Today I tackled one months worth of waste head on to see exactly how my figures stack up. The experience of collecting and assessing my personal waste stream, despite all the other distracting challenges life has thrown my way of late, was a very positive, empowering and educational one. I would recommend it to anyone who is passionate about the environment and wants to preserve what we have for future generations. Consider it an enlightenment practice and all you have to do is collect your garbage!
I was hoping to get to really reflect on the experience this blog post but as I have house guests it has been a little difficult to steal away enough time in the process of entertaining for thoughtful contemplation (which is also why I am writing at 12.30 am and will likely not get to social media until tomorrow). However, having guests has provided another opportunity for learning and sharing gems of awareness. Today my Mr. and our guest had to head to the store before a fishing adventure and I asked them to pick up some toilet paper and whatever meat toppings they might like for a post-fishing pizza feast. It was a bit of a mad dash so there were no canvas bags for the trip to the store. As I prepared breakfast for myself I realised I hadn’t specified what toilet paper I wanted, so I text to say I was after the one with the paper packaging not plastic.
Imagine my surprise when my partner and fellow shopping companion returned home with the right toilet paper, no plastic carry bag, meat from the deli wrapped in paper and recyclable plastic bags (this had been a joint shopping decision between the two of them as it seemed like the least wasteful one), and rather than buying bottled Gatorade for the fishing trip they had bought the powder version to fill their own water bottles as it was in a recyclable container I could use in the pantry for storage. Not only were they incredibly thoughtful on their grocery shopping trip, they had also bought themselves lunch at subway because the sandwiches are ‘just wrapped in paper so it seemed like a better option’.
It is amazing how making changes in your personal life can inspire positive actions in others. This positive influence is what gets me through some of the less glamorous parts of exploring sustainability, such as sitting in a pile of my own trash for an hour carefully sorting, ripping, weighing, and rethinking the waste in my life.
The results are in and my months worth of waste comprised of the following:
- 190 grams of soft plastic- Mostly post parcel packages. These can be recycled at Coles supermarkets
- 1.36 kg of paper and cardboard- Depending on the type of paper the majority of this has been ripped up to be used as the ‘brown layer’ in my composting system. The toilet rolls will be used to create underwear storage until all my delicates are catered for. Otherwise they are great for seedling planters or compost. Anything left over can be curb side recycled
- 210 grams worth of tetra packs- Fortunately my journey to the local waste management facility put my mind at ease when I found out these packs were now recyclable in my area through my regular curb side pickup.
- 310 grams of hard plastics- Again, the trip to the waste management facility enlightened and delighted me with the fact we can now recycle all numbered plastics (of a reasonable size, not lids).
- 1.41 grams of glass and aluminium- Bottles and cans, pretty much unavoidable waste for anyone who wants to entertain. If we were to start making our own beers again then there would be less waste involved but as the glass and the bottle caps are recyclable (bottle caps should be collected in an aluminium can so they don’t get lost in the machinery) nothing is going to landfill.
Non Recyclable waste (pictured above)
- 200 grams of complete randomness- Including 2 x padded post bags, 1x broken coat hanger, 2 x plastic drinking straws, 1 x fishing line, 1 pile of labels from glass jars, 1 pile of dentil floss, 1 wrapper from halloween candy, 1 weird bit of foam, 1 toothpaste tube, 1 plastic package from a zipper, and 11 x plastic lids.
Two hundred grams of waste really doesn’t seem like much, but at 2.4 kg of waste per year as an individual times by the 7+ billion people on earth. That is a lot of rubbish to be buried each year, especially when there really isn’t an ‘away’ to take it to on our finite earth. Obviously we all have different circumstances and some of us may make more or less waste than that, but just making small changes in your purchasing habits can and will make a difference to our collective environmental situation. While it would be ideal that we all lived a zero waste lifestyle, this is a daunting path for so many busy folk so rather than feel guilty about what you can’t achieve start working on the little thing that seem do-able.
I, like you, am a regular person with a regular life and each day I feel so pleased with the small but significant changes I can make to improve my environmental footprint. So if you are feeling brave perhaps you could consider your very own waste stream audit. I can personally guarantee its immediate effectiveness in reducing your waste output and changing your consumption habits. When you stop to think and observe the consequences of your purchasing decisions it is impossible to continue on the same path. No only have I dramatically cut my waste output but by finding alternatives to packaged good I have also saved money on my weekly shopping bill.
Anyway. For now it’s best I head to bed.
I look forward to sharing some contemplative thoughts with you tomorrow in addition to the ‘compost tally’ and the beginning of a countdown to mindful Christmas celebrations.
Sweet dreams my fellow environmental warriors.