Monday night was bin night on Q&A, the program where the nation gathers around to sort the recycling of the previous week and argue over who the hell is responsible for all this trash.
Yes, the ABC has hit on a winning formula, and it's rubbish. Who'd have guessed that one man's trash would prove a television treasure – a load of national rubbish that keeps on giving?
That one man – Craig Reucassel – was on the Q&A panel, having reinvented himself from Chaser larrikin to the high priest of the garbage generation in his ABC series War On Waste. This was a big and boldly executed hit for the national broadcaster last year, and on the eve of launching series two, Q&A was keen to capitalise on Australia’s fascination with its plastic-wrapped penchant for consuming itself to environmental exhaustion.
Reucassel was there to show once again that he is completely across this brief, and to exhort Australians to do better and take matters into their own hands, rather than rely on governments to clean up our act. Indeed, his own program has encouraged some to do just that.
War On Waste’s Craig Reucassel.
"I have bumped into people… who have halved their waste. Spread across a community it makes a big difference. And I think it's a bit hypocritical to kind of go, 'Government, you sort it out. I won't change until you do it'," Recaussel said.
"It's more likely government will change when people are already doing it themselves as well. I think it's really important what you're doing and makes a big difference."
But above that micro level, what is to be done to change the big picture?
Q&A's mostly earnest panel debated a range of issues and a range of solutions, and for some viewers it might have been hard to sort the wheat from the chaff, as if they didn't have enough recycling to think about already. But it was civilised – no one was suggesting dolphins deserved to die if they were silly enough to subsist on yoghurt containers, which kept fiery disagreements to a minimum.
And it was mostly about problems starting with the letter B – bikes, bags, bins, bottles, bananas, burning – and there were enough billions thrown around to make your hair curl.
The billion plastic bottles of water.
The $20 billion of wasted food.
The billion dollars in waste taxes.
Oz Harvest CEO Ronni Kahn.
We were treated to a niche description just entering the shopping lexicon – "ugly" food, this being fresh produce that is following the wider social trend of not wanting to be judged on its appearance. It's a liberation movement for neglected potatoes – which previously didn't even make the shelf, let alone get left on it. And it's taking off, according to panellist Ronni Kahn of OzHarvest, once again citing people power to force change.
"We've disrupted the market. For example, one of the highest categories growing now in Woolworths is the ugly fruit and vegetables. So that is very important. People are buying it… The more we buy it, the more ugly fruit and veg will be on the shelves. It's good for the economy. It's good for farmers."
It was also good if you were an unsightly turnip with a nice personality who's never been invited for dinner, but a frumpy food uprising seems unlikely to make a huge difference to the bigger problem and all its outsize dilemmas.
Should we give our mountains of excess food away rather than throw it all out? Yes, or at least probably. Should be burn our waste rather than continue piling it in landfill? Maybe, or probably not.
There are answers, but it's complicated.
It's a minefield.
In a wasteland.
On a precipice.
It's bin night – with dramatic consequences. Who knew trash TV could get so serious?
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