Want to do your part and reduce the amount of waste we send into our landfill? These small steps will make a big difference!
Many of us do at least the bare minimum of recycling, and some go a little bit further to make sure as much of what they throw away is reused. This in turn affects our choice of what we buy at the shop. For example - a glass bottle of mineral water instead of plastic.
However, is it necessary to shop like this or is it all as recyclable as each other? This is what I was determined to find out.
6 tips to reduce the amount of waste we send into our land
1. Buying glass over plastic wherever possible. Some glass items can be more expensive, so even picking one brand to change will help.
2. Don't buy multi-packs of things like kids biscuits. You can get the big box and put a few biccy's into a reusable bag when needed.
3. Use aluminium foil instead of cling wrap.
4. Baking your cakes and muffins. Yes you're still using packaging, but that bag of flour is going to make you a lot more than you could buy for the same amount of packaging.
5. Take reusable bags with you, not just to do the food shop. It seems when you buy most things these days, you're given a plastic bag!
6. Buy in bulk. This is a great way to purchase food items without packaging. There are stores popping up all over Australia like www.scoopwholefoods.com.au, where you take your own jars and fill them up with nuts, seeds, dried fruit, nut butters, oils, flours, sugars, chocolates and the list goes on. Just changing one shopping habit could make a real difference.
When it comes to sorting out your rubbish, the bin you choose is important. In NSW (Australia) we have 4 main bins.
These carry glass bottles and jars, all plastic, tin cans, small plant pots, meat trays and fruit punnets. But no plastic bags as they contaminate and jam the sorting machines, no cling wrap, furniture, toys, polystyrene, ceramics, white glass or sheet glass.
After a sorting process, all aluminium cans and aerosols are compacted into a large cube and sent off to a processing plant where they are melted down in a furnace. This liquid melt is cast into block and sent out to manufacturers that then make it back into aluminium cans, aerosols, bikes and even cars. If you’re wondering if the recycled product is as strong as the original made from scratch, the answer is yes it is, with the added bonus that it’s environmentally friendly.
Glass is a great one because it can be endlessly recycled, however most plants won’t accept glass from drinking glasses, Pyrex or sheet glass as it’s made from a different type of glass that’s not as durable. All glass is scanned at the plant and any items that can’t be recycled will be removed. The glass is then melted and mixed with something called cullet, which is crushed glass, and then it’s remoulded into new jars and bottles. Making a glass jar from recycled glass uses only 40 per cent of the energy used to make new glass from sand.
Glass can take up to 1000 years to degrade in landfill so recycling is really quite necessary. It’s thought that if you don’t wash out your tins or glass before you recycle, it won’t be accepted, this is false. Sure rinse them out so there’s not big bits of food left inside, but everything is sprayed clean at the processing plant, and it’s just a waste of water if you do it as well. Same goes for paper labels on tins and bottles etc, these don’t need to be taken off as they will be burnt off.
Plastic is a tricky one, there are seven different types of plastic, some can be recycled but not all. And of the ones that can be recycled, they can only be recycled once as the structure of the plastic degrades with the process. Therefore they tend to be recycled into wheelie bins, toys, fleece jumpers and sleeping bag stuffing.
When it comes to plastic bags, chip wrappers, bread bags, cling wrap etc, there is normally a bin at your local supermarket that accepts all plastic bags and wrappers, these will then be recycled back into bags.
Some states have the yellow bin as their only recycling bin, so it would contain paper and cardboard as well.
Paper and cardboard but not pizza boxes, wax coated cardboard or soiled paper.
Paper and cardboard are sent to the recycling plant where they’ll get shredded and mixed with water to remove inks, plastic, any staples and glue. The paper is then mixed with water and this creates a pulp. Small amounts of paper additives are added and then the paper is turned into new products.
Paper does have a fairly short life cycle, it can only be recycled between five to seven times, after this the paper fibres become too short to create paper on their own. Once the fibres get to that stage, they are mixed with virgin fibres to start the process over again.
Lime green bin:
All garden vegetation, no tree trunks, soil, or food scraps.
Our green waste is taken to composting facility’s where it’s put through a chipping machine, which shreds it into smaller pieces to create mulch. This mulch is then sold to the agricultural industry, landscape contractors or us, the public. So it really does go full circle.
Red/dark green bin:
All other household garbage excluding liquids, chemicals. Soil and rocks, car batteries, building materials. Everything in this bin goes straight to the landfill.
There are items that you can’t put in any of the bins, such as E Waste (electronic goods), batteries, mobiles, light bulbs, chemicals.
Australia throws away 8,000 tonnes of batteries every year, this goes into landfill where they can leak heavy metals like lead. This can then pollute our soil and drinking water!
Around 1 million light bulbs are thrown into landfill every week. Light bulbs contain mercury, and if one bulb breaks that’s enough to pollute 15,000 litres of water passed what is deemed as a safe drinking level.
So you might ask what can I do with these things if I can’t put them in the bin. Most cities and towns have drop off points, or they might schedule Chemical CleanOut days. The best thing to do is contact your council.