Top tips for reducing rubbish

Do you give much thought to what you throw out and where your rubbish ends up? As our population and economic wealth grows so too does our consumerism and ‘throw-away’ tendency, and with it the amount of waste that goes into landfill and therefore our environmental footprint. The food waste facts on the OzHarvest website succinctly outline the extent of this problem and the profound impact it has on people. In addition to food waste, cans, bottles, and takeaway plastic and coffee containers are an increasing problem for our environment.

Can we do better than this….
…..and this?











I’ve been making a conscious effort to reduce household waste, and aim to minimise as much as possible what goes into both landfill and the recycling bin. Mr Simply Will complains that there are ‘so many rules about rubbish’, but seems to keep up quite well with my rubbish rules most of the time! Here are my top tips for reducing waste and rubbish.

Food waste: 

1. Plan your meals and shop with a list

Overbuying with good intentions (‘this week we will eat more fruit and vegetables’) is a big contributor to the perishable food waste problem. There are some terrific meal planning tools available and organising shopping lists around weekly menus will help with the overbuying-only-to-throw-it-out-later problem. If you suspect that you have about-to-expire cans of food lurking amongst the cobwebs in the back of your pantry, try the Keep Calm Get Organised blog’s $50 grocery challenge or you can read about mine here.

2. Buy or build a wormfarm: Worms eat almost any scraps and also eat including newspaper and cardboard, and the worm tea is great for potplants and gardens. I am completely unscientific in the management of my wormfarm – if it starts to get smelly I stop feeding them for a while, otherwise everything goes in there including citrus and onion despite what I have read.

3. Bury scraps in the garden: This improves the soil and keep earthworms fed, and the bonus is that you will probably end up with a surprise crop of tomatoes, sweet potato or pumpkin. Digging several holes at once helps to keep this practice up.

4. Keep chickens: When people say ‘I feed all my scraps to the chooks’ I do have to wonder about this. Or are mine just fussy eaters? They love rockmelon and pawpaw, but not banana and pear. They go wild for rice, but don’t like vegetables. Despite eating only select scraps, they are entertaining little creatures, children love them, and we have a continuous supply of delicious eggs.

Packaging waste:

5. Buy fresh

Buy fresh in-season fruit and veges rather than frozen packaged ones. Shop at farmers’ markets and resist the urge to put those 5 apples in a plastic bag. They will be just fine in your green bag. Minimise the purchase of frozen fast food-like items by buying fresh fish, and making your own pizza, pastry, and pies. Actively boycott supermarkets who package fruit and vegetables as depicted in these photos and don’t further support this practice by then buying the item. Seriously, a bunch of bananas in a plastic box, 3 capsicum in a plastic bag, and lemons packed onto a styrofoam tray and then wrapped in plastic?????






6. Recycle soft plastic

We all end up with some packaging no matter how thoughtful we try to be when we shop. Haven’t we all gone into the shops in a hurry and got to the checkout to find that we’ve left our green bags in the car? At least one of the major supermarkets is recycling soft plastic. This is anything you can scrunch up, like bread/pasta/rice/dried fruit/nuts packaging, and plastic grocery bags themselves.

7. Buy a paper shredder

I use shredded paper in the chickens’ laying basket; and put it into the garden, compost heap or worm farm.IMG_0722

8. Re-use cardboard in the garden

Cardboard is a great weed smotherer. Top with lawn clippings and eventually it all breaks down. We have raised garden beds due to our terrible clay soil, and it is a challenge keeping the soil level up. So I toss even the smallest cardboard packaging like tea bag and toothpaste boxes into my fallow beds, add shredded paper, scraps, cover with large sheets of cardboard and build or add compost and new soil on top.






Now some of you may be thinking ‘get a life’, but the truth is that in our home we have created a bit of a flow with the management of our rubbish. The scraps container sits on the kitchen bench, the bag for soft plastic lives under the sink, the paper shredder is in the study, there’s a spot for other recyclables to take down to the bin or garden, and there are a few holes here and there in the garden for burying scraps. The result is that most weeks our wheelie bin contains only one partly filled plastic shopping bag of rubbish; and our recycling bin is only half full every fortnight. Just imagine the impact if everyone did this.

Do you have any other ideas for recycling? Which of these tips would you be able to commit to, in order to minimise your rubbish?

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  • Dianne Williams says:

    Hello again Jo and thanks for your great piece on rubbish. It occurs to me that there are two juggernauts in control: one is the packaging ‘industry’, and the other is its partner in crime, the vast grocery complex spewing out boxed, wrapped and cryovac-ed industrialised food to support (or is it to justify?) the frenetic pace of modern living. Once again, I hark back to ancient times when all milk came in bottles. The milk processing factories washed and recycled the returned empties for the milko to deliver next day. Now there are twenty varieties of milk available in bleached, waxed boxes, or, worse, plastic bottles. This is not the forum to get started on how come every second soul has some kind of milk allergy or health deficiency that require the vast display we see in the vast grocery complex, but are we victims of our own progress?
    I remember a former colleague celebrating the creation of a ‘dress’ made from recycled plastic milk bottles. I had not the heart to ask her how much water had been used in the rendering of said plastic into a ‘fabric’ from which a dress could be made. This kind of recycling is not what we need, but your recommendations, Jo, most certainly are do-able.
    And in terms of your ‘getting a life’, the reality is, if we don’t look after the life of our planet, there will be no life, mindful and recycle-proud, or mindless and lazy, to get.

    • Jo says:

      All incredibly valid comments Di, and it is just so important, indeed essential, for us all to take back control from those juggernauts and to challenge the current frenetic pace of life by living more simply and thoughtfully. Recycling certainly uses a lot of energy so the less it needs to happen the better.

  • Margaret says:

    Thanks Jo. I am also an avid garbage minimalist and usually have only a small amount to send off each week. My favourite is the worm farm so unbelievably easy and I can even leave them unfed for a while if I am away. I do try and take this message to work but I think the research shows we are better at recycling, waste minimisation et al at home than we are at work so any tips on that subject most welcome. Love your blog.

    • Jo says:

      Hi Margaret,
      Thanks for your comment and lovely feedback. Yes it’s much more tricky at work. Often there are no accessible recycling bins, and whilst I’m quite committed to reducing waste this does not extend to carting my scraps home! Taking your own lunch is one of the biggest ways to reduce food and packaging waste at work. Paper waste at work is another story altogether, & I don’t think the advent of computers has contributed to minimising its use as much as it was hoped.

  • Sonia says:

    Great tips Jo! I am not much of a gardener but I reckon I could throw some cardboard out there! Thanks for the inspiration. x

    • Jo says:

      Hi Sonia,
      Thanks for stopping by! No action is too small, and what a great start to put out the cardboard and throw some grass on top!

  • Jenny Boddy says:

    Hi Jo, I’m loving reading your posts. This one is inspiring! Thanks for sharing. Jenny

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