by Jacqui Hensel

National Recycling Week this year is from November 8-14. Waste Action Maleny (WAM), will be hosting interactive displays, events, entertainment, pop-ups and workshops, culminating in a plastic-free picnic in Maleny’s town centre. The national theme this year is “Celebrate Recycling Week YOUR way!”

The WAM group is a few months old and currently has 18 members, including Ron and Sue Smith, who began their journey towards self-sufficiency in Montville on a few acres they had purchased. There they grew much of their own food and learned how to live creating minimum waste. 

“We tried to reuse and recycle, and discovered many other people in Maleny were doing the same thing,” says Ron. 

Over the years Ron and Sue moved to larger properties that were even further off the beaten track. This meant that they had to manage all of their waste on-site. It was at this point that Wastebusters in Witta tweaked Ron’s interest, as he had to do something with the items he couldn’t reuse or recycle. 

Wastebusters was a community-based recycling initiative started in 1989 that was the brainchild of Jill Jordan (a Maleny treasure behind many of the co-ops and other big picture initiatives). 

With many other volunteers like Chris Russell, Denise Sawyer and the poet, Stephanie Bennett, they began collecting waste items and finding markets for it all.  

“We also started the secondhand market in what we liked to call the “Steptoe Shed” at the recycling centre. There was always treasure to be found there.”

The group was supported in their efforts by the then Caloundra City Council with a lease of the land at Witta for the resource recovery centre. 

“Wastebusters started in Maleny, but it grew to the whole Sunshine Coast. With the community support behind recycling, as well as pressure on landfill sites, the council introduced the yellow-bin collection system.

“Wastebusters won the Community Recycling Award in the Keep Australia Beautiful Awards in 1990,” Ron shares proudly. 

“Luckily, there was wide support for recycling in the community, and I believe that support and interest is still there. That’s why I’ve decided to get involved with the new Waste Action Maleny group.”

More information on recycling, worm farms and composting will be available from the Maleny Information Kiosk during National Recycling Week.

The Witta Resource Recycling Centre on the corner of Cooke and Witta Roads, is open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday 8am to 5pm with a Recycle Market every Saturday 9am to 2pm. The centre is currently run by Iolar for the Sunshine Coast Regional Council.  

“We see WAM as a way of continuing what was started with Wastebusters. Today’s vision is that by 2025, we shall leave as small a footprint on the Earth as one can make” Ron smiles.

If you want to share your waste action journey or are interested in joining a working group, please contact convenor, Yvonne Holmes on wasteactionmaleny@gmail.com 

Acknowledgements to Carol Low (WAM), Elaine Ricketts, author of Maleny: An Alternative History, and Chris Russell for background information and photos.