Author: Laura Chalk
It’s the time of year when we can look afresh at our lives and decide what to focus on. And when it comes to green New Year’s resolutions, looking anew at the waste hierarchy can provide us with some great ideas.
While recycling is something Australians have known about for decades, our positive environmental actions don’t have to end there.
And while ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ is also a well-known instructional phrase, we can go even further, to how we think about waste, as well as what we do with it.
1. To reimagine is a good starting point. This is an empowering action, as it involves us creating a new way to think about waste and what & how we consume.
E.g., consider used items as resources rather than waste by asking: could this item be given new life through reuse, upcycling or recycling? Reimagining items in this way means we’ll be less likely to discard them mindlessly.
2. Refuse and replace. There have been ‘just say no’ campaigns throughout history, but sustained success in refusing waste is greatly aided when we have replacements for what we say no to.
E.g., refuse plastic bags, & replace with reusable ones. Have them ready at your door before leaving the house, or put one in each bag you regularly use. This extends to produce bags. We can either go without, or bring cloth bags to place unruly veggies in.
3. Report. Through the groundswell of public requests, following from reports like those on ABC TVs The War on Waste, major supermarket chains have committed to phasing out plastic bags. Reporting doesn’t have to be negative though. We can spread the word about businesses who are doing the right thing too, such as cafés offering discounts for customers with reusable coffee cups.
4. Reduce. This is something we can all do. To reduce plastic wrap, for example, we can ask ourselves whether an item can be bought without packaging… or whether we need the item at all! Or, we can commit to cutting down on one plastic item this year – for example, less take away food.
5. Reuse is another way to get creative, & can be really simple. For example, keep your pasta sauce glass jars & reuse as drinking vessels, vases or plant pots, as holders for candles or stationary, or as containers to put leftovers in.
6. Recycle. This word is commonplace, however we don’t always know all the things we can recycle. Plastic bags, and most soft plastics, must stay out of kerbside recycling. However, they can be placed in REDcycle bins in Coles & Woolworths stores, keeping plastic that’s ‘scrunchable’ out of landfill.
7. Rot. Potentially the most fun resolution, we can get our hands dirty by either starting a compost or worm farm to reduce food waste. ShareWaste is an app that links you with composts nearby, if you’re unable to cultivate one yourself.
8. Reward yourself for your efforts regularly with some rejuvenating time in nature.
Laura joined Planet Ark in 2016. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience having travelled the world and a background in teaching English as a second language among other things.