Reverse Garbage turns 40

Thinking sustainably is sometimes at odds with our human disposition.

It is in our very nature to grow, create, expand and renew. Unfortunately for us, new isn’t always better. Over 21 million tonnes of rubbish end up in landfill every year in Australia and a huge amount of this waste can easily be reused.

Marrickville social enterprise Reverse Garbage has been championing the reuse cause since 1974 when a group of local artists, community activists and educators came together to focus on working with kids outside of school hours.

“Marrickville was a disadvantaged area in the 1970s and the young people that were growing up here often were from migrant families, with parents working long hours,” said Reverse Garbage CEO Dare Kavanagh.

Reverse garbage was created in 1976 as a way for children to pursue art with cheap recycled materials and have something meaningful
to do outside of school.

From the very beginning the organisation had an environmental and social ethos. Its wares now draw artists from across Sydney.

“We have an art residency and several art collectives shop here that use our resources,”
Ms Kavanagh said.

Today’s operations are far more widespread than was the case in the early days. Reverse Garbage now diverts about 35,000 cubic metres of materials that would otherwise end up as waste.

“We work with hundreds of businesses every year,” Ms Kavanagh said. “We help businesses all around the greater metropolitan Sydney area manage their waste more ethically by diverting quality clean items from landfill.”

“I think one of the problems we have in our society is the structures we have in place make it too easy to throw things away.”

Another facet to Reverse Garbage is the tireless work the group continues to do with schools and community groups.

“The core of our organisation is our education program, in which we provide services for schools to promote environmental education as a fun activity.”

“Environmental sustainability is up to all of us, I really think that the people-power approach of the co-operative we have is where we are going to make a difference in terms of attitude.”

“We’ve found approximately 60 per cent of our customers are purchasing from us for a community project, this means we can really live the true mission of this organisation.”

On Saturday March 12, from 4-8pm, Reverse Garbage will hold a 40th birthday party featuring a family BBQ with music, games and dress up competitions at 142 Addison Rd Marrickville.

Words by Levi Parsons