid waste globally each year and with something of a crisis currently facing our recycling industry we all need to reboot our thinking towards waste.  This is a time when government and industry can re-think waste, implement more sustainable recycling methods right here in Far North Queensland, projects that repurpose glass sand and other waste products for roads & non-structural concrete requirements are clearly a great place to start.

    Thankfully government and industry have many more waste recovery projects in the pipeline, let’s continue to play our part in the rethinking of waste as a resource, achieving a more circular local economy while taking greater responsibility in reducing our waste, in order to send one less truck to landfill today.

  • Monday, September 16, 2019 10:51 AM | Lesley Van Staveren (Administrator)

    St Joseph’s Primary School is on a mission to reduce waste and help the environment by recycling as much packaging and other items, as possible.

    With the help of their mascot, Mercy, the children and staff are striving to separate recyclable, compostable and general waste, as well as plastic bottle caps to contribute to the betterment of our planet. This also instils a sense of responsibility in students from a young age.

    The school has its own environmental committee whose members keep track of what rubbish is put in which bin. Through a series of creative videos featuring Mercy the cow, children are educated through demonstrations to ensure items are recycled or thrown away correctly.

    As well as lunchtime waste there is also a cardboard recycling cage and collection point for used batteries which then get delivered to the Cairns City Library for proper disposal.

    The scraps from the classes’ fruit breaks are collected then deposited into compost bins which were generously donated to the school by Frankland Island Cruises and the Power family. The compost from the bins is then used to nourish the school’s vegetable gardens. The Kitchen Garden program is sponsored by Piccones IGA.

    Plastic bottle caps are also collected which are an overlooked waste product and are fully recyclable. Through Rotary Club of Cairns Sunrise, Envision Employment Services is using the plastic bottle caps for their filament to make mobility aids, disability aids, STEM training tools and aged care gadgets. Envision Hands has successfully taken this plastic and extruded it to create functioning filament to 3D print all the components to make up a hand! Envision is also working on a variety of products at various sites including outdoor tiles, portable disability ramps and slug traps.

    St Joseph’s…striving to be GAME CHANGERS!

  • Monday, September 16, 2019 10:26 AM | Lesley Van Staveren (Administrator)

    Waste Wise Business 2019

    Summer is knocking on the door and we all know what that means to us living here in Cairns.

    Not only does the mercury rise into the mid 30’s, which isn’t an unbearable temperature.  It’s the humidity that comes with our summer that is.  For a lot of people the high humidity and rainy season affects them in more ways than one.  It can be a trigger health conditions such as asthma, the humidity is draining and we often lose clarity in thinking. This can affect our overall well- being and happiness!  The wet season causes the onset of mould and bacteria, especially for homes that are surrounded by rainforest.

    There was a recent study by the Chinese Hong Kong University that shows a direct correlation between happiness and air quality? We focus on our health and well- being, however air quality is one yet to become a priority.  We are fortunate living in Cairns, we are gifted with beautiful fresh clean outdoor air.  But what is our indoor air quality like?   Fortunately living in our modern world we can control our indoor climate with air conditioning.

    This now raises many issues and questions for me as a person working in the air conditioning and refrigeration industry.

    I read an article recently in The Guardian (Sunday 11th August), written by journalist Franklin Schneider, Ditch your air conditioning.  You’ll be fine.  A hot room won’t usually kill you, but a hot planet will. I quote “AC isn’t the solution it’s the problem”!

    But is it the whole problem?  I believe there’s a chain reaction and it starts with people’s misunderstanding and advice from unqualified people.  You see when I receive invoices from one of my electrical wholesaler’s, the terms read “All electrical products must be installed by a licensed electrical contractor. No electrical advice can be given by any of our staff”

    Which raises the alarm bells for me, why aren’t the sales of air conditioners more regulated and sold only through a licensed refrigeration and air conditioning business?

    The marketing has started heavily by retailers and consumers are being talked into buying air conditioners from a retail salesperson! With the cheapest installation in town, of course with the hidden extra’s.  It’s all about the sale, not about the consumer.  I have heard stories of people going down this path and their air conditioners have been the wrong size for the room, the home was not visited by the retailer to measure and quote.  The add on’s seem endless and the consumer ends up paying a whole lot more! 

    There’s the big focus on the sales, but what about the maintenance to keep these machines running efficiently.  Who is installing these air conditioners?  Are they trade qualified or are they a handy man that may release the refrigerant into the atmosphere?

    In late November 2018, a new Australian standard for residential heating and cooling systems came into publication, after nine years of work and advocacy by industry organisations. The new Australian standard AS/NS 5141:2018 introduces minimum requirements for the selection and installation for air conditioning equipment and system components.  This standard ensures that the final, installed system is able to operate at its optimum efficiency, as designed by the manufacturer.

