Northern Beaches Rubbish Problems and COVID-19




a garbage truck unloading at a landfill site

Sydney’s Alarming Waste Statistics

Let me start by saying that Sydney is in a serious situation when it comes to managing waste. By 2030, the total number of Sydney residents will reach nearly 6 million and right now, the city is already generating waste at a rate that is 600% of its population increase. This staggering waste statistic of Sydney is one reason why New South Wales is the 2nd biggest waste producer worldwide.

There are 3 primary landfill sites in Sydney: the one at Lucas Heights and Veolia are able to process organic waste while the one at Eastern Creek takes in non-biodegradable rubbish. With the speed by which Sydney’s waste production is increasing (in part due to China’s refusal to take Australia’s waste and Sydney’s construction boom), having just 3 major landfill facilities is not a good look for Sydney.

And I’m saying this as a person whose living relies on the removal of rubbish from people’s properties. There’s just too much waste being produced by people in Sydney. It is true that the city has a number of recycling centres like the Kimbriki Resource Recovery Centre located in the Northern Beaches region but these are still not enough to accommodate the immensity of waste being generated. Adding more waste facilities is one option but due to factors such as legal requirements, the reality is that it takes a decade for a landfill to be able to process its 1st tonne of rubbish.

Ironically, as a rubbish removalist relying on the production of waste for my living, I am in agreement that Sydney citizens have to cut down on their garbage. China has already banned the importation of our waste and even previous contractors like Malaysia are also refusing to take in our rubbish. So before Sydney begins to smell like garbage, there has to be a multi-sectoral cooperation from business owners, government, residents, and even rubbish removalists like me.


Rubbish Removal in Northern Beaches

Due to recent COVID-19 events, proper garbage disposal in Sydney has to be strongly  implemented by business owners and residents, particularly in Northern Beaches where I and my team mostly conduct our rubbish removal services.

To recall, Northern Beaches underwent a 3-week lockdown from December 20 last year t0 January 10 this year. Initially, it was supposed to just be a 5-day lockdown but because of the continuous spread of COVID-19 cases in various suburbs, the restrictions endured for much longer. A lot of businesses were affected by this. Fourteen of the 17 pubs in Northern Beaches voluntarily closed down upon the start of the lockdown. COVID cases were traced to various business establishments including restaurants, spas, and recreation centres in Avalon; fitness gyms and cafes in Mona Vale; and restaurants in Newport.

Now you might be wondering what is the direct relation of COVID-19 to rubbish. Consider these waste statistics from NSW Environment Protection Authority: Of all the litter generated in NSW in 2017-2018, food containers comprised 22.78% and beverage containers formed 54.6%. Domestic containers contributed only 3.6% and even industrial containers comprised just 2.7%. Food and drink containers are clearly the dominant type of litters in NSW and of course, these come from restaurants, pubs, and other establishments that cater to food and drinks, one way or another. Now, medical professionals say that the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted through bodily fluids so it’s easy to visualize how the COVID spread originated in Northern Beaches restaurants. COVID positive individuals possibly ate or drank in these establishments and their saliva particles must have collected in disposable plastic food containers and bottles.

All people who came into contact with these containers would have been put at risk of infection. These people would include waiters and other employees of the restaurant, customers who used the dining table that the COVID positive individuals used, and rubbish removalists who collected the waste materials. Think about this – what if your pet cat or dog wandered near the waste bin of a restaurant and came into contact with used plastic containers that contain saliva particles of COVID-positive persons and then your pet came home and played with you? Not so good.



Reducing Waste Production as a Way to Combat COVID-19

So here’s the situation right now. Australia is facing two gigantic issues: huge amounts of waste and the COVID-19 pandemic. The solution is not to ban people from eating at restaurants! This would have a cascading effect on a lot of businesses that rely on food as their living, including suppliers and the restaurant owners themselves. And, of course, many people would get “sick” from missing out on their juicy steak dish at the local diner!

Even the New South Wales government was encouraging people to go out and eat at restaurants by giving away two $25 vouchers to residents aged 18 and above last February. This voucher scheme was a response to the call for support from small business owners and councillors of Northern Beaches. In turn, NSW government required business owners who expressed interest to participate in the voucher program to register their restaurants as COVID-19 safe.

