by Jacqui Hensel

When people in Maleny talk about reduce, reuse and recycling they are often unaware that much of this ethos was born here. 

In 1989 a group of local residents got together to do something practical about the amount of waste going to landfill. Led by Jill Jordan, the group lobbied local government, surveyed local people on their interest in waste management and brought about the group who proudly called themselves Wastebusters. 

Their mission was simple, but the execution was complex and required a great deal of grit and determination. Without community support the idea of recycling would have been impossible.

Chris Russell was kind enough to take us down memory lane to the heyday of Wastebusters.

“Wastebusters was at first a great place to go for building materials. I was building my own home and was trying to source second-hand items” Chris remembers.

“I guess I was there so much they offered me a job” he laughs.

“Wastebusters was a community advancement cooperative, and it was a great way to get things done.

“I was there for 13 years, and I loved it. Don’t get me wrong it was a lot of hot, dirty work. But it was satisfying knowing that I was making a difference to the environment as well as providing a much-needed service to the community” he said.

They started by taking recycling in at the tip at Witta, but then they were delivering fertilizer bags to households so the recycling could go in there and be taken to the tip. This predated wheelie bins and the idea of a bin for recycling grew from here.

“We then had to find markets for all the recycled goods that we had sorted. That was how we generated our income. Our stuff was really well sorted and very clean, because the community was really behind our efforts. We also had a great team who worked very hard.”

Wastebusters went on to support the Maleny Music Festival and the Woodford Folk Festival for a couple of years, collecting and sorting all the rubbish. 

“We introduced the idea of making all the consumables recyclable. We did try a washing up service, but it was a lot of work (and a few too many breakages). I even set up a conveyor belt to help sort the recycling,” Chris recalls.

“It’s very satisfying that what we started with Wastebusters is continuing now with the council having all sorts of collection bins.

“I would like to see that final link in the cycle complete where Australians no longer send recycling out of the country, that we reuse it ourselves.” 

Once Chris finished with Wastebusters he went on to run workshops. “I have always made musical instruments from recycled materials and I had the opportunity to travel to Korea doing workshops in schools. 

“They loved the idea of the instruments. I have also made musical installations in parks throughout the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane.

“You see it’s all still up here” Chris points to his head “and the legacy of Wastebusters is still in the Sunshine Coast.”