    Cairns A/C & Refrigeration hold the licence for the new Australian standard that focuses on best practice installation and design to ensure energy efficiency and will have a positive impact on the HVAC + R industry’s efforts to reduce its impact on global warming.  This new standard will also cut out bad contractors that are prepared to cut corners and take the easy route.  Even just a small percentage of air conditioning systems are poorly installed and maintained, the impacts on comfort performance, energy efficiency and happiness are significant.

  • Tuesday, September 10, 2019 11:04 AM | Lesley Van Staveren (Administrator)

    Working Towards a Sustainable Waste Free Home

    CFWR bi-monthly lunch held on 1st August was presented by Board member Anne Naylor and member Cynthia Frielich and generously sponsored by Amanda Roberts of Stratford Medical Centre.

    Sustainable living describes a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual's or society's use of the Earth's natural resources, and one's personal resources. Sustainable for you and your family but also for animals and the environment.

    What are the considerations when purchasing products around the home:

    • 1.       Packaging impact: How much packaging? Can the packaging be reused, recycled or it is compostable?
    • 2.       Waste impact: Do they provide any information on their waste practices such as reduce, reuse or recycle?
    • 3.       Health impact: What are the main ingredients? Are there warnings on the label?
    • 4.       Animals impact: It is tested on animals? Does the product impact natural wildlife?
    • 5.       Environmental impact: Do the ingredients affect the environment? Where is it manufactured? How much power and water is used in production?

    Be aware of chemicals in the products you use in particular household products such as fabric softeners, air fresheners, fragranced products, disinfectants and solvents. Chemicals can affect your health via Inhalation, Consumption, Exposure or Absorption. Think those chemicals have been tested? Think again….

    So next time you are buying products think about how the product was made and also what will happen to the product when you have finished using it.

    Our lunches are a great place to start the conversation on how much better we can do in daily practices for home or the workplace. But it’s about so much more, we are creating a community of passionate people who enjoy connecting with each other and sharing ideas for positive change. 

    Join us on October 10th for our lunch sponsored by member Wellness Embodied Cairns.
    Lesley Van Staveren (President) and Dan Hannagan (Board member) are presenting on the ‘HOW’.

    They will be guiding you through:

    • How to change habits.
    • What to consider within your business both internally and externally.
    • How to achieve consistent implementation.

    By the time you leave you will know what your first step is and how to do it.

    Book in now for any CFWR events via our website: 

  • Monday, September 09, 2019 9:10 AM | Anonymous

    To all Members of the Committee for Waste Reduction.

    As the secretary for the CFWR I would like to advise that the AGM will be held at Cairns Regional Library on November 7th at 12.30  We would like as members to attend as possible.

    All positions on the board are declared vacant and you can nominate for any of these positions.

    Nomination forms to be provided to me, as secretary prior to the 7th November.  You can email nominations to

    If you have any questions about the AGM and process please feel free to contact me.

    I have attached the nomination forms and the proxy forms if you cannot attend but would like to provide your vote to another member.

    Nomination Form - Proxy Form

    Everyone attending must be a financial member of the CFWR.

    Michelle Torrens.


  • Friday, June 21, 2019 1:04 PM | Lesley Van Staveren (Administrator)

    After graduating university the usual course of action is try to land a job within your chosen field, however 24-year-old Sydney man Ed Philp had a different plan.

    After graduating with a Bachelor of Science and a major in Biology in April last year Ed left his hometown of Sydney, packed up his bags and peddled his way to Cairns. While waiting for the wet season to pass, he worked at the Cock & Bull saving up for the next leg of his journey — a bike ride from Cairns to Darwin. While this may sound like a path many have ventured before Ed decided to make the journey even more challenging, opting for single-use plastic free cycle.

    What challenges does a plastic free bike ride present?

    Understandably Ed’s biggest concern was food, on his ride from Sydney to Cairns Ed lived on a staple of 5-minute noodles, pre-packaged pasta and sauce, and energy bars. As all of these items involved single use plastic he needed to rethink his food options. The alternative was to purchase fruit and nut mix in bulk and storing it in a used peanut butter jar. Coconut oil packaged in a glass jar is also a staple in the diet along with sourcing fresh fruit and veggies along the way.

    Ed has not only committed to not purchasing single use plastic items during the trip but also as part of the awareness surrounding single use plastic, he’ll be taking any single-use plastic he does gather along the way with him to Darwin.

    While the initial few days of the journey saw plastic free wins, two days into the trip he’s shut down by the local bakery in Ravenshoe — refusing to provide him with bread not packaged in plastic.

    After four days of cycling the Far North Queensland Tablelands region, and feeling flat after a day of riding Ed decides to do a little  research on calorie intake.

    “Yesterday’s ride was 1,500 calories burnt, which is equivalent to five avocados.”

