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Perth's 'best household recycler' Gerry Lavell hasn't taken his garbage out for years

From saving bags of hair from the vacuum cleaner to burn in his fire, to soaking corn chip bags to remove the non-recyclable lining, no feat of waste reduction is too great (or small) for Gerry Lavell. 

Decades after an epiphany on the Isle of Wight set him on the path of least landfill, Mr Lavell is more dedicated to his cause than ever.

In the past seven years, the Perth man has taken out his landfill bin once — four years ago.

Mr Lavell is the self-proclaimed best household recycler in Perth.

"Someone has to set the standard," he said.

"And people need an example to look to, to see just how far they can go."

Mr Lavell's neglected wheelie-bin sits at the top of his driveway, draped in thick layers of cobwebs, with the words "Waste Master" printed on the side.

But Mr Lavell himself is the one dedicated to mastering waste.

He hammers, soaks, scrapes, peels, buries and burns to avoid sending waste to landfill, and to remove the recyclable parts of items that would otherwise not be recyclable.

When there is no alternative to the bin, he melts and crushes his rubbish into a "nice little pancake" to save space in the bin and at the tip.

Mr Lavell has found ways to recycle parts of teabag tags, shoes, preservative sachets, plasterboard and washing machine lint.

"I just don't want to contribute to landfill, and all this stuff can be recycled in one way or another," he said.

With the recycling of soft plastics on hold since the suspension of REDcycle in 2022, Mr Lavell has been stockpiling those items while he waits for a new alternative.

He said he hoped they could be incinerated when new waste to energy projects, such as facilities under construction in Kwinana and East Rockingham, became operational.

He said many people were not aware of the lengths they could go to to avoid sending waste to the tip.

Mr Lavell said he had developed a range of methods through problem-solving at home.

He smashes aerosols and spray bottles to retrieve the recyclable items inside and soaks any paper products with a plastic lining, such as corn chip bags, noodle boxes and some single-use coffee cups, so the plastic linings can be separated.

He said the same method could be applied to teabag tags and other paper or aluminium items with plastic skins.

Sometimes the plastic can be peeled off, other times it can be scraped with a stiff spatula, to separate the recyclable paper or aluminium.

Mr Lavell said pet and human hair (and other contents of his vacuum cleaner) could be burned as fuel in a slow combustion heater.

He also soaks smaller paper items then dries them into a block to use as fuel in his fire, and returns his empty egg cartons to the seller. 

Mr Lavell puts the contents of some preservative sachets, a brown powder he said was organic material, into his garden.

"My experience is people make time for that which they want to make time," he said.

"If they want to make time for recycling, they will and if they don't … they won't."

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