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Avoid the landfill - reduce, repurpose, reuse and refill!

December 22, 2019

Avoid the landfill - reduce, repurpose, reuse and refill!

We need to use more reusable and refillable items.

We may be perceived as clean and green by the rest of the world, but we have significant problems in New Zealand. We discard 15.5 million tonnes of waste each year! That equates to 3,200kg per person! And right now, we only recycle 28% of this waste. That is a huge amount of waste headed straight to landfill.

Landfills are like sealed tombs, whatever is in there is not going to decompose. Even organic matter like food can remain intact for decades in the anaerobic environment. Readable newspapers and edible food like corn cobs and hamburgers have been found perfectly preserved decades later!

Therefore, we need to be conscious of every item we dispose of and try to dispose of as little as possible.

Unlike food in a compost heap, food and organic matter in the landfill release methane - which contributes to global warming - because it is buried by other types of rubbish and starved of the oxygen needed to break down properly.

We are making progress in New Zealand – single use plastic shopping bags were banned this year, and it is more commonplace to see people using reusable coffee cups, and stainless steel straws rather than plastic ones; and we are seeing more goods packaged in cardboard and paper.

But it is not enough – we need to create less waste overall.

When we buy a product, we also buy any waste associated with the product. Imagine how differently we would shop if there was a charge for every ounce of plastic waste or packaging you bought. If someone was standing at the checkout saying ‘well the item is this much and now you also must pay this much for the container, plastic, or packaging it comes in.’ We’d all start changing our shopping habits pretty quickly!

It’s easy to blame the manufacturers. There are many comments along the lines of “they shouldn’t produce and package goods with so much plastic!” and although there are responsible manufacturers out there (hello, Ecome!) it is largely about supply and demand, if you demand different, they will supply different. There are no excuses. We are all responsible for our waste. It starts with us and it ends with us.

Reducing, repurposing, reusing, and refilling is key!

You would be surprised how easy it is to reduce your household waste with a little planning and forethought. Refillable containers and bags have helped us tremendously. Take bread for example. I use our Ecome organic cotton produce bags and fill them with fresh bread rolls at the bakery, (no bread bags!) fruits and veggies go straight into our produce bags as well. Meat, seafood, and deli foods can be packaged into your own reusable containers bought from home. We use Ethique solid soap and shampoo bars which come in compostable cardboard packaging, toilet paper and paper towels we buy in bulk and is delivered in cardboard boxes, children’s lunch food is homemade as much as possible using ingredients bought from bulk bins packaged into my own refillable containers.

I also repurpose bottles and containers as much as possible. Glass olive oil bottles make great bottles for homemade tomato sauce, if we ever end up with a plastic juice bottle or soft drink bottle its rinsed clean and filled with fresh water to be stored in our earthquake emergency kit (we do live in Christchurch after all).

It is often more ‘luxury’ household items, such as make up and skincare that contributes to landfill waste. But don’t worry, we are working on that – watch this space!

What makes up the most of your household waste products? Do you feel comfortable about the amount of waste your family is sending to landfill?

Do you have any tips to share about how to reduce your waste headed to landfill? We’d love you to join the discussion in our Facebook group.