    When you’re cycling across Australia that’s a lot of additional weight to carry with you.

    High calorie items Ed’s stocking in his bag include nuts, coconut oil and tins of sardines. At several stops along the way Ed will need to be fully stocked with food, as there will be nowhere to purchase food along the way — which means bread is back on the menu, and unfortunately that means buying in plastic.

    Upon reaching Mount Surprise, Ed was indeed in for a surprise. The only bread available in Mount Surprise was from the same bakery back in Ravenshoe that refused to sell him bread not packaged in plastic. The plastic bread bag now doubles as a garbage bag.

    Mount Surprise may have given a little bread in a bag surprise but also quite surprising was Ed’s find on loose onions, potatoes, apples oranges and lemons at the local petrol station. Sadly that was the only plastic free food available in store.

    While sourcing food is one part of the issue surrounding single use plastics, the other is sourcing everyday essentials such as a toothbrush, deodorant, dental floss, shampoo, toothpaste.

    EORTH was able to supply all these plastic free travel products and more, for Ed’s journey. Packaged plastic free most of these products are biodegradable or compostable and with the packaging being made from paper — there’s no problem with burning it along the way.

    You can follow Ed’s entertaining journey on Social Media:


    Instagram -

    Facebook -

    Website -


  • Friday, June 14, 2019 12:38 PM | Lesley Van Staveren (Administrator)

    Not knowing where to start with your eco journey can be half the battle of choosing better for the planet, howeverwhen it comes to parties for little ones, Funki Trunki is about to make where to start a little easier for you. Here’s a few tips to start with:

    1. Avoid the single use disposable plastic items:Try re-usable plates or there are bio-degradable options that are made from corn starch or even bamboo. 

    2. Have a left-over food plan: Try stick to finger foods so your guests won’t need to use cutleries or plates. Also plan portions per guest. If your guests don’t have much of an appetite, try packing them as doggy bags or perhaps fun school lunches. 

    3. Re-think your party décor: Instead of the plastic options, why not try any of the following:

    a. Reusable cloth or paper bunting: Also stick to generic items, so you can reuse them later.

    b. Reusable paper fans or lantern

    c. Decorate with plants and flowers: If they’re pot plants – even better! 

    4. Go digital with your invitations: Instead of the traditional paper invites that goes straight into landfill, why not create an event on Facebook or send digital invites as an email or text, where you can also explain you’ll be having an eco-party, as it will help guests understand your non-traditional choices. 

    5. Insist on sustainable gifts or even a fiver party: Wrapping paper can incredibly wasteful, as kids just rip through them and toss them. You can ask parents to wrap gifts with old newspaper or have them unwrapped and placed in basket for the birthday child to open and go through later in the day. 

    You can also opt for a fiver party, where guests bring $5 that will go towards one big gift. It’s an option that is sometimes easier and cheaper for guests. 

    If you prefer someone just to do it all for you and clean up at the end of the day, well, I know a couple of girls that can help with that too. Funki Trunki is an eco-party supplier and for every milestone party we help in celebrating, we also plant a tree in their honour. 

    Join us with the Plastic Free July challenge and register yourself. Link below:

  • Friday, June 14, 2019 12:32 PM | Lesley Van Staveren (Administrator)

    In continuing efforts to protect our precious Great Barrier Reef, Cairns Regional Council has deployed 2 brand new litter boom units into Moody & Smith Creeks. 

    Replacing older equipment, the new cutting edge $75,000 litter booms are designed to capture and retain all floating litter and debris regardless of tidal movement or varying water levels without impeding natural flow or endangering fish and wildlife. 

    Litter doesn't only enter waterways via stormwater pipes, but can also be washed in to local creeks from nearby land.  This makes the implementation of such technology here in Far North Queensland so necessary given our proximity to the Great Barrier Reef.

    How do these units actually work?

    The litter, once directed into the boom ‘traps’ by normal flows, is able to be easily collected and removed by Council staff during servicing.  The performance floatable control technology operates continuously 365 days a year without any mechanical assistance to capture the floating debris and litter itself.

    Constructed of aluminium and high density polyethylene (HDPE), the units are without nets or fencing underneath, allowing fish and wildlife to be unaffected. Anchors keep the booms stationary in Moody and Smith Creeks.

    Cairns Regional Council staff are also comparing ongoing volumes of litter collected by volunteers in the same catchments as the booms have been deployed, to evaluate the equipment's effectiveness.

    I think we can all be proud of the efforts and expertise of the CRC staff involved in bringing this project together, these units will no doubt continue to protect and improve the health and appearance of our local creeks and protect wildlife, but if residents really want to know the best way to keep the Great Barrier Reef litter free it's up to all of us to ensure that waste is disposed of correctly.  We really need to be reducing, reusing and recycling waste as much as possible, so that it completely avoids our waterways all together.

