You’re likely to be producing just shy of two (2) tonnes of waste in just one year! Yes, all by yourself. What can you do to reduce your waste and help solve the garbage dilemma Australia is facing into?
Fortunately, Australians are trending towards reducing and recycling waste. Even the major supermarkets are encouraging us away from using plastic shopping bags. Let’s consider the scope of the problem.
You know how, as a child, you often pondered something that puzzled you at great length and in great detail because you just couldn’t get your head around how something worked? I used to spend hours wondering how on earth our earth dealt with the amount of poo, wee and rubbish that my little household was producing, let alone my neighbours. I often imagined the earth to be like a giant chicken being prepared for a roast, and the stuffing was all of our waste being pushed and pummeled and creating such great internal pressure that the chicken might explode. My concept perhaps wasn’t really too far removed. Landfill and what to do with it, is a global problem.
The breakdown of the 2.7 tonnes of waste per capita reported in 2017 by a National Waste Report 2016, includes for each person:
- half a tonne each of municipal waste
- more than three quarters of a tonne of construction and demolition waste
- half a tonne of fly ash; and,
- over three quarters of a tonne of other commercial and industrial waste.
If we take fly ash out of the equation as we continue to reduce coal powered energy, we’re still pushing a lot of garbage out. If you’re wondering what fly ash is, it is the ash produced by the burning of powered coal and other materials.
I don’t think I need to explain the negative impacts on our continent, let alone our planet, of accumulating unsustainable amounts of human generated waste. You can look it up. There is a garbage truck full (pun intended) of research and hypotheses.
Let’s do something about it together. Here are some simple ways to cut back on the amount of waste that you and I are contributing to the waste disposal problem.
Ditch the plastic shopping bags
I’m no rubbish-reduction-angel but I am trying. I ditched plastic shopping bags about six months ago and have never looked back. It is so much easier to unload larger, sturdier bags than insipid little plastic shopping bags that often split anyway. And, I feel like I have control over one part of my life where I can actually make a difference without too much sweat.
Here are my tips on how to ditch plastic shopping bags for ever, while keeping the effort minimal.
Use that pile of plastic shopping bags stuffed in your pantry
Throw that tangled pile of crushed plastic bags into the boot of your car. Get rid of these first, by using them as your recycled shopping bags until they’re worn out.
Start collecting (or sewing) reusable shopping bags
Each week, buy yourself one more reusable shopping bag. Or, if you’re handy with the sewing machine, find a free sewing pattern online (there are heaps of them – here are some instructions from Homelife for how to sew a shopping bag) and start recycling old doona covers, sheets or other sturdy fabric items. Look out for Boomerang Bags – an amazing community not-for-profit effort that does exactly this and then simply asks for a gold coin donation per bag.
Each time you buy or make a reusable bag, stick it in the boot of your car. If you have two cars, alternate so you both have a supply always at the ready. If they’re in the boot of your car, and you drive to do your grocery shopping, you won’t forget to take them. And you will reduce your waste without too much effort!
Pack clear plastic freezer bags for fruit and vegetable shopping
So, this has been my biggest challenge. The first time I tried using reusable shopping bags, I was determined not to tear off even one of those clear plastic greengrocer bags. It made for a very onerous checkout experience as we unloaded twenty potatoes (we had a family gathering to cater for) to the cashier, and he then had to load them individually (and hands all over each potato), on to the scales and then into my reusable shopping bags. It was a fail.
I thought about taking paper bags – in fact I used some of the greengrocer’s mushroom bags as a trial run. The problem with that solution is that the greengrocer can’t see if you have any goodies hidden in the bottom of the bag, so it’s unlikely to fly well as a solution, with shop owners. So now, I reuse large clear freezer bags. Yes they’re plastic, but if I reuse them each week, I’m still reducing plastic waste, right?
Don’t forget, after unpacking all your groceries, to put your reusable bags back in the boot of your car – straight away so you don’t forget.
I don’t need to say much more here. Common sense truly prevails. Start cutting down on everything you buy, save money and reduce your waste.
Can it be recycled?
Before you ditch that old casserole dish with the missing lid, or the golf buggy, consider how you could pass on to someone else in need. Your casserole dish may be perfect for someone that is just starting out, and they may be quite happy to use it as is. Organisations that help people in need such as Vinnies or the Salvation Army may be able to take your donations and give them to someone needing a hand.
If you’re upgrading your furniture and ditching outdated pieces, if the furniture is in good condition, it could be just what someone else needs. The old adage ‘someone’s trash is another’s treasure’ could go a long way to reducing Australia’s waste problems.
Organic matter such as vegetable and fruit waste, can be encouraged to break down quickly and then recycled, providing rich compost for your vegetable garden. We just keep a large bowl near our sink for daily scraps and add this at the end of each day to a simple four panelled frame of old fencing that we use to contain our organic waste. You don’t need to have specially made composting bins, provided you’re not in a hurry for organic compost; that your compost heap is well aerated; and that you understand what not to put in your compost (such as meat, wheat products and dairy).
Gardening Australia provides some great advice on how to get started and importantly, what not to compost too. Take a look at the article Get Composting.
Don’t support individual packaging
Buying ingredients in bulk saves you loads of money in the longer term, cuts right back on packaging waste and keeps your home supplies well stocked. Instead of buying individual sachets of porridge oats, consider buying a bulk sized bag of oats and putting into your own reusable containers when you get home. Any product that is individually packaged purely for convenience and marketability is contributing to our waste problem. Individual packaged goods are a load of rubbish!
Buy from your local farmers market or farm gate
Buying locally from farmers markets or straight from the farm gate, and taking your own reusable bags or boxes is a charming way to shop. It becomes an outing to look forward to as opposed to a chore.
Better still, by choosing good quality, locally grown, sourced or produced ingredients you tend to buy less quantity and more quality, with far less potential for waste. When I was buying mass produced sausages or meat from major grocers, we’d serve up more meat than we needed simply because we understood it to be budget food. So food scraps would hit the bin every evening.
Now, we buy the best sausages you’ve ever tasted straight from a farm gate. We pay a little more, but we appreciate far more and never ever find ourselves throwing out excess locally raised pork with fennel and orange sausages! We’ve also learnt a lot about the plight of our local growers and producers along the way.
Producing excess waste is simply a rubbish way to live. Reduce your waste and teach others to do the same. If you like to feel in control, you’ll love making this your new project!
Article by Julie Pearce.