Monday, April 23, 2018

Earth Day Reflections on Successes/Failures in Reducing Our Household Waste

This year's Earth Day theme is focused on ending plastic pollution, and encourages everyone to find out how many plastic items they are consuming annually and make a pledge to reduce that amount. You can access the full plastic pledge resource pack here.  Two years ago, I shared my reflections following Chalkboard Magazine's 30 Day Eco Challenge for Earth Month, and for Earth Day, I'm looking at our efforts to reduce waste with special consideration to this theme of reducing single use plastics. We've come a long way, but there are plenty of areas where we can do better and things we need to work on. If you have your own waste/plastic reduction story or tips and ideas on my problem areas, please share in the comments. We'd love to hear from you!

The majority of our household's single use plastic waste is from product packaging. All bottles, boxes, and containers are either reused or recycled; however, there is an alarming amount of plastic wrapping.  This wrapping (and dog poop...a whole other issue...) makes up the majority of our weekly household rubbish.  Almost everything (some produce excluded) comes pre-packed in our local shops. I've recently discovered some online sources where I can buy and receive dry goods in paper packaging.  The packaging waste is significantly lower and the products are quality great, but there is an extra shipping/transit impact.

We seldom use single use plastic for food storage, having made the switch to reuseable containers with one notable exception. I still use freezer bags for storing pre-prepped homemade dog food. I use the lowest waste bags that I can find and keep them in larger rectangular boxes for structure (the bags are very flimsy) and cramming things into available freezer space with some semblance of order. Suggestions are, as always, welcome! I also still do keep a roll of cling film in the cupboard for occasional special purposes (not food related), but these are few and far between. 

Away from home, I rarely eat take away fast food, but my husband travels a great deal for work. Most food packaging is paper here, but there are still beverage lids, straws, and bottles. I will encourage him to continue curbing this trash where possible.

I still have a love/hate relationship with plastic bags.  We've heavily reduced plastic shipping bags by eliminating bagging and/or using reuseable bags (pictured above).  I made DIY shopping bags for small quantity shopping and recently expanded the arsenal with pre-fabricated grocery and more mesh produce bags for batch shopping after our upcoming move, when I will no longer have the luxury of simply strolling a few blocks for small batch groceries.  I do still find having a few shopping bags on hand incredibly helpful for really nasty messes or picking up trash on walks (picture below), but compostable bags would be a great alternative (hint hint shops!). I also still use trash bags liners (flimsy, but still waste - am trying to find a compostable option to fit) for our big kitchen rubbish/recycling Joseph Joseph totem bin and our local council requires us to use plastic rubbish bags for curbside collection. My dog poop bags are degradable which isn't ideal but my previous experiments with compostable poop bags have ended in poopocalypse. Too flimsy to stand up to doggy doo duty, especially when the weather is poor and/or the full bags are jostled about whilst running. Nasty. I haven't tried any more recent offerings (too scarred by past attempts), so if you've found a good product, feel free to share!

Notice the mixed trash in our beach rubbish collection?  Yeah.  I don't like it either.  Our local council (infuriatingly) does NOT have recycling bins along the public streets, walkways, beaches, parks, etc. but hiking home whilst juggling dogs on lead and big bags of rubbish to separate out into our own bins isn't really a viable option either.

The majority of our repeat use plastic waste is when items intended for indefinite use that are plastic or partially plastic are broken and need disposal. Some can be separated for recycling, but plastics are only acceptable to our local system if the recycling code number is clearly marked/stamped.  We cut out a lot of disposable products, but still use some finite term plastic items, such as razor blades, toothbrushes, etc.  A recent addition to my plastic footprint has come in the form of crafting after receiving a Cricut at Christmas. My Cricut Explore Air 2 cuts a wide variety of materials, but one of the most widely used is vinyl. With the exception of stencilling, the applied vinyl is repeat use; however, the waste material weeded out of the design is rubbish. Much like crafting with other materials, creating with intent and minimising waste/scrap is key.

I haven't really dived into the our stealth/hidden plastic waste yet, such as fabrics with microplastics/microfibers, wash water, and washing lint. A lot of the clothes we wear, household items we use, toys our pets play with, and materials I craft with include synthetic materials.  We currently machine wash cold, air dry, and in-machine filter; however, I will be looking into discharge filters when we are setting up the laundry at the new house post move.

Are you trying to reduce your footprint? Curb waste? Go plastic free? Share your stories, ideas, and suggestions in the comments. We'd love to hear from you!  If you have your own blog or a favourite related blog/site that you'd like to share, appropriate in-comment links are welcome, too.


  1. It's definitely an ongoing process around here. Once I make a change in one area I realise I need to tackle another. I'm currently looking into bulk buy options for grains/pantry items. I've managed to find flours and the like in paper but still need to investigate others.
    On the plastic bag front - I try and reuse any plastic packaging for messy rubbish (we use newspaper to line bin but sounds like that might not be an option with your council) and I also use plastic food packaging to freeze items - so they at least get another use and I'm not buying plastic freezer bags. Could this be an option for the dog food and dog poop? Just a thought.
    Sounds like you are doing a lot of things. Very inspiring.

    1. Thanks, Laura! It's definitely a work in progress, isn't it? I know what you mean about tackling one concern only to see so much more that could be done. Lots of room for improvement here, but every little bit helps.

      We do reuse bagging/packing for doggy do duty and other extra messy clean-ups, but still seem to have a lot of useless bits of wrapping and packaging that go directly into the rubbish. :( Better shopping is definitely in order (and packaging changes over time too, I hope!). The frozen dog food bagging isn't ideal, but it works for our current limited freezer space and I console myself that the sum total waste for the prep and pack is still much less than a non-recyclable dog food bag. Everything else get frozen in reuseable containers or jars, but I think a more coordinated system for efficient organisation and use of space will be needed for the new house where plans are to have a separate freezer so I can freeze more in-season foods from markets and (once it grows!) our new garden. Yay!


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