  • Monday, June 10, 2019 3:53 PM | Lesley Van Staveren (Administrator)

    Be sure to register for the Plastic Free July challenge if you haven't already as they will be sending you more useful tips during July.

    ​​More than 6 out of 10 of us are already refusing plastic shopping bags, avoiding pre-packed fruit and veg, picking up other people's litter and avoiding buying bottled water. 

    Choosing to be part of the solution, you can act by:

    • Avoiding products in plastic packaging (choose alternatives)
    • Reducing where possible (opt for refills, remember your reusable shopping bags)
    • Refusing plastics that escape as litter (e.g. straws, takeaway cups, utensils, balloons)
    • Recycling what cannot be avoided

    Here's some hints & tips -

    • Bin Liners - instead of plastic bags, line with layers of newspaper
    • Glad Wrap/Cling film - use containers, aluminium foil, beeswax wraps
    • Coffee cups - buy yourself a keep cup to use and have it with you
    • Water bottles - refill your own water bottle
    • Plastic straws - use your lips, or paper, bamboo or metal straws
    • Plastic bags - use your arms, a cardboard box or reusable bags
    • Shampoo - solid bar shampoo
    • Toilet paper- look for brands not wrapped in plastic - Who Gives A Crap is an awesome choice
    • Disposable nappies - use cloth instead
    • Wipes of any type - invest in good quality cleaning fibres/cloths
    • Toothbrush - look for bamboo alternatives
    • Plastic cutlery - BYO, have a set in your bag for the occasions when you eat on the run so you don't have to accept the single use variety
    • Coffee pods - go for filtered, instant or barista. 

    So, what's the problem with single-use plastics?

    Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down, and along the way will degrade into smaller and smaller pieces called "microplastics", a material that has lately been working its way into the food chain. They're never actually disappear at all, meaning that ever single piece of plastic that's ever been made is still in existence! Even so-called "biodegradable" plastics require precise conditions to break down properly, and more often than not simply end up in landfill with everything else we throw away. 

    As well as the toxins that these plastic fragments bring with them, a terrifying number of birds and marine life are dying from entanglement in marine debris and from plastic pieces clogging up their digestive systems, causing a slow death by starvation.

    In fact, a 2014 study revealed there were 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating in Oceans around the world. The Washington post has done the maths - "With a global population of about 7.2 billion, that's nearly 700 pieces per person."

    So, do your bit by reducing this number a little during the month of July!

    Be a plastic-free gift giver:

    • Give an experience. Try a restaurant voucher, meals, movie tickets etc. Just check before-hand that the vouchers aren't plastic!
    • Donate to a charity.
    • Give a book. Who doesn't look a good book. Go for a plastic free soft cover.
    • Wrap gifts without plastic tape. You could learn the art of furoshiki (wrapping with fabric), reuse gift bags you have received or reuse wrapping paper you have received.  Use a t towel as part of your gift
    • Make your gifts. You could give homemade soap or deodorant or try a plastic free cooking recipe.

    Here's a short video from 1 Million Women on preparing for Plastic Free July:

    Lock in the next CFWR  lunch to learn more on working towards a sustainable, waste free home.

  • Monday, June 10, 2019 3:46 PM | Lesley Van Staveren (Administrator)

    The reality of running a business means there is always something to do. So while we all might understand that reducing the amount of waste your business makes economic sense, unless you have a clear and simple strategy for implementing it your chances of success are diminished.

    Whether you are just starting on the waste reduction journey or are wanting to ramp it up a great way to start is to complete a Waste Audit.

    But what is it? Waste Auditing is a process used to determine the amount and types of waste that are generated by your business. And with this information you can determine how to reduce the amount of waste that your business uses.

    Some simple waste reductions strategies to look at could be:

    Take a look around your business and evaluate the supply chain of items that become waste. What consumables do you stock? Can you switch to compostable or at least recyclable products?

    Do you have the appropriate waste bins (recycling, compost etc) located in your business, placed correctly and labelled clearly. Do you have someone in your business tasked to regularly review the contents to make sure they are being used correctly?

    Can you reduce packaging? Reviewing the packaging used in your business and eliminating single-use packaging and containers can make a big difference.

    Eliminate bottled water. If you provide bottled water for your staff and customers then why not ditch them in in favour of water filters and glasses.

    Compost organic waste. Typically the heaviest portion of the waste stream if you have organic waste in your business effectively dealing can go a long way to reducing your waste footprint. If you can’t do it yourself why not donate your waste to someone who can use it such as a community garden.

    Go paperless. Technology offers cheaper and better alternatives to using paper. This could be as simple as having a focus on not pressing print.

    Measure it. You can't manage what you don't measure. Weigh your waste, calculate the amount per day or per person per day and then share the results. Celebrate your wins and challenge everyone to reduce and be apart of the solution.


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