Waste Not

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I will never fit a year’s worth of rubbish in a small jar but I manage reasonably well at this ‘zero waste’ gig, mainly because we don’t actually buy a lot of stuff.  However, some things are unavoidable.  After much discussion and debate we recently purchased a new suitcase for our upcoming overseas trip.  You can see it here.

We bought the case online and of course there was the inevitable packaging.  All things considered, it was not unreasonable to ensure that the case arrived in perfect condition.  A large cardboard box which will be flattened and added to the pile which we use as weed mat under mulched areas of the garden and a large, lightweight plastic bag which I have carefully folded and put away.  This is sure to be used at some time in the future.

Finally, there was this piece of thin foam sheeting.

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This is not recyclable in any shape or form so it can only be destined for the rubbish bin.  Although it will still end up in landfill, I decided that it could have one more use before ending up there.

I cut it into two pieces and stitched them up to create these bags.

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They will be used as rubbish bags for the relatively small amount of household rubbish which we produce before tossing the bag and its contents into the large rubbish collection bin.  Based on past experience I expect that each of these will hold about 4 – 6 week’s worth of rubbish.

It is not an ideal solution but one in which I feel that I have made the best of the situation with which I was presented.

But back to the online shopping and packaging.  I regularly hear people complaining about the packaging they receive when shopping online and their attempts to change they way things are shipped.  We do not shop extensively online but it does have advantages.  We live in a semi-rural area and saved an enormous amount of time and fuel driving long distances to locate an appropriate suitcase.  Secondly, the packaging I received is probably the same packaging which any retail outlet would receive when ordering from the supplier.  I am sure that the shop would not have made any effort to re-purpose the various pieces of packaging materials as I have and best I could hope for is that the cardboard may have been recycled.  Therefore, even though I have added to my personal landfill tally I feel that I have done the best that I could.  What do you think?

I Bought a Bucket

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This may seem like mindless consumption as I did already have a bucket to collect the kitchen scraps for the compost but I recently bought a new compost bucket.

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I first considered buying this over 12 months ago when I saw the one my daughter had at her place.  The thing that appealed to me about it was the drop-in lid with a silicone seal.  The following photo shows the lid  and also  the bucket insert.  It is also rather more stylish when sitting on the kitchen bench and has the added bonus of being labelled which is a help to guests who are unfamiliar with our kitchen.

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These are the 2 buckets I have used previously.  Each one is a bit larger than the new one so I will definitely need to empty it each day but that is not a great imposition.  The lid is the main problem as it takes 2 hands to seal it tightly as opposed to the drop-in lid on the new one.

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I ordered the bucket online and it arrived packaged in a cardboard box.  This had clearly been re-used which is pleasing but the downside was that it had 2 layers of plastic tape.  I managed to remove all of the tape so that I can use the cardboard as weed mat in the garden.  There was quite a pile of tape.

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In fact, the tape contributed quite a significant portion of our waste for the week.  You can see it all here.

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The rubbish for this week weighed in at 264g which is considerably more than the previous couple of weeks.  This is due in to the plastic sticky tape from the cardboard box.  There is also a selection of items, including, plastic bags from rice paper wrappers, tortillas, cheese and carrots, an expired credit card, foil packet from medications, festival wristband, bottle tops, screen cleaning cloth and plastic packaging from a computer program.

Another Parcel

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About 10 days ago I placed an online order with OzFarmers for some glass jars.  They arrived by courier a few days later.

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Time to open it up.  I was impressed that the box had clearly been reused and was excited to find that the packing was not bubbled plastic or styrofoam beads, but good old newspaper.

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The newspaper was shredded quite uniquely but it is a little difficult to see in this photo.

These are 2 Weck glass jars with glass lids.  I am quite glad that they were wrapped in bubble wrap to ensure that they arrived safely.  We ordered these as GMan needed one for making a sourdough starter.  He has been making bread in the breadmaker for many years using bread mix and yeast but has decided to branch out and try sourdough.

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Since we were only able to buy these online, it made sense to purchase an additional one so that we would have a spare.  I have used reused glass jars for preserving jam, chutney and sauce but recently made the decision to invest in proper canning jars with a two-piece lid.

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I bought 12 of each of two sizes – Half pint and Pint jars – for those of us who deal in metric the actual capacity is 250ml and 500ml respectively.

Here is a closer look at the newspaper packaging.  There are about 6 layers of newspaper which have clearly been put through some sort of mechanical shredder to make a series of incomplete cuts and then it is spread to make a grille pattern.  The newspaper is now in the compost bin and the cardboard box is flattened and will be used as a weed suppressant when we next spread some mulch in the garden.

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Sadly, the entire trays were shrink-wrapped in plastic but rather than just ripping it off, I split the corners at one end until I was able to slide the whole wrapper off in one piece.

This is what it looked like.

