Did you know that Australians produce 540kg of household waste per person, each year? Unnecessary packaging and things like single-use coffee cups and water bottles that we use because they are more “convenient” make up the bulk of this waste.
Changing just a few of your habits will make a huge difference. And as the saying goes, “We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
1. Pack Your Reusables
When you leave the house, make sure to bring some reusable items with you to avoid needing to use single-use products.
Reusable coffee cups
Australians use around 1 billion disposable coffee cups each year! Investing in a reusable coffee cup is an easy way to avoid this waste, and some retailers even give you a discount for doing so.
Reusable water bottles
Surprisingly, plastic water bottle usage has risen in Australia in recent years. Although it’s easy to think that these bottles are recyclable, many of them end up in landfill – taking 450 years to decompose! Plastic water bottles are also unnecessarily expensive, and you’ll save money by filling up your reusable bottle at home or out and about. We love these reusable bottles from Australian company SoL. SoL bottles are made from hand blow glass meaning they’re lightweight, won’t absorb residual odours or germs, and won’t leach dangerous chemicals into your drink. Browse our range of SoL bottles here.
Straw usage is still a massive problem in Australia, statistics finding that we use around 10 million straws a day. As straws are so small, they aren’t easily recycled, and many end up in our waterways. So-called “biodegradable” and paper straws are a start, but reusables will always be the best option. Sunshine Coast locals Mimmi and Adam started Seastraws to offer Australians a more sustainable option, creating borosilicate glass straws that are non-toxic, BPA free, hypoallergenic, and dishwasher safe.
Reusable carry bags
Globally, more than one million plastic bags end up in landfill each minute. One of the easiest things you can do is to keep a reusable bag on you at all times. You never know when you might need it, and you don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you have to say yes to disposable, polluting plastic.
2. Buy in bulk
Many food, cleaning, and beauty products come in plastic packaging. Shopping at a bulk food store eliminates this issue.
Bulk stores stock food products like rice, pasta, and beans in bulk, which you can use to fill up a paper bag or your reusable containers. They also have cleaning detergent and washing powder in bulk, as well as soap, body wash, and shampoo.
If you don’t have a bulk store near you, choose glass and aluminium, which are 100% recyclable, or paper, which has a landfill lifespan of just one to five months, over plastic. Glass is also excellent for up-cycling into kitchen storage.
3. Avoid single-use
In addition to avoiding single-use products when you’re out, there’s also a few small changes you can make at home.
Your bathroom is likely to be filled with disposable, single-use products, so here are some simple switches you can make:
- Switch to a reusable metal razor. All you need to do is replace the blades, and the razor will last you years instead of ending up in landfill as so many plastic razors do.
- Use reusable cotton pads when removing your makeup, instead of disposable wipes.
- Try making your period waste-free with a menstrual cup, reusable pads, and period-proof underwear.
Your kitchen is also a great place to minimise your waste. There’s no need for paper towels and disposable wipes when you can use washable rags or microfibre cloths instead.
4. Do it Yourself
To save money and cut down on waste, make your cleaning and beauty products at home!
Here are some of our favourite recipes:
5. Responsible disposal
As we said at the beginning, nobody’s perfect, and unfortunately, it’s practically impossible to avoid waste altogether. When you do encounter waste, make sure you’re disposing of it responsibly.
Soft plastic recycling
Recycle any plastics that you can scrunch in your hand (think chip packets and bread bags) through the REDcycle program. REDcycle distributes your soft plastics to its partners who then turn the plastics into things like outdoor furniture, plant beds, and even materials for road infrastructure. There are REDcycle drop off points at Woolworths and Coles across the country, and you can find your closest drop off spot.
Australians waste around 298kg of food per person each year. Instead of sending it to landfill, try composting your food scraps. Compost your fruit and vegetable peels, plant cuttings, and even eggs shells and teabags. If you live in a small space, look up community gardens near you for a place to drop off your compostable waste.
For products that can’t be recycled through kerbside collection, find your closest TerraCycle drop off point to responsibly dispose of products like toothbrushes, empty beauty product bottles, coffee pods, and pens.
Companies notice the choices we make, and the availability of reusable products and zero waste options will increase. With a few small changes, we can all make a big difference to the amount of household waste produced by Australians each year.
- About the author -
"Amber is a writer who is passionate about leading a more sustainable life and helping others to do the same. She loves reading, watching movies, and travelling. On the weekend you’ll find her checking out the latest vegan restaurants and cafes."