Since early 2019 we have been trying to cut down on the amount of waste we send to landfill. We aren’t perfect, but we have made really great progress. This is an ongoing process that we will continue to get better at. Below we have listed some of the ways in which we are reducing our waste and how you can too.
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How we have reduced our waste
As recently as six months ago we were not composting any of our food scraps. To be honest we were placing them all in the regular garbage unaware of the harmful effects that this can have on the environment. Putting food scraps in the waste bin can actually be extremely bad for the environment. Because these organic materials cannot break down correctly they can release toxic methane gases more potent than car emissions. When we learned about this we acted quickly to change this.
Ozharvest has compiled information from a range of sources for both the world and for here in Australia. Some of the most shocking stats include:
- One third of all food produced worldwide is lost or wasted, equal to around 1.3 billion tonnes of food
- 8% of all greenhouse gases are caused by food waste
- If food waste was a country, it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the USA and China
- In Australia, more than 5 million tonnes of food ends up in landfill
- 35% of an average household bin in Australia is food waste
These above statistics around food waste are quite alarming and made us realise how important and how easy it is for us to be reducing our waste.
You can start composting with various methods including, traditional composting, vermicomposting, and bokashi.
Traditional composting is the collection of brown (eg. dead leaves) and green (eg. food scraps, grass clippings) organic materials and layering them. This method can take up to six months, it needs to be aerated and turned regularly.
Vermicomposting or worm farming is the process of worms breaking down food waste. The worms produce nutrient rich castings.
Bokashi is a system that uses micro-organisms to break down and ferment food waste. these micro-organisms can break down more than just organic food scraps, it can even break down meats, bones and dairy products. The great thing about this system is it can be done indoors and left to ferment under the kitchen sink, perfect for those who live in apartments and for those who have no backyard. You can purchase a Bokashi kit here from Biome and start your own composting. Bokashi is perfect for those who have no backyard space and live in apartments and smaller dwellings.
2. Buying less packaged foods
One of the big problems facing Australia and the world is the amount of plastic packaging that our food comes in. Unfortunately, the large supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths haven’t done enough to curb the plastic problem. Almost everything on the shelves is packaged, including fruit and vegetables. Our aim this year has been to buy less of this packaged food. This is something we have been doing for a while, but we want to do even better. By buying less packaged food we also cut down on the amount of food waste too. It is often cheaper to buy a large bag of carrots or a bag of tomatoes than it is to buy a couple, but the problem is people often end up throwing some food away because they didn’t consume them before they went bad.
While we do our absolute best to avoid buying foods that do come packed in soft plastics it is sometimes impossible to avoid. What we do now though is rather than throw those soft plastics away we collect them and dispose of them at our local supermarket through the redCycle program. The plastics are then recycled and made into brand new products like park benches, outdoor fitness equipment, bollards and signs.
3. Growing fruit and veg
We recently started growing our very own vegetables and herbs. We have many new vegetables growing, including, tomatoes, carrots, chilli, garlic and strawberries. This won’t necessarily help us right now, but will help us in the longer term. By starting to grow our own food now this will help us in future to rely less on the supermarkets. Relying less on the supermarkets will, therefore, help us to cut down on food waste and food packaging, in turn reducing our waste output. The compost we are currently producing will be used to grow our foods. Growing our own foods also means we will be able to cook more fresh and healthy meals.
Our favourite zero waste store Biome has a large range of fruit and vegetable seeds and growing kits to get your garden started.
4. Cooking more
I have always been interested in cooking but I am now even more interested in it. By cooking more and eating at home more we are saving money but also reducing our waste from things like takeaway food packaging. Because everything is wrapped in plastic we have been cooking more than just our breakfast, lunch and dinner meals. We have also been preparing our snack foods. Cooking more snacks has been a lot of fun, we have made our own potato and zucchini chips and also countless cookies, cakes, muffins, bars and slice recipes.
5. Picking up rubbish
In June 2019, Kayleigh and I moved from Melbourne back home to NSW. At my mum’s house, where we have been spending the majority of our time, live two energetic dogs. These two dogs need a daily walk. This was a perfect opportunity for us to do more for the community and also the environment. We started walking the dogs with a bag in hand and collected rubbish as we stumbled across it. While this isn’t necessarily us producing this waste in the first place, we feel it is important that we help out by picking up this rubbish that would otherwise end up polluting our waterways. Each day we did it we came back with a bag full, mostly of aluminium cans and plastic bottles, both of which could have been easily recycled. With the cans and bottles we pick up we will be saving them to take to the NSW return and earn container deposit scheme, where we can earn 10c per item.
As a result, doing this for approximately an hour a day, we collected over 300 aluminium cans and plastic and glass bottles in the first four weeks.
The return and earn scheme has been a great initiative. It’s an extremely easy way for people to make a little bit of money and help save the environment. Since the return and earn scheme was first introduced in NSW in 2017, more than 2 billion drink containers have been recycled.
We will continue to collect these wrongly discarded, recyclable cans and bottles in the future so we can continue to contribute to this growing number of recycled bottles and cans and continue reducing our waste.