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I sealed the untouched end with an elastic band and this will now be a future rubbish bag for my kitchen bin.

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No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to completely eliminate single-use plastic but it is possible to be conscious of your consumption and to think outside the box when it comes to disposing of it.

I am comfortable with accepting what is a relatively low level of plastic packaging to enable me to acquire products which should last a lifetime.  By using the jars we bought to prepare more of our own food we will reduce reliance on other food packaging.

Taking Responsibility

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Firstly, I would like to apologise to those of you who have commented over the past couple of months for not replying to your comments.  I do read your words and value your input, however, too often I set them aside with grand plans to reply ‘later’ and ‘later’ does not happen.  I have gone back and tried to fill in the blanks and have promised myself that I will do better in 2017.  Thank you for sticking with me.

I had already written the title for this post when I realised that I had used an identical title in February last year.  You can read it here.  Perhaps it is a new year that makes us reassess what we are doing in a variety of ways.  Reducing our carbon footprint, minimising our reliance on single-use items, supporting ethical businesses, taking stock of our possessions are just some of the ways we can make a difference to our own lives as well as the lives of others and of course, the health of the planet.

I read something recently where someone commented that if everyone had to deal with their own rubbish rather than just wheeling a bin to the kerb then they would think differently about what they acquire – both in goods and packaging.  Of all the articles and discussions I have read, this makes more sense than most.

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It is easy to get jaded when the discussion is about where the nearest supermarket is that accepts soft plastics for recycling.  Do you think that shoving a bundle of soft plastic bags and packaging into a supposed recycling collection point absolves you from making any additional effort to reduce your waste?  Do you really believe that soft plastics are actually recycled?  Have you any idea how much energy is required to recycle materials into new products?  Is it true that plastic can only be recycled once?  And the absolute no-brainer….. Did you know that plastic is made from oil which is a finite resource?  That means it will run out one day!

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This is just one example of where it would be far better to make or buy a few sturdy fabric bags to transport shopping and other goods.

Give up shopping as a pastime, buy only what you actually need……that is need, not want and remember that recycling should be a last resort, not an easy option to salve your conscience.

Call me cynical, but I do whatever I can to minimise the amount of recycling I produce because I am not convinced that my efforts end up reaping results.  I have heard that if there is any contamination found in an entire truckload of recyclables then the whole load is dumped.  Whether or not that is true, I would much rather save any cardboard and newspapers that we acquire and use it as a mulchable weed mat in the garden.  Smaller pieces of paper are shredded and used as bedding for the chickens and then finally make their way to the compost.

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Tomorrow I will discuss the concept of zero-waste and what it means to me.

 

Return to Sender

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I am on a never-ending quest to minimise the waste created by our purchases.  However, I regard the ‘zero-waste’ trumpeted by some as a somewhat false achievement.  Even if your purchase is transported home in your own bag, jar or basket it is almost certain that there was packaging, most likely plastic involved in getting the product to you.

Think about any product and trace it back to the source.  A good example is our free range eggs from our chickens.  At first glance they may seem to be ‘zero waste’ but, no, the grain for the chickens comes in a 20kg plastic bag.

So, one of the best things we can do is to try to buy things where the packaging can be re-used.  Remember, that re-use is far better than recycling.  I was reminded of a couple of examples where I can literally close the loop.

My ideal would be to grow food from seed but I am sufficiently honest with myself to realise that this is not often possible whilst holding down a full-time job.  So, I end up with plastic seedling trays but I was delighted to recently discover that these can be returned to the seller at the market for re-use.

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On another note, I buy my laundry and dishwashing liquid from a local manufacturer at a market stall.  The product is sold through retail outlets in 1 litre bottles, however, if pre-ordered from the market stall it is presented in re-used 2 and 3 litre juice bottles and I am even able to return those bottles when emptied.

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It is worth thinking critically about the source and packaging of your purchases to ensure that you have the opportunity to make informed choices.

Gluttony

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It has been really interesting to read all of your comments on my post about food being wasted.  Thanks for your input.  I know I have said it before but it is the comments and subsequent ‘conversations’ that really add value to the blog.

Tonight I want to share an old post from 2012 on a similar theme.  The thing that really strikes me about the processed food is the brightly coloured packaging – lots of red and yellow are the dominant theme.  Are we really that easily seduced by pretty packets?

Over the past couple of days I have been working hard to re-instate more photos into the old blog posts so I encourage you to do a bit of blog-surfing and see what you find.  You can always comment on old posts and I will respond.  If you choose one that still has no photos please leave a comment and I will make it a priority.

2006-01-06 004I thought I would share this photo of hang-gliders over our backyard.  We live quite close to a popular launch site and in the right conditions they often drift over our property.  I prefer to keep my feet on the ground but it is marvellous to lie on the back lawn and gaze up at them floating overhead.