Sometimes it takes a kick in the pants to make you realise that, despite all your best green intentions, you’ve developed some really bad habits.
Habits that are derived from the endless quest for convenience in this capitalist world we live in, and which are now contributing to seemingly endless waste — waste food, waste plastic, waste stuff, wasted resources…
I’ve long considered I do my bit for the environment. I’ve never professed to be perfect, and I’m aware my lifestyle leads me to cut some corners, but I never realised how much more I could be doing (or not doing, as the case may be), until I watched the recent ABC (Australia) television series War on Waste.
War on Waste has got everyone in my circles talking — and hopefully thinking and doing as well. It’s a three-part (so far) magazine-style show exploring the amount of waste in Australian society. So far it has focused on the subjects of food, plastic bags/soft plastic packaging, disposable coffee cups and fast fashion. But I’m pretty sure this barely scratches the surface of the waste we generate as a population.
If you’re in Australia, watch this show on iView. If you’re not… maybe the website will still be illuminating.
The amount of waste produced in our society is horrifying. Even while I was patting myself on the shoulder for composting, rarely using single-use shopping bags, and wearing clothes more than once (I kid you not), my brain was whirring at all the wasteful activities I do regularly engage in — simply from laziness and a measure of ignorance.
Consider my pants kicked.
So I am waging my own war on waste, and I’m going to blog about it. Because we as a society need to be more mindful about just about everything — not only how we dispose of things we don’t need, but what we buy in the first place. And I believe talking about the measures we adopt in the quest for change is important.
First let’s talk about soft plastics
I’m pleased to report that I don’t often use single-use plastic shopping bags. For years and years I’ve used alternatives such as:
- Reusable Envirosax shopping bags — I have at least one in my bag at all times (and they last YEARS)
- A trolley on wheels — for when I’m buying more than one bag full
- Supermarket ‘green bags’ — for when I have the car (which is rare)
- Also, I don’t use plastic bags for fresh fruit and vegetables unless absolutely unavoidable
So far so good, right? Go me on the minimalist use of shopping bags!
[Side note: I’m appalled that Victoria is one of three Australian states that hasn’t banned plastic shopping bags. I didn’t actually realise other states had banned them, but full credit to them — and WTF, Victoria?]
But what I didn’t know is that I can recycle all manner of soft plastics via the RedCycle bins at Coles supermarkets. Any scrunchable plastic, in fact. It’s not just limited to plastic bags themselves. (Why don’t they promote this?)
So I have started putting these aside into… a plastic bag. And I’ve been astonished by how quickly it’s filled up. It contains:
- plastic from around magazines in the mail
- biscuit packet wrappers
- plastic bags from my lite n easy delivery
- chocolate wrappers
- packaging from loose leaf spinach
- toilet roll packaging
- porridge/oatmeal sachets
- peel-back seal from meat or fresh pasta trays
YOU GET THE IDEA! It feels as though every time I grab something it’s got soft plastic packaging associated with it. And all this packaging has previously been going into my rubbish bin, and subsequently to land fill.
Of course, now that I know I can recycle this, I will do so. But it seems to me it would be infinitely better to cut it off at the source.
My quest therefore is going to be figuring out how to buy stuff with less soft plastic packaging.
This is going to be difficult. But I remember, for example, there used to be toilet paper available in paper packaging. Is that still around?
And maybe I’ll have to stop buying individually wrapped food portions for the convenience and buy in bulk more. In fact, purchase fewer processed and packaged goods in general.
Soft plastics are insidious. They’re everywhere. They need to go!
I decided to kick off this series of posts with the problem of soft plastics, because it has been truly eye-opening how quickly that bag has filled up. But there are lots of other waste issues, and I’m planning to tackle them too.
Next up I’ll be road testing biodegradable coffee pods…