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Gardening is the key to reducing Waste

Marcelle Swanson explains how to move away from plastics and improve our health

Growing your own food and composting your green waste and food scraps is the first step to reducing the amount of waste each household produces each week.

According to CoolAustralia.org, 50% of rubbish sent to landfill is food and garden waste, which puts the future of our planet clearly in gardener’s hands when it comes to waste management at home.  Growing your own not only reduces the packaging incurred at supermarkets and greengrocers, it also creates the perfect circular system for eating seasonally, growing your own and then recycling green waste nutrients back into the soil to grow even more organic produce at home. 

And if you are fortunate enough to have poultry, they also add to the system consuming meat scraps and converting these into nutrient rich manure, which can also be added to the compost and eventually your soil.

Garden waste that cannot be composted (like branches or large prunings) can be shredded and used as mulch, which in turn reduces evaporation from the soil and competition from weeds for precious resources … like water.  Participating in any or all of these activities will drastically reduce the amount of waste making its way into landfill.  Note: It is a common misconception that green waste thrown in the rubbish decomposes, and it would, if it wasn’t trapped inside plastic bags.  Inside a garbage bag, the waste does not have access to oxygen so it cannot decompose naturally.  Instead it is an anaerobic system which results in the production of methane, a harmful greenhouse gas.

One step further – plastics

With supermarkets now saying NO to single use plastic shopping bags, it’s never been a better time to take a fresh look at how to reduce plastics in your day-to-day life. 

How do you embark on this journey?  According to Erin Rhoads, the author of Waste Not (Hardie Grant, 2018), by taking one step at a time.

She started by avoiding plastic bags and produce bags, then takeaway cups with plastic lids, plastic straws, plastic cutlery, plastic takeaway containers and plastic water bottles.  She admits it was a tough challenge because it involved breaking 28 years of old-habits, and although she wasn’t always the poster child for no plastics, Erin says it’s important not to beat yourself up if you slip.

Much of this evolution to reducing your reliance on plastics is about changing the way you approach your day-to-day.  If you can’t imagine taking your own reusable container to get takeaway food, maybe you should take the time to sit down and dine on an actual plate instead, or even cook at home.

Of course, the benefits for this move away from plastic is not just what you’re not putting into landfill, it’s also about changing what you consume, and inadvertently, you’ll be healthier.  The easiest way to avoid packaging is by buying whole foods and avoiding all that processed, packaged food that disassociates us from our food supply.

The more you become aware as to just how many plastics are part of your everyday existence, the more overwhelming it can be.  I know, because once you see it, you cannot unsee it – plastics are everywhere!

I was personally riddled with guilt after reading Erin’s book, but also enthusiastic to be better and to see just how much I can reduce my family’s plastics.  This Christmas may just include gifts of personal straws, cutlery and new water bottles.  It’s important to note that part of the ‘zero waste’ philosophy is not throwing anything useful away until it cannot be used anymore … so clearing out all your existing plastics is not the answer, but stopping the importation of new plastics into your home is a big step forward. 

There are many ways to stop your reliance on plastics, see the box opposite for a few simple suggestions.  Every small change to your habits, will have a big impact over the course of your life, and our future generations.  

What you can do now to reduce waste

1. Grow your own food and compost your waste

Composting your green waste and kitchen scraps will reduce the amount of waste you send to landfill by 40–50%.*

2. Carry reusable cloth bags for all purchases 

Cloth bags are not just for the greengrocer or supermarket, you can use these at all stores. 

3. Always carry a reusable water bottle and top it up with tap water. 

Nearly 3 millions tonnes of plastic are used each year to bottle water worldwide.  Australia has some of the cleanest drinking water in the world – we don’t need to pay for it.

4. BYO cutlery

Carry your own bamboo or metal cutlery (available from second-hand stores) to avoid single use plastic cutlery. 

5. Use your own coffee cup

Refillable coffee cups help to reduce a huge amount of waste, especially single-use plastic lids. 

6.  Use beeswax wraps rather than cling wrap

Reusable, natural and breathable, they are a great alternative to cling wrap.  You can also use reusable containers.

7. Say no to plastic straws

Metal and bamboo straws are now available to help straw lovers avoid this terrible, single-use plastic.  

8. Buy bread in a paper bag

BYO paper bag or plastic container for your bread and baked goods.  Bakeries will be more than happy to accommodate you.

9. Repair rather than replace

Our grandparents repaired and reused everything. Very little was wasted and it is a change back to this mindset that will help to reduce waste.

10. Line your bin with newspaper

A plastic garbage bag is yet another bag going into landfill each week.

* Don’t compost meat scraps, citrus or onion. 

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