How to halve your landfill in a single weekend

*by Luke Vanderzeil*

Zero waste. A scary term I know. But what actually is zero waste? I would define zero waste as getting as close to zero landfill waste as possible. I am going to give you a taster of how I got started on this path and a couple of quick things you can do in a single weekend to reduce your waste by more than 50%! (And yes, these techniques can be used at home, school or in the workplace).

How I got started

My zero waste journey started with two books: Everything That Remains and Zero Waste Home.

I read both of these books while on holidays, and even though they contained some contradictory ideas (one encourages you to get rid of everything, while the other encourages you to upcycle and use everything you have), the general idea of cutting down, having less and reducing both your expenses and emissions sounded too good to resist.

I then stumbled onto A Plastic Ocean. This is the film that got me to recycle pretty much all my plastic overnight and replace as many items in my house as possible with glass, wood or steel.

Using my newfound knowledge, I was able to reduce my household landfill waste to just one curbside pickup a year AND achieve $500 in direct savings (because I no longer had to purchase paper towels and bin liners, I started using DIY cleaners instead of standard chemical products as well as several other changes).

I’ve also generated thousands of dollars more in indirect savings by being more conscious about food wastage and using the shopping pyramid.

So here are two very easy wins to get you started.

Food waste

Up to 50% of our landfill bin is made up of food scraps that could otherwise be diverted. That’s an important fact because food waste in landfill is one of the leading causes of climate change, making up 8% of global emissions. To put this in perspective, aviation makes up 11.6% of global emissions.

Some local councils already enable households to separate their food scraps - which is fantastic - but until every local council implements a food collection scheme, many of us (especially those in apartments) require an alternative solution. 

Compost tumblers are very useful for people who have gardens and can therefore reap the benefits of nutrient-rich compost to be used for plants and herbs. 

For those of us living in apartments, an urban composter is a great alternative, and you can simply drop your scraps to a local community garden (see if your council is working with Compost Revolution for a discount). No community garden? Try the Breville Food Cycler or a local program such as Positive Waste. (For businesses or schools, you can also have your food waste collected from a range of companies).

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Soft plastics 

Oh, the number of soft plastics I sent to landfill before watching War on Waste.

Soft plastics take up a great deal of space in your landfill bin, but all you need to reduce your impact is a spare tub next to your current bin (or you can get a fancy bin like me from BinShift) to sort your soft plastics into. Then, simply drop off the plastics at your local Coles or Woolies.

What can you collect into this bin? Any soft plastic that you can scrunch that doesn’t spring back to its original shape (see the Redcycle guide for more details).

Going forward

If you can implement both of these solutions, you will notice a MASSIVE reduction in your landfill waste and trips to the curb (I would estimate 50% or greater).

From here it’s all about retraining your brain to purchase less stuff. I will talk about this further in a future blog post but you can take your zero waste game to the next level by researching whether there are local facilities in your area to drop off other recyclable items:

  • Batteries can be disposed of at Aldi. 
  • Most councils have a regular E-Waste collection and chemical collection
  • A container deposit scheme (in NSW Return & Earn) is a great way to guarantee containers are recycled and make a bit of coin on the side (treat yourself with a zero waste pizza night 🍕)!

Very soon you will realise there are only a handful of items that cannot be recycled and it’s possible to avoid purchasing them in the first place (plastic envelopes, magnets, small plastics, moisture sachets, laminated paper and other items with plastic linings, etc).

The best way to reduce your overall landfill is to simply not purchase stuff in the first place. There is already enough stuff in the world that we don’t need. Best of all, you can track all of your actions AND the resulting savings through our ClimateClever Homes App!

Remember, start with the easy wins and take your time. Every item you find a place for, is one less item in landfill. You don’t have to get down to one curbside pick-up a year, but if you do, I’d love to know 😉  luke@climateclever.org.

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