The Northern Beaches region is a treasure in Australia and it’s scary to think that all sorts of rubbish might end up in its beautiful waters if the rate of waste production is not abated. It is equally scary to think that this beautiful region might become a huge COVID 19 hotspot if plastic-made food and beverage containers are not properly disposed of and become the source of infections. I do believe that the reduction of plastic container waste would help in containing the spread of COVID-19.

Glass is a durable and infinitely recyclable material. So even if a COVID-19 positive individual used glass cups and dishes, these can be quickly washed and sanitized – unlike with single-use soda cans, plastic bottles, plastic trays, and plastic plates that get immediately thrown in the bag without being cleaned, thereby becoming a potential source of COVID infection not only in one location but also to where these get transported.

An added advantage of using glass cups over plastic bottles is that wine and other drinks taste so much better in glass containers than in plastic! See it for yourself, pour some wine in glass and plastic cups and compare the tastes. You will find that the wine in plastic will taste soury or acidic while the one in glass will be sweeter and more fragrant. This is because plastic has chemicals that affect the taste of drinks that come into contact with it.

And just to drive the nail home, you really really should avoid using plastic bottles and straws because a study, conducted by the University of Newcastle, indicates that every week, people could be ingesting 2000 tiny pieces of plastic from materials used for eating. Apparently, those microplastics which get ingested equal the weight of a credit card! Yikes!


Supporting Small Business Owners as a Way to Reduce Waste

I’ll say it straight: takeouts have to be discouraged because the culture of fast food has bred the extensive use of plastic cups for drinks and paper plates and wraps for food.

Some people might argue that fast food take out is just a way more efficient method of getting food but it is exactly this hyper-efficiency that is causing the rapid rise of Sydney’s waste production. One thing that the COVID pandemic has taught us is that we need to slow down and reflect on our consumption habits.

Think about something as simple as plastic straws. You might think that even if you used plastic straws everyday for a year, it still wouldn’t impact the environment. But, according to Clean Up Australia, did you know that Australians use around 10 million straws everyday, or 3.5 billion a year?! Not so harmless after all, right? If you bought yourself a reusable bamboo or metal straw which could both be washed with dishwashing liquid, already you would be contributing to Mother Nature’s health.

When you think about it, are we really worse off when we have to wait for our food to be cooked in restaurants but use that time to have some quality bonding with family and friends who are face-to-face with us at the table and whom we probably haven’t seen in a while? And the best part about eating at restaurants is that we get to be served with sumptuous food delivered from local farmers, fisher folk, and meat breeders. That is truly a hearty meal when you realize that eating a single plate has enabled a lot of small business owners to be supported. So then, should you still eat half-baked and greasy food from fast food or would you rather eat a restaurant meal which has fresh, super-tasty, and nutritious ingredients? The choice is easy, mate!

The NSW government can hire singers and musicians to perform at restaurants. This will be a huge help for artists who have lost income due to the COVID pandemic, and also serve to enliven the spirits of Northern Beaches residents. The pandemic has admittedly been stressful so there’s no better feeling than to enjoy some really good restaurant food and listen to a relaxing musical performance. Social distancing can still be maintained from table to table and yet still provide a sense of belongingness or camaraderie. That despite the pandemic, you are not to be holed all alone in your house. You can still enjoy the company of other human beings.

The situation with Australia’s waste production and the COVID pandemic are serious issues but if there is political will, business creativity, and citizen conscientiousness, we can rise up and move forward as a better nation.


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Diseases Caused by Toxins from Rubbish


Contaminated Waste: Asbestos

Waste materials can contain toxins and chemicals that put your health at risk. With 30 years of experience in the rubbish removal industry, trust me when I say that my team has encountered all sorts of toxin-containing garbage.

Asbestos is one such toxin that we are keen to help property owners remove and transport to the proper waste facility. Asbestos can be found in poor-quality shingles, pipes, and floor tiles and many people are not aware of this. Even in seemingly harmless children’s plastic toys and other plastic-based objects, asbestos can also be present. It is usually the cheap and poorly-manufactured plastic objects that contain this. 

 Prolonged exposure to asbestos can cause severe diseases including asbestosis. This condition develops through prolonged inhalation of asbestos dust which wounds the lungs and causes serious breathing problems. 

The fibers of the asbestos mineral are fifty to two hundred times thinner than the human hair and so they can be easily inhaled and deeply settle in the human lungs. 

The thing with asbestosis is that it manifests only about ten to twenty years after the exposure period so the person might not immediately take notice and get medical attention. By the time the condition is felt, the damage is irreversible. 

Australia is actually a country that experienced one of the worst tragedies caused by asbestos. 

The ghost town of Wittenoom was once a huge mining source for asbestos from the 1950s to the early 1960s. It was closed down in 1966 because 20,000 people who lived there developed asbestosis as well as mesothelioma (a rare form of cancer of the chest and stomach). 

Last year 2020, According to an article by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, Australia would have sadly experienced as many as 45,000 deaths from asbestosis with a couple thousand cases linked to Wittenoom.  

 According to the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency,  it was actually banned for use in Australia in 2003 but a humongous 12.8 million tons of materials which contained asbestos had already been used for construction activities between 1920 and the year when it was banned. 

Apparently, 90% of these materials were for cement building and cement water pipes and the majority of these structures still stand at present. Other materials include floor tiles, roofing, paints, insulation, and textiles

Added by ASEA, asbestos waste greater than 4000 tons are generated by Australians on a daily level from all sorts of materials. 

Other diseases caused by asbestos poisoning can include cancers of the ovary and larynx. 

  If you are not sure whether the materials you have in your residence are asbestos-free, then it is advisable to throw them away and replace them with ones that have undergone strict testing and regulations marked by an official government sticker.  

Lead Contamination

Batteries, such as those for cars, are a particular source of dangerous amounts of lead, as well as sulfuric acid and this is one reason why we offer free service in collecting them. Left unattended, lead-containing materials can: leak into the air inside your house; seep into your soil and damage your garden plants; or even penetrate your water pipes. 

A 2019 published research by Macquarie University has revealed alarming lead contamination statistics in various parts of Sydney. Their Environmental Science staff had been conducting backyard soil test and household dust test for Sydney homeowners over several years and what they found was that there were 11 areas that had at least 20% of residences exceeding the safe level for lead set for  house gardens which is just 300mg per kilogram of soil.

Leichhardt was found to have an average soil lead concentration of 531 milligrams per 1 kg of sample; 64% of its residents were above the safe level. 

Sydney inner city had an average soil lead concentration of 703 milligrams per 1 kg of sample; 63% of its residents were above the safe level. 

Marrickville-Sydenham-Petersham contained an average soil lead concentration of 481 milligrams per 1 kg of sample; 60% of its residents were above the safe level. 

Strathfield-Burwood-Ashfield had kept an average soil lead concentration of 498 milligrams per 1 kg of sample; 59% of its residents were above the safe level. 

Botany was found to have an average soil lead concentration of 194 milligrams per 1 kg of sample; 36% of its residents were above the safe level. 

Easter Suburbs-North had kept an average soil lead concentration of 221 milligrams per 1 kg of sample; 31% of its residents were above the safe level. 

Blue Mountains contained an average soil lead concentration of 287 milligrams per 1 kg of sample; 29% of its residents were above the safe level

Canada Bay had an average soil lead concentration of 290 milligrams per 1 kg of sample; 26% of its residents were above the safe level.

Kogarah-Rockdale dealt with an average soil lead concentration of 199 milligrams per 1 kg of sample; 22% of its residents were above the safe level. 

Liverpool was found to have an average soil lead concentration of 220 milligrams per 1 kg of sample; 20% of its residents were above the safe level.

North Sydney-Mosman had been keeping an average soil lead concentration of 202 milligrams per 1 kg of sample; 20% of its residents were above the safe level. 

Now that’s a lot of areas in Sydney so think about this for a second. 

Let’s take the case of Leichhardt which had 64% of its residences exceeding the safety level for lead. The researchers found an average of 531 milligrams of lead in just 1 kilogram of soil that they tested for each homeowner. 

According to M3 Property, the average lot size in Sydney is 454 square meters. For every 5000 kilograms of soil in these Leichhardt house gardens, there could be around 2.655 kilograms or more amounts of lead spread out all over their garden’s topsoil and a few meters below it.

Remember that we’re not even taking into account the full amount of soil fully underneath their garden and the other parts of a 454sq meter residence! 

Where is all this lead in Sydney homes coming from?! 

Lead can seep into the soil through natural events such as sea spray, eruptions of volcanoes, bushfires, and floods. 

