New Zealand is among the highest producers of urban waste in the developed world, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and causing horrendous immediate damage to the environment. But what can you do? Here are six tips for reducing your household rubbish:
- 1. The best place to start is to focus on what we buy and bring into our homes. How much plastic can we avoid? Is there another option to that single-use plastic container? Try thinking about the waste while it’s still sitting on the supermarket shelf with the item you want to buy inside it, rather than when you’re trying to dispose of the packaging.
- 2. Make sure any plastic containers you put out in your recycling are empty and rinsed: yoghurt pots, milk bottles, hummus pottles, and so on. Dirty plastic recyclables have much less value and may contaminate other things like paper or cardboard in your bin. Did you know that one of the reasons that China stopped taking the world’s recycled plastic was because so much of it was contaminated? If you’re not sure what can go in your recycling bin, check out this Auckland Council link: aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/rubbish-recycling/rubbish-recycling-collections/Pages/what-put-your-recycling.aspx.
- 3. Avoid the PLA trap! Cups and food containers made from PLA (which is often labelled ‘Eco’ or ‘Bio’) look just like plastic, so you may think you’re doing the right thing by putting them in your recycling bin. Wrong! PLA stands for polylactic acid, which in plain English is corn starch. So, it’s made from plants, but it actually contaminates your recycling. What to do with it? Well, it can be composted, but only at high temperatures. Unless you are making a hot compost of more that 65°C at home, or unless there is a special collection point locally – and there are no public ones that I know of – it has to go out in the rubbish. So always check on the bottom of every receptacle for its recycling number (1-5 is good) and if it says PLA, throw it in the rubbish.
- 4. Avoid takeaway coffee cups – many thousands of these end up in our landfills every day and most are not recyclable. Instead, always carry a reusable cup with you. A good place to keep one is in the car. The same goes for water bottles – fill and carry one with you.
- 5. Consider trying the Bulk Bin, Orewa where you can take containers for refilling a wide range of pantry staples, including flour, pasta, pulses, rice, cereals, herbs and spices.
- 6. Make compost, have a worm farm or a Bokashi system for kitchen scraps. If you don’t know how to do it, Auckland Council runs free How to Make Compost courses through the Compost Collective: compostcollective.org.nz/workshop-map.
If you are unable to compost, even burying food scraps in a hole in your garden is better than sending them to landfill.