The problem of packaging

How full is your bin each week?

I put mine out last night, almost one-third full of household rubbish. This is a 240L wheelie bin, so that’s about 0.8 cubic metres heading to landfill. We have about that much each week, which means we send 4 cubic metres every year to landfill, and this is not counting the garden waste that we top up the bin with each week.

But, given that technically my bin is full every single week because we fill it up with dead palm fronds, grass clippings, and other garden waste, I’m actually sending 12 cubic metres of waste to landfill each year. That’s my bathroom crammed full of rubbish and spilling out the door. 

And we are just one house.

All that rubbish has to go somewhere, and the more waste we create, the more rubbish we have to find space for out of town.  And, all of that rubbish has come from somewhere: natural resources have been employed in the production and transportation of the original products. 

I think I can do a lot better in reducing our household waste. Here’s some thoughts:

1. Less packaging. The problem of packaging is that it is paper and plastic used for no other purpose than to contain a product for sale. Sometimes this is great! I love buying my milk in a bottle! My eggs come home un-cracked much easier if they are in their cardboard crate than if I’d bought them loose. The plastic bag inside the carton keeps the Weet-bix fresher for longer. But, I need to be more conscious of not buying over-packaged goods. Individually wrapped biscuits, rather than a large packet that is then kept in an airtight container after it is opened, for example.  Loose apples instead of pre packed apples. The largest appropriate size packet. 

2. Less disposable items. I have one child still in nappies, ¾ of which are cloth, and one child who wears a disposable nappy-pant to bed each night. We could use non-disposable options here, but have chosen not to. I’ve given cloth menstrual pads a go, but have chosen not to continue those. We also use toilet paper.  All other disposable items we keep to a minimum: plates, cups, paper towel, serviettes, cleaning cloths, baking paper, plastic food wrap, alfoil.  If it is a disposable item, and I can possibly get a second use out of it then I will. (Obviously, not toilet paper.)

3. Less food waste. I remember reading somewhere that 20% of food gets thrown away. Seriously? I get annoyed if my kids only eat half their meal and I have to put the rest in the bin, let alone food that hasn’t even been used. I try to only give my kids as much food as I know they will eat, and I find ways to use up all the bits of leftover foods in my fridge before they go off: soups, stews, bizarre combos of bits and pieces for my lunch. I also try to only buy as much as will get used before it goes off. The one area I could really improve in here is composting my peelings etc. 

4. Less garden waste. We do have a bin that gets collected by a private firm and the contents recycled into new garden products. I’ve looked into ways of reusing garden waste as mulch, but haven’t found anything that will work yet. A compost bin would make a small difference.  We don’t have a lot of lawn, but we do have a lot of trees that drops things and plants that need pruning.

5. Buying household goods that will last a long time. Cheap and nasty things that break easily are not good economy, and not good for the environment. I do okay at this.

6. Recycling as much as your local council will let me. All of our milk bottles, cardboard boxes, soft drink cans, paper and glass jars go into the recycling bin. It gets collected every two weeks, and ours is usually ¾ full.  Again, this has a lot to do with too much packaging! The less that needs to be recycled in the first place, the better. 

Any other ideas on reducing household waste? 

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2 thoughts on “The problem of packaging

  1. http://www.onyainnovations.com.au/products/product-category/reusable-produce-bags/
    I use these bags for all my fruit and veges. If you go to the link, the colourful bags are actually not the actual produce bags, they’re a packet of bags. Look up the top at the picture of the lady and kids. What she’s holding and the kids are taking things out of are the actual bags. They weigh virtually nothing and if they get dirty you can chuck them in with your laundry. I have mine on my keys which help two ways. They’re always with me for those times I end up popping into the shops without preplanning, and since the packet is bigger than a normal size keyring, I can always find my keys in my bag 😉

    They also have bigger bags, made out of old parachutes so they fold away to practically nothing and yet are still very strong.

    The only place I know of in Townsville that sells them is Plant Essentials in the mall, but admittedly, I have never actually looked anywhere else for them. The beauty of them is, once you buy them, you don’t need to keep buying them. So I’ve never had to go looking for them 🙂

    • I have some produce bags that I always forget to take with me. I usually try and not put vegies in plastic bags in the first place, and reuse the ones I do get where possible.

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