Craig Reucassel loves talking a load of old rubbish. In fact, the ex-Chaser lad has been delighted by how many people have stopped him in the street to talk garbage since his show War on Waste went to air six months ago on the ABC.
“The extent to which people got engaged with it and started talking about the issues has been amazing,” Craig says. “I was very surprised because waste is not a glamorous topic. I loved doing this show, but I wasn’t sure other people would have the same response.”
Inspired by a British production, the three-part series examined exactly how much junk is generated by our Australian lifestyle in discarded coffee cups, plastic bags and packaging. Some of the revelations were gobsmacking (Craig highlights the number of bananas ditched because they were the wrong shape), while others were reminders about things we should already know (plastic bags are bad news).
Now, this Sunday, a new, fourth episode will report on the changes the show has inspired.
“What I’ve found in my own life is that so much of it comes down to changing your habits,” Craig says. “I’ve been using a reusable coffee cup for well over a year now and it’s become second nature. Convenience is definitely the enemy of these sort of changes. But a lot of the changes actually become convenient once they become habit.”
He says the show’s disposable coffee cup stunt, in which he packed a Melbourne tram with 50,000 non-recyclable paper cups representing the number Melburnians throw away every half hour, really hit home with people. Social media coverage (#BYOCoffeeCup) meant he had feedback that people were changing their habits even before the show went to air.
“I think those stunts were really effective. Sometimes we know things, but seeing something like that cements it in our minds.”
He also tried to deliver an Indiana Jones-sized boulder of waste plastic bags to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, and a statewide ban on single-use bags was announced in October, bringing it in line with other states.
Craig isn’t taking credit, but he hopes the new episode will create support in Victoria to introduce a deposit system for drink bottles (Australians get through 17 billion every year), to stop them cluttering up our waterways.
“We turned up at the Yarra River and in about 10 metres had filled these gigantic bags with bottles and cans. I got a few different uniforms together to deliver them to Daniel Andrews’ office.”
It’s clear Craig is enjoying his new role as change-maker. There’s a link perhaps with his number one career choice. Before being sidetracked into comedy, he was hoping to do good by practising human rights law. War on Wastemight just be his chance to finally wrestle with the lawmakers.
“My wife is a lawyer and doing very good stuff. Making this show, I found there are sustainability people and companies who have been battling away for years and I could help by bringing a bit more attention to the issues. You can achieve change through many different mechanisms.” ●
War on Waste \ ABC TV, 7.40pm, December 3.