War On Waste

Just finished watching this short series on the ABC – and it’s great that it has received a bit of attention in the media, social media and general conversation.  At first, I wasn’t so keen on sitting through a show about the volume of waste that our society generates – we do our bit – it’s not us that needs to watch it!?

But still, it had a strange allure – and in the end, Craig Reucassel did a great job of hosting the show. Entertaining with a bit of funny, but mostly hard, confronting reality.

The wasted bananas!  They take-away coffee cups!!  The clothes….!!!

Our waste habits
This post wouldn’t be much without a quick summary of our own waste – so here it is:

  • Our ‘red bin’ only goes out every 3-4 weeks.
  • Even our recycling bin only goes out once a month.
  • Composting, and soft-plastic recycling; of course.
  • I’m still wearing some clothes I bought 5, 10, even 20 years ago!
  • Where possible, we also absorb waste streams from elsewhere (recycled materials, food scraps, used coffee grounds, etc); and it’s quite possible that these significantly offset our own waste – although this is another topic.

Now I don’t want to get all self congratulatory – I reckon we’re probably doing the bare minimum for an ‘environmentally aware’ consumer.

You should see what comes home in our shopping bag (if I do the shopping). There’s all manner of junk sometimes – corn chips, donuts, cheap bananas – yeah – the perfectly shaped ones (although, I should start boycotting these!), regular white bread, sausages…

Ethical Decisions?
We do have certain ethical standards (avoiding $2 milk being one of them), but generally – there’s a level of anxiety and stress that comes with having to make ethical decisions about everything you buy – the ‘normal person‘ would just go insane.  Apathy is much easier – and besides, consuming is addictive, and sometimes it’s just easier to join in when everyone around you is going about their normal, consumptive, convenient, lives.

Maybe there should be pictures of dying polar bears, and plastic filled fish on any short-lived consumer product wrapped in plastic… Would that change our ways?

As a quick aside, for those of us in Belmont, buying local / ethically has just been made that much easier with the new Valerie’s Pantry opening up on High Street.   I might write more about this awesome new venture another time, but this post is about the ‘War on Waste’, and I want to revisit the idea that being an environmentally conscious consumer first and foremost is to pay attention to the waste stream*, rather than (or certainly in tandem with) the consumption stream.

Afterall, how much should you be judged if you go and buy some new clothes every [insert your own judgmental period between clothing purchases]; but if you are then chucking them out, in order to go and buy some new ones… well – you should feel very bad. 🙂

Personally, I don’t throw ANY clothes away until the rags they create are done for! An afternoon on the sewing machine fixed up 6 pairs of pants with rips in them, for more comfy climbing and gardening.

Of course, there’s a flip side of this – the house kind of gets cluttered.  Stuff that is not being used, or may be “useful some day”, including clothes.

However, I’m wary of the de-cluttering approach, as 1) Sometimes these old things actually DO become useful some way, or can be re-purposed, and 2) De-cluttering really just creates more ‘space’ that can be filled with yet more stuff – unless you can reign in your consumption at the same time.

Here’s a tip – try ‘slow de-cluttering’:
a) Sell it (try Gumtree)
b) Give it away (Gumtree or friends on Facebook)
c) Repair or re-purpose it (eg clothes into rags)
d) Recycle it
e) Only when all other avenues have been exhausted, strip for useful parts and bin it.

One day (ecological collapse aside), perhaps we’ll get to a stage where the societal norm shifts, and walking around with a take-away coffee cup will get a decidedly disdainful look from people that pass you by; and councils charge by the bin-load rather than a flat fee.

We can only hope.

*NB: I don’t want to forget about the industrial waste, and the energy and water used to make products – but let’s not expand this topic too much.

Here’s a few relevant links that might be relevant:

War on Waste Series info:

Ban the bag Torquay
Plastic Bag Free Victoria

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