Getting trashed

This week for the audit I’m getting down and dirty with my bin. For those of you depraved enough, you can watch the video here.

In the real world, conducting an environmental audit on a business may require a full exploration of the rubbish to monitor what type of waste the business produces, what is being recycled and what should be recycled. This helps to ensure more waste is moved to the recycling stream and an overall reduction in waste produced (these are also my main goals in terms of waste). You may have seen Craig Reucassel perform this on the ABC’s War on Waste. It really is as gross as it sounds.

I get it, not all of you are interested in watching a 3 minute video of me sifting through my trash. So for those that bypassed the video here’s a breakdown of the contents:

  • disposable nappies
  • packing tape – this can be recycled just not through my local council
  • cosmetic bag – synthetic fibres
  • make up tubes – plastic – These should have made it to the Terracycle program
  • small tin – I should have cleaned out the contents and put the tin in the regular recycling
  • band aids
  • disposable wax strip
  • toilet brush
  • keep fresh sachet (like you find in meat
  • foil lined sachet
  • chicken bone – this can be composted in a Bokashi bucket
  • Command plastic strips – velcro wall hangers
  • rubber phone cover – This could have been cleaned and dropped off to an op shop
  • synthetic phone cover – with magnet – same as above
  • plastic bag from chicken (Redcycle won’t take meat packaging)
  • waxed muffin case
  • ice cream stick – small pieces of untreated wood can be popped into the compost
  • vacuum dust – could probably have put this in the compost considering 90% is dog hair
  • bamboo cotton tips – compost
  • rubber seal
  • ear phone rubbers
  • and last but not least plastic bin bag

NB: this is one weeks worth of waste, the bin wasn’t full but if I leave it any longer it starts to waft dead animal aromas through the house.

Audit Summary

Room for improvement:

  • Not making sure recyclable items made it to the appropriate waste streams. I’ve highlighted these in green above.
  • Using disposable nappies at night-time instead of cloth (I will cover nappies at a later stage)
  • Purchasing non-reuaseable, non-biodegradeable products such as bandaids, wax strips, satchets and waxed muffin cases
  • Making a new purchase (toilet brush) when the original was still fully functional
  • Using a virgin plastic bag to put the rubbish in just to throw it away

Where we did well:

  • No items from kerbside recycling were found in the rubbish bin
  • Overall volume for 1 week is quite low, approximately 90% was nappies and old toiletry bag. If there is an alternative to these then we can make a massive reduction in waste.

I’ll be honest, I was supposed to post this a few weeks ago but every time I went to conduct the audit I was overwhelmed, I didn’t know where to start so I just didn’t. Instead I wrote the post on wicked problems and remembered that all it takes is one small step at a time. So here are my small steps to minimising waste in our house:

  1. Make sure all recyclable items make it to their appropriate streams (items highlighted in green)
  2. Find reuseable or biodegradable alternatives to;
    • bandaids
    • wax strips
    • meat packaging
    • flavour sachets
  3. Use a plastic free bin liner
  4. Minimise overall waste, which in turn means minimising consumption
  5. Minimise soft plastics
  6. Minimise kerbside recycling

I’m quite surprised and a little proud of how little waste our house is producing (but that’s not to say we can’t do more). I’ve been practicing a more sustainable lifestyle for a few years now so have had a while to chip away at reducing my waste. So understandably you might be saying; well this isn’t a realistic amount of rubbish, it’s not based on the greater population. Therefore it’s only fair I audit another household’s bin to make the experiment more applicable… I just need a volunteer brave enough! Any takers?!

Plastic Free Bin Liner

In our house we have two bins, one small (1L), one medium (4L) which are emptied once a week. This week I’m trialing a newspaper liner instead of a plastic bag. The thought that we use virgin plastics bags that are derived from fossil fuels to encase our rubbish is actually ridiculous. And I have been doing it for years!

  1. Source newspaper. I was kindly donated a newspaper from my local cafe (thanks Sam at Little Captain!)
  2. Shove paper around the sides of the bin, I also used elastic bands to secure.
  3. At the end of the week fold over sides to make a neat little parcel
  4. Pop into your kerbside bin
  5. Ta dah!

The newspaper worked a treat, although we didn’t seem to have anything wet go into the bin. I don’t know if this would have torn the paper or not. For now we seem to have found a solution to plastic bag bin liners!

Now I know this paper would be better off in the recycling, however, if by using 3-4 sheets of newspaper a week we’re saving 2 plastic bags then I think it’s the lesser of the evils.

đź’ˇAnother option is to reuse other plastic bags from things like bread, potatoes or toilet paper.

A note on waste

There is no such thing as away. When you throw something away it must go somewhere.

Annie Leonard

I try to stay aware that we (including me) use the term away a lot when it comes to waste. “Throw it away“. But the reality is there is no away. Away is here:

Werribee tip. Photos courtesy: Peter Gordon

I hope this post inspires you to think about what you are throwing “away” and where it eventually ends up and how you can minimise it.

Minimal Sam


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