Imagine if you could take your sorted household recyclable materials direct to a local company that will use it to create a new product and be given a spending voucher in return.
This method of recycling is now underway in parts of Thailand where organisations have developed recycling return systems to collect valuable recycling materials and offer a voucher system as a reward to consumers.
As well as offering an incentive for recycling, the system encourages greater education across the community about what can be recycled and how the cost of waste management can be reduced.
Grampians Central West Waste and Resource Recovery Group chief executive La Vergne Lehmann attended the World Environmental Education Congress held in Bangkok, Thailand this week, where approaches to recycling and waste management were in the spotlight.
The international conference discusses the role and importance of education for environment and sustainability, showcasing knowledge and practices from around the world.
Ms Lehmann is set presented to representatives from around the world at the conference on Wednesday about the GCWWRRG's Can Do Communities program.
READ MORE: 'Can do' communities making waste change
The program focuses on environmental education in the community and creating community capacity for change.
"When we talk about environmental education it is mostly about schools and teaching young people - there are some really great programs around the world and because they have the schools education framework they can develop an effective program," she said.
If you can inspire people to do things locally and have a means of communication, then you can share that knowledge all over the world.La Vergne Lehmann
"But once we have to start reaching out to educate the community more generally it becomes a lot more complicated - there is no school framework to achieve that through."
The Can Do Communities Program supports and connects community members to make change in the waste and recycling space.
The program has supported the establishment of Boomerang Bags groups in Ballarat and the region and the establishment of the Ballarat and Daylesford Repair Cafes - movements that have inspired and empowered communities to reduce waste and increase recycling.
"Can Do Communities uses a global medium, social medial, to achieve local outcomes," Ms Lehmann.
"We found once groups set up Facebook/Instagram pages they started to educate each other by sharing information and ideas.
"My message about the program is if you can inspire people to do things locally and have a means of communication, then you can share that knowledge all over the world."
In other conference presentations, Ms Lehmann said the concept of a circular economy had become a worldwide focus, with examples of manufacturing companies like Thai Bev embracing the idea.
The company uses what were previously waste products like spent grains and tea from fermentation in new products like homewares and personal care products like hand cream and soap.
The Victorian Government is expected to release its own circular economy policy and action plan before the end of the year.
Ms Lehmann said the conference had shown the importance of implementing a circular economy at a local level - from households to local community and local businesses.
"If people are not personally involved in change it will be hard to achieve an effective circular economy," she said.
"That means we need to work with the community to rethink purchasing choices, to buy for longevity & repair rather than cheapness and immediate satisfaction."
Meanwhile at the conference, Ms Lehmann said presentations from school students from Thailand, the Philippines, Japan, Nepal and Taiwan on their environmental research projects were 'amazing'.
"One Thai school invented a rubber latex polymer compound that is hydrophobic but absorbs oil from waterways using basic science techniques available to them," she said.
"The schools students were amazing, which gives us a lot of hope for the future."