ReNew 133 Editorial – Waste not, want not: a reuse/recycling revolution?

ReNew Editor, Robyn Deed

Statistics on waste in Australia are disquieting. With construction waste accounting for 30% to 40% of landfill and just 20% of our plastic waste being recycled, it can seem like an intractable problem.

But there are initiatives and groups working to stop the flow at the source. Product stewardship agreements, such as those applied to manufacturers of TVs and computers, are having a measurable effect on the amount of waste ending up in landfill, as Kirsten Tsan reports in our article on e-waste. Construction waste is being minimised through a combination of targets and landfill fees, alongside passionate companies working to find ways to recycle or reuse—and we dig a little into this topic.

We often get asked about solar panel recycling. It’s been slow to get started here—a good-news story about panel longevity—but the need is growing. Lance Turner looks at this, along with battery and light recycling.

Alongside a lament for a pre-plastic world, we look at some of the statistics and issues around single-use plastics. Much more plastic is recyclable than currently is recycled, and so much more is produced than we really need—disposable forks, we’re looking at you. We spent time looking for the ‘gotcha’ image of plastic in the ocean garbage patches, only to find that those patches are actually more like plastic soups, with many tiny particles of photodegraded plastics. It’s an ecological disaster and we need to find a solution.

On a more positive note, we look at how salvaged materials can become a building. We feature two shipping container homes and we witness the launch of the first permitted earthship in Australia, a home built from reused tyres, earth and bottles. It’s a beauty, so why not plan a visit when it opens as a B&B in 2016. And usefulness and reuse intersect in an amazing greenhouse built from PET bottles by primary school students.

As you’re probably aware, the ATA (ReNew’s publisher) has been involved in investigating whether it can be cheaper and more sustainable to go all-electric at home. One of our members takes that a step further with a practical experiment, comparing gas and electricity for heating. He looks at economics, efficiency and comfort—it’s a must-read!

We also get to hear from an owner-builder who applied common-sense principles and went all-electric to build a low-cost net zero energy home. Plus we feature an owner-designed Passive House, one of six now certified in Australia—quite a feat. Our buyers guide is on LED lights, providing guidance on types, efficiency and what to look for. Plus we’ve got DIYs, the Pears Report and all our regulars! Finally, a big thank you to all those who did our recent survey, see p. 89 for more. If you missed out, we are always pleased to get feedback at

Robyn Deed
ReNew Editor


ATA CEO’s Report

Since Tesla launched its Powerwall this year, the interest in adding batteries to grid-connected solar has increased dramatically. At the ATA we have been receiving queries daily from people looking to add batteries to their solar systems or wanting to know if they should be purchasing battery storage with their new solar system.

That analysis is now easier with the launch of the ATA’s battery storage addition to our popular Sunulator tool. Sunulator ( is a freely available detailed feasibility tool that allows analysis of solar–battery system performance. Unlike other solar calculators, it uses half-hourly consumption and generation data over a whole year and calculates project feasibility over a 30-year time frame.

While grid-connected solar battery storage is still somewhat expensive, this is set to change following the lower prices and simpler configuration announced by Tesla. This will no doubt catalyse their competitors to further drive down costs and improve performance. In addition, many solar households are about to lose premium feed-in tariffs, and batteries offer the opportunity to better utilise solar energy that would otherwise be exported to the grid. Battery storage can also provide a source of power during blackouts. For more information on options to add batteries to grid-connected solar, see the article ‘Going Hybrid’ by the ATA’s Andrew Reddaway in ReNew 132.

Although Sunulator may be a bit complex for many homeowners or community groups (but maybe not ReNew readers), you can always use our paid advice service to have an ATA expert run Sunulator for you. In the next couple of months we will also be adding more state profiles to the data-sets it uses.

A big thank you to the City of Sydney for supporting the development of the storage functionality in Sunulator.

Donna Luckman