Waste: We put it into our nice wheelie bins and it gets magically taken away! We take our trailer loads to the dump, it gets compacted into a big bin and taken away! We feel good  because we've dropped off a few recyclables on the way to the RRP, or we've filled our yellow top bins to the brim with good, clean recycling. Great from a convenience point of view but it is also out of sight, out of mind.

Our connection to our environment has become increasingly detached. For example, our understanding of where our food comes from, how it is grown, how and where it is processed, stored and transported before it ends up at the supermarket. The same thing has happened with our every day goods. Goods have become so cheap and disposable that we hardly ever consider the raw materials, the energy, the manufacturing and freighting around the world that has gone into making them.

Legislation in China and the significant restrictions placed on the import of post-consumer recycling material is really forcing the world to re-think how we manufacture, consume and dispose of goods.

The Waste Hierarchy

Image of the waste hierarchy

The waste hierarchy is a set of priorities for the efficient use of resources. This hierarchy is used worldwide to guide waste related legislation and strategies.

Our throwaway society is not sustainable - each and every one of us can make a difference by considering the top the elements of the waste hierarchy and making small changes in our day-to-day lives. The list below might look overwhelming but the key is to pick just one or two changes to focus on, don't try to tackle all changes at once.

If it can't be reused, recycled or composted - make landfill the last option.

Reduce:

This is about reducing the amount of waste you produce, avoiding single use items. Here are some reduce tips to try:

  • Take reusable shopping bags and produce bags to the supermarket.
  • Get a reusable coffee cup for your takeaway coffee. There are heaps of options available such as IdealCup, Keep Cup and SoL Cups. Most coffee shops sell reusable coffee cups too.
  • Buy a good quality reusable water bottle to take out with you.
  • Try to buy products in recycled / recyclable packaging such as glass or aluminium cans.
  • Or avoid packaging altogether: some shops will allow you to refill containers such as the Ecostore refill stations.
  • Take your own containers when buying takeaway lunches, or make your lunch at home in a reusable container.
  • Make or buy beeswax wraps for wrapping food at home as an alternative to cling film.
  • Purchase items that are more durable and repairable.

Reuse:

Think of ways that something can be reused instead of being thrown away. Try some of these tips:

  • Go for pre-loved and purchase items such as furniture and clothing from TradeMe or your local op-shop.
  • If you only need the item for a short-term project, such as DIY tools, ask a friend or a neighbour if they have one you can borrow theirs instead of buying new items.
  • Try "up-cycling" - there are so many fun and interesting tutorials online for turning old items into something new and trendy.
  • Donate any unwanted, good quality items to charity such as books, toys and clothes. Unwanted paint can often be donated to local schools.
  • Sign up to Conscious Consumers - use your purchasing power to let local businesses know what you care about. You also get rewarded for good spending.

Recycle:

This enables materials you throw away to be used again by being made into new products. With the currently volatile recycling market it's more important now than ever to make sure we recycle right: