War on Waste sets by example

When the production crew was filming War on Waste for ABC, they had to take extra steps to ensure they practiced what they preached.

“We had to make sure everyone had their own bottles and reusable cups. We didn’t want to be hypocrites about it,” host Craig Reucassel tells TV Tonight.

“We were very careful with waste to make sure that nothing was left behind.”

A “McChokey” turtle mad of straws, taken to McDonald’s to protest at straw-pollution was also a potential hazard.

“If any straws fell off McChokey I had to get them!”

“When I spoke to the supermarkets they had a lot of excuses as to why they wouldn’t do it”

Season Two of the hugely successful ABC series again tackles Australia’s massive waste / recycling issues including our plastics footprint, e-waste, fast furniture, food waste and more. The first season was a huge hit for the broadcaster, triggering community responses, government & corporate reaction and industry awards.

By far the biggest outcome was from supermarket chains agreeing to ban single-use plastic bags -although Reucassel is quick to point out it wasn’t due to War on Waste alone.

“It wasn’t just us, but it surprised me that they did it. When I spoke to the supermarkets they had a lot of excuses as to why they wouldn’t do it, or only if the government made them do it. So when they went ahead of the government it did surprise me,” he explains.

“It was interesting to see the backlash over the next couple of weeks and the transition now. You can see why companies tend to not try and lead, because they get all of the blame. That’s why you need governments to work with them, so you can spread the blame a little bit.

“There were hiccups but generally speaking the system we now have across the country is a better one.”

So how did the show, originally produced by KEO Films, get it so right? How did a potentially unpalatable topic become such a successful mix of entertainment & information? Although based on a UK format hosted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (River Cottage), the Australian version draws upon Reucassel’s comdy background to deliver its message.

“There is definitely stuff there that we used from the format. But we also adapted it and came up with our own stuff because different countries have different issues.

“So it’s an interesting balancing act to make it entertaining but also to actually inform people. I’ve been in that area for quite a while but doing a documentary is very different,” he continues.

“Probably one of the reasons ABC asked me to do it was because I cared about it, but also stunts were part of it.”

“War on Waste is the ‘least-comedy’ show I’ve done”

Indeed the stunts and Reucassel’s light touch to a most-serious topic is already being touted as a showcase for striking a balance whilst creating change.

War on Waste is the ‘least-comedy’ show I’ve done but people from a doco background have said to me, ‘It’s amazing, it’s so funny.’ And I think, ‘Really?’ he asks.

“I guess it’s because those kinds of shows are used to being quite serious.

“We wanted to have moments that people were shocked at, but we were also aware of trying to give solutions as well.

“In the environmental area it’s easy to say ‘The government needs to fix that’ and if that’s your only response, it’s a bit dispiriting. So we tried to mix things you can do yourself with saying we also need to put pressure on to get change.

“So things like chasing politicians with plastic bag balls gives a bit of energy and enjoyment but it’s also to get in their faces.”

Season Two, now produced by Lune Media, already has some wins on the board with McDonalds confirming it plans to phase out straws in Australian stores. Despite a poor response filmed with his McChokey-turtle, Reucassel says they were sent back to the edit suite last week to incorporate the late change.

“The initial response was not great. But last week they said they would trial getting rid of them by 2020. Hungry Jacks has followed as well, and there seem to be quite a few companies now following, which is good to see.”

War on Waste airs 8:30pm Tuesdays on ABC.


  1. Just another sign, we don’t need the ABC any more. I’m tired of them pushing feel good ideas from left side, that will make no real world difference.

    Banning items like plastic bags doesn’t work, the real problem is the actual litter. But no one ever tries to address that problem, they just want to feel good with pointless polices.

  2. It is a very well produced show that I especially appreciated for its focus on little everyday changes we can make, that, as a whole, can have a big impact – for example, reusable coffee cups. Although they had their controversies, I sorely miss the direct / confrontational style of TV from the Chaser days

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