Just*ice?: Sydney Morning Herald

JUST*ICE? SMH LIFE AND DEATH SHOW Greg Leong ROGET'S CIRCULAR Sean PayneCarmel Bird Sharon Pittaway Deborah Malor Simon Longstaff Helen Rayment BEWARE OF PEDESTRIANS Roger Palmer Carmel Bird Michael Buckley

Paintings by Lisa Roberts from the current exhibition, Just*ice, line the walls of the m.a.d. (Make a Difference) gallery throughout November 2006.

I'll recycle - but leave my family car alone.

Waste not, want not: Mary-Jean Newton in Reverse Garbage's store in Enmore which recycles everything from computer motherboards to the inner tubes. Photo: Brendan Esposito. Text: Kelly Burke.

AUSTRALIANS are becoming more community-minded in their care for the environment, but not at the expense of the family car.

A record 98 per cent of us are now engaged in recycling our rubbish in some form or another, while in the past 10 years the percentage of households reusing waste has jumped from 37 per cent to 87 per cent.

But concern for the environment stops at the garage door, with four out of five shunning public transport and using the car to get to their place of work or study.

The survey, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in March, found that while 28 per cent said they used their car because there were no public transport available, almost 40 per cent with access to buses or trains said they still preferred to drive to work for convenience.

And while NSW had the highest rate of public transport use at 19 per cent, it was also the only state which recorded a slight drop in its use since the ABS conducted its last comparable survey, in 2003.

But David Brown, a research officer with the Australian Institute for Traffic Planning and Management, said the ABS might be asking the wrong questions. Australians spent more time in the car to reach social and recreational destinations rather than work, he said, while public transport destinations remained too CBD-centric.

While Australians' record in recycling fared much better, with most paper, plastic products and glass being relegated to the kerbside for collection, Jon Dee, the founder of Planet Ark, said the recycling figures painted a more optimistic picture than reality. For example, while the ABS found that almost 90 per cent of households said they reused plastic bags, that only meant they recycled some of their plastic bags some of the time.

And there was still mass confusion as to what could or couldn't be recycled.

At the cutting edge of recycling, however, there appears to be little confusion. At the Reverse Garbage co-operative's MAD (make a difference) store in Enmore, everything from computer motherboards to the inner tubes are converted to finely crafted jewellery, accessories and designer homewares.

"Designers in Western developed countries have been slow to realise the possibilities of recycled materials," Mary-Jean Newton, the co-operative's project manager, said. "But in countries like Indonesia and throughout Asia, they've always been more resourceful out of need."

Kelly Burke Consumer Affairs Reporter November 22, 2006