A Day in the Life of an Australian Waste Educator
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01 May 2024 Share article

Sustainability and education have always been a passion of mine. I have been lucky to grow and develop this interest and turn it into a career; where every day is different and I get to share my interests and expertise with my community, helping them understand the wonderful world of waste.

What do I actually do, you may be asking? Do you sort garbage all day? Am I a teacher? Do I sit at a desk all day and write reports? The truth is, I do all the above and more.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always a glamorous job. Yes, some days I do sort through piles of garbage and look in people's bins, but it’s the education element of the job that is very fulfilling. Being able to do my little part to help the environment encourages me to go to work every day with renewed dedication and passion, knowing that I am contributing to a greater cause and making a positive impact on environmental awareness and sustainability efforts.

Let’s look at what an average day of work is for me.

My day starts before dawn. My first job of the day is a morning bin inspection. For 3 hrs I walk the streets of a residential area, visually observing the contents of the household kerbside recycling and/or garden waste bins, providing instant feedback and information to the residents on what is and isn’t accepted in their bins in the form of cardboard tags that hang off the bin.

Some residents call me the ‘bin police’, others express gratitude for my efforts, acknowledging the necessity for the education program in their area. People generally leave the conversation with understanding the importance of the programme. It's important to note that what I do is purely educational. There are no fines, a point which resonates with those I speak with.

My second job for the day is a class of 4-year-old children. Where I teach them about compost worms. The children also helped me set up a worm farm that was kindly donated by a local resident ready for their fruit scraps.

My last job for the day is talking to an adult community group at a local library who are keen to learn about the basics of recycling.

It’s not every day that I get to do such diverse educational sessions. Yes, some days I do sort garbage into over 85 categories, to inform local governments on the type of waste being generated by their community.

Other days I might be consulting with a local government to support and guide them on their waste education strategies,

But why is this important? Why can’t everything just go into one bin?

Waste is a resource just in the wrong place. When separated and disposed of correctly it can be used for many generations to come. Burying, burning, and buying new should be last resorts. It is part of my job to educate, engage, inspire, and empower community members to make their own change.

I enjoy what I do, I love learning with the community and exploring the wonderful world of waste and sustainability every day. No two days are the same and that’s what keeps it exciting.

By Gina Handby, alumna of Melbourne Girls School, 2015 Prize winner