These days, everyone is aware of the effect waste, particularly plastic waste, is having on the environment. So reducing waste must be a priority for us as individuals and as communities.
To effectively reduce our waste, we first need to know the types of waste we have and then decide what to focus on first. The best way to reduce waste over time is to focus on each type of waste, and develop solutions before moving onto the next category.
It is not easy to eliminate some types of waste. We can each only do our best, knowing that if we can reduce, recycle and reuse more often it lessens our impact on the environment. Learning to live more simply and sustainably is the way forward in making a better future.
Where to start reducing waste
You need to be aware of what you are throwing away.
Audit your current waste to find out exactly how much you are generating at the moment. This will give you a clear focus on where you can improve.
It can be a bit daunting when you start to think about where and how to try reducing the amount of waste you are making and disposing of each and every day.
I live with others, and was under the impression that I was not making a lot of waste.
While house sitting for a few weeks, I was horrified to find out just how much garbage I was personally responsible for, mostly due to food shopping.
It is easy to think it is too hard. So why bother? Well, any reduction in the amount of waste we make and throw away helps.
Once you become more aware, you will find you start to get creative about how to do this.
A great place to begin reducing waste is in the kitchen, particularly in regard to our food shopping and take away food purchases.
I went out to get sushi last week and was waiting for about 15 minutes for my food. The amount of plastic was being handed out with the food during that short period of time was high. I counted upwards of 20 individual items of plastic, including food containers, plastic drink bottles and plastic carry bags. Multiply that by a day, a week or a year and its scary, when you consider that’s only one outlet. Imagine the impact nationally or globally…..
Supermarkets sell most food in plastic and a lot of the packaging is non-recyclable. Many people still use plastic shopping bags on every shopping trip as they forget to bring bags with them, and will get them even though they now have to buy them. Then there are single use plastic produce bags, and many fruit and vegetables are wrapped in plastic or come in plastic bags. Dairy foods such as milk, yogurt and ice cream are all in plastic containers. The list goes on and on!
Lets Get Started!
Step 1 – Audit your waste
For the next month, keep track of all your rubbish from food waste and all the disposable or recyclable items that are associated with food. Get some large boxes or bags to store the recycling and count how many of each item there are.
Try to throw food waste into a separate bag so you can see exactly how much food you are wasting. Put non-recyclable rubbish into other separate bags or boxes.
You may be amazed at the amount of waste you are throwing away! This should be motivation to do something about it. Do the same exercise each month for 12 months. You will be able to see how much you have reduced your waste each month. You might want to take a monthly photo to visually track your progress.
Start with the first month and make a goal of how much you will aim to reduce for the next month.
Step 2 – Beginning to tackle supermarket waste
This is a good place to start in reducing your waste. It takes only minimal planning to ensure you always have your shopping bags in the car. I never buy plastic shopping bags anymore. If I run out of bags or forget to take them, I only purchase what is absolutely necessary, and what I can usually manage without a shopping bag. Alternatively, I postpone my shopping to another day rather than buy more plastic bags.
Goals for Month One
- Buy reusable and biodegradable shopping bags
- Buy reusable and biodegradable produce bags rather than using the clear plastic bags provided to hold your fruit and vegetables.
- If you don’t have produce bags you could use the paper bags provided for mushrooms as an alternative.
- You don’t always need a bag to put items in. If I buy a bunch of bananas for example, I don’t use a produce bag.
- Get a reusable “keep” cup for when you buy take out coffee
- Take a reusable container when buying take away food. Explain to the staff that you are trying to reduce your waste. Some may not want to use your container, but you can identify fast food places that will. You can then choose who gets your business and can promote them to your family and friends.
- Try to avoid buying fruit or vegetables in plastic wrap or plastic packaging. Buying loose fruit and vegetables will make less waste. You may have to make some compromises when doing this. Continental cucumbers are my favourite type, but they come wrapped in plastic. I now buy another type of cucumber which is not wrapped. Buying food in glass containers if there is a choice is less damaging to the environment. I will also choose to buy pre-packaged food in a cardboard container over a plastic one if I can. I will also look for alternate foods or different brands to find biodegradable packaging options.
Planning ahead helps you to stick to your principals!
When starting out on your waste reduction journey, it is helpful to plan your shopping to make sure you have what you need.
1. Make a shopping list so you know how much shopping you need to buy.
2. Check that you have put your shopping and produce bags in the car. (Packing your bags back in the car when you unpack your current shopping helps. You wont have to worry about forgetting them if you always to this) . Perhaps have a small box or container in the boot of the car for this purpose.
3. Make sure you have enough bags for the amount of shopping you plan to do. This way you don’t get caught out and then have to buy plastic shopping bags.
4. Think about what products you could buy as alternatives to products packaged in plastic or non recyclable materials. Try as much as possible to buy non packaged produce. If buying processed food, opt for cardboard packaging if possible. Try to avoid any products with double layers or excessive packaging.
5. Where possible visit bulk food outlets rather than the supermarket. You can take your reusable containers which will be filled and so avoid making more disposable waste.
There wont always be an easy alternative, but you will make a lot less waste by reducing packaging where you can.