However, large-scale as well as household-level human activities are also  likely contributors to this lead phenomenon. 

Australia is one of the biggest producers and exporters of lead. In the past, the air quality in big cities suffered from enormous lead levels which came from lead-containing petrol.  Certain residues are likely still present.

Also, before the 1970s, a lot of Australian houses were applied with lead-containing paint so residues from those materials could have very well seeped into residential lots. 

Currently, the biggest sources of lead secretions in Australia are those from mining and manufacture of metals so when natural occurrences like storms and floods occur, lead contamination of wide areas of land can happen.  

Human factors including improper disposal of lead-containing car batteries, use of lead-containing garden pots, working with lead-containing old paint,  and improper storage of vehicle metal parts can also contaminate residential lots. 

In case you use lead-based water pipes, please replace them for your own safety. Also, if you use plumbing products such as brass fittings that contain lead, it would be better to dispose of them and use safer, higher-quality options.    

Do comment below on the comment section if you have experiences you want to share with regards to lead poisoning. Have you detected instances at your own residence?

Effects of Lead on the human body

Prolonged exposure to lead is a serious health risk. It can settle in your blood and tissues and cause damage to vital organs including the human brain and the liver. 

What’s scary about lead is that it has a half-life of 30 years in the human bones – meaning half of its toxic potency will be felt within that period but after  that, the effects of it will continue for another 30 years!

The long life of lead has dire consequences for pregnant women who become exposed to it. The mother’s blood enables the passage of lead through the placenta and this can lead to miscarriage, abnormally low birth weight, or stillbirth. 

 Infants who are born to lead-exposed mothers can sadly grow up with mental disability. 

For children who were born normally but become exposed to lead, they are at higher risk compared to adults because of their habits of hand-to-mouth contact while playing with plastic toys or crawling on the floor.  

As much as 60% of lead absorbed in the bodies of children immediately gets into their blood while only 10% are retained by adults. 

Immediate exposure to high levels of lead lead to sudden fatigue, migraine, muscular ache, dizziness and vomiting, convulsions, and even coma. 

On the other hand, a prolonged, accumulated exposure to low levels of lead could produce health problems, including: anemia, hypertension, eating disorders, infertility, learning impairments, and decrease in IQ.

Mercury Contamination

Mercury has usage in many applications and is harmless when sufficiently contained. However, when people get exposed to large amounts of it or when it gets improperly disposed of, it becomes a serious health hazard. 

Mercury contamination is a serious global issue that pollutes large bodies of water – even those that are not naturally laden with it. Mercury is released through natural events such as volcanic eruptions or  sea processes but it is human activity that has caused the rapid release of this toxin to both the natural and human environment.  

There are two types of mercury – inorganic and methylmercury. The problematic kind is methylmercury because it is severely poisonous to the nervous system of humans and animals. Among fish, 95% of the mercury contained in them is methylmercury and therefore this has serious implications for the animals and humans that regularly feed on them!

Highly-developed countries including the USA and Australia release the highest amounts of mercury into the atmosphere, water, and soil, because of coal combustion.

Australia actually still uses 22 coal-burning facilities, and several of these are really old and among the most highly-pollutive worldwide. 

A new report from Greenpeace indicates that air pollution from these really old coal-burning stations causes the deaths of 800 people annually. Alarmingly, this pollution affects several hundred kilometers of areas and seeps into big cities. 

Additionally, mercury contamination caused by coal-derived air pollution leads to hundreds of Australian babies living in cities who are born underweight each year and are at serious risk of developing heart diseases in their adulthood. The numbers point to 450 annually affected babies in Sydney, and 260 for Melbourne!

Did you know that just 1 gram of mercury is enough to contaminate a 8000 square meter body of water?

The thing with mercury is that even if it evaporates in the air, it can still enter the human body through the eyes, the nose, and the skin! 

Household Waste that Contain Mercury

Grandfather clocks – These aged clocks can contain more than two spoons of mercury in them. That is a lot of toxins that can cause a huge spill if the clock gets damaged! Just sell them to an antique collector who can religiously take care of it or hire a rubbish removal company to dispose of it.

Old electronic appliances – If you have old televisions that were made before 1991, these might contain parts that have mercury. The monitors of old computers and Liquefied Crystal Display (LCD) screens also contain mercury.

Light Bulbs –  If a fluorescent bulb gets broken, the mercury it contains leaks out and can stick to household furniture. In 1987, there was a recorded case of a baby who developed intense rashes and serious loss of weight after  getting poisoned by 2.4 meter tube bulbs that got broken in the playroom. 

Appliances – Mercury could have been used in manufacturing your old washing machine, freezers, ovens, and water heaters, house heaters. If you have these lying around your house for years, better yet dispose of them. 

Old Car Parts – If you have an old car wreck that was built before 2003, it could have mercury-containing parts in its hood, and windows. Add the fact that it’s just rusting and you’re better off doing away with it!

Batteries – Small-sized disk batteries are a particular concern because they can get easily ingested by unassuming children, babies, and pets. When they accidentally ingest these, they can experience vomiting. 

 Barometers – Old barometers do not pose a threat as long as they do not break and spill the mercury. But don’t wait for an accident like that to happen. Dispose them and buy modern ones instead! 

Jewelry – Liquid mercury can be encased in some jewelry. If you own old mercury-containing jewelry which you are not using, it’s better to hire a rubbish removal company which can properly dispose of them. 

Thermometers – What if you accidentally drop and break your thermometer on your sink and the mercury seeps through your water pipes? Remember what we wrote earlier that just 1 gram of mercury is enough to contaminate a huge amount of water? Just throw your old thermometers and buy modern-day digital ones!

Thermostats – Older models of thermostats contain mercury so to be safe, it’s better to replace them with an electric-based thermostat which is mercury-free. 

Any pile of objects that has been left uncleaned outside your property- If you live in a territory where there are high emissions from coal or where your property gets into constant contact with seawater, it is highly advisable to dispose of objects or structures outside your house that have been left uncleaned for years – especially if get to regularly touch them. Remember that mercury can seep into the atmosphere and contaminate the surface of objects.  

Mercury poisoning is not immediately detected because it can take several weeks or months before the symptoms develop in the human body.

If you have been regularly exposed to materials that contain mercury, it is best to consult a doctor who will conduct urine tests and blood tests in order to accurately assess if you are a candidate for mercury poisoning.

Diseases caused by prolonged exposure to Mercury

According to World Health Organization, mercury has debilitating effects on the skin, brain, respiratory system, and the digestive organs and therefore it is included in WHO’s top 10 chemicals of major public health concern.  

Minamata disease is a nervous system condition that results from repeated exposure to high levels of mercury. 

It is characterized by visual impairment, hearing damage, muscular weakness, and in severe cases – coma. 

Minamata disease was named after the city of Minamata in Japan where its official discovery occurred. A chemical factory irresponsibly dumped mercury in the sewage and contaminated sea creatures which were caught and eaten by the locals. Of the 2,265 official victims of the mercury poisoning, 1784 of them died.  

A study in Finland  found that men who accumulated mercury in their bodies had higher risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases.

Recent research demonstrated that mercury poisoning is connected to severe conditions like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. 

A study involving 129 Brazilian males and females older than 17 years found that mercury exposure can cause memory problems, attention disruptions, and negative effects to proper bodily movement.
The Greenpeace study cited earlier found alarming statistics of 14000 asthma conditions among Australian kids between the ages of 5 to 19, which can all be traced to mercury-containing coal emissions from power stations. Alarmingly, 280 or 20% of these cases are caused by inter-state pollution which means that  280 children who were living in territories with no coal-fired power station still got affected by the emissions coming from these.

Why Choose Jack’s as your rubbish removal company?

We have gathered information for you about the health risks of various types of rubbish to the best of our ability. We hope that we have been able to provide you with assistance. If you are looking for a rubbish removal company to take out disease-causing trash from your property, we are ready at your service! 

The safety of our clients’ health is our number one priority. This is why we do our rubbish removals in a thorough manner. Our expertise with rubbish removal spans both domestic and commercial waste, including: vegetation, household rubbish, garage and yard materials, hoarded materials, all the way up to builder’s heavy rubbish.

 We have handled rubbish removal Sydney jobs from many different locations–from Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Sydney’s North Shore and the Eastern Suburbs, Western Suburbs and inner west, and the Sydney City area.We can definitely provide you with got junk removal solutions at any time convenient to you, seven days a week. Call us on 0404 385 312 to get a free no-obligation quote. You can also check out the list of our services on our website.  

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