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.
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.
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.
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
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?