9 Steps to Reduce Your Rubbish

In my most recent post, 7 Reasons to Slash your Household Waste, I explained why I’ve started the journey of reducing my waste footprint in the world. If you’re convinced to do the same, these 9 steps will help slowly guide you to reducing your waste for a better, healthier lifestyle & planet. These steps come from Hannah Blumhardt and Liam Prince during their Rubbish Trip presentation in Christchurch. If you have a chance to go see their upcoming presentations, take it! They are free and full of inspiration and practical take-aways.

The Waste Hierarchy – The 6 R’s

  1. Refuse – Ask yourself “do I really need this in my life?” Often it feels a part of a natural routine to buy things that are often unnecessary. If it creates waste, ei, plastic straws, junk food or a cheap item of clothing, simply refuse the purchase.
  2. Replace – Common household items create lots of waste that don’t need to. Consider using a compostable bamboo toothbrush or compostable dish brush to minimise the plastic waste from month to month. This also includes replacing habits, such as baking your own homemade crackers instead of buying ready-to-grab packages in the supermarket. You can also replace store-bought household cleaning supplies and toiletries with homemade recipes, which eliminates waste, palm-oil & chemicals. Check out Hannah & Liam’s recipes.
  3. Reduce – This is about minimalism. Don’t take as much as you can, but take as little as possible. Use less by valuing the resource you’re using. This could look like buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle or cutting out the amount of times you eat dessert or drink wine, which can all impact our waste footprint.
Wall-E, image credit of Pixar

4. Re-use – Take a tip from Pixar’s Wall-E and learn to treasure second-hand items. If you can’t do life without it, try sourcing a product that already exists in the world with a previous life and check out a local op shop or thrift store. It could be Tupperware, furniture, clothes, decor, art. Chances are, these will be better quality and last longer if purchased used rather than the cheap manufacturing quality of new items. Save the planet & your bank account all at once. If we all start re-using material things to their full capacity, this will slow down market demand for all the junk we normally churn through, slowing mass production, which will mean less waste!

5. Recycle – Most of NZ’s recycling is shipped overseas for processing, which means it has a huge carbon footprint. First try to upcycle, ei, sewing a torn article of clothing into a bag, or cut up as rags to use for cleaning. Take unwanted items to a thrift store to be used by someone else. Use your glass & plastic containers to store items purchased from bulk-food markets, rather than placing in the yellow bin, and then having to buy new containers for bulk food buying.

Compost6. Rot – City compost bins are great, but composting your own food scraps and waste at home is even better. Double check what your city can & can’t compost, for example, Christchurch’s compost green bin will take greasy Pizza Boxes but actually can’t take Eco packaging yet, as it’s not set-up to be able to process them. Also, rotting is much better than recycling, so in the case where some items could go in either, such as clean cardboard, try filling your green bin up first, as it has a smaller carbon footprint than recycling, not to mention the recycling process is more draining on the world’s resources. Also, write your local council to start an assorted bins & soft plastics regime, like Christchurch! Some large cities, such as Tauranga which haven’t introduced green compost bins won’t change their policy until the people ask for it loudly enough, so getting the council’s attention & action will help keep food scraps out of landfills.

Other Practical Steps

7. Shopping Routines – Staying away from junk foods and any foods with packaging will cut down a huge percentage of your waste. Buying your meat from a butcher and asking to place in your own re-usable containers, rather than the plastic or foam trays is a huge step. Purchasing from bulk-bin stores where you can bring your own containers will reduce your waste even more.

Furoshiki 2
Furoshiki 2-wine-bottle fold, photo credit of Ambaralia Fabrics

8. Be Prepared – Carry helpful items on your person or in your car, such as: Reusable shopping bags, reusable produce bags, washable cutlery, mugs and re-usable takeaway containers. Plastic Sushi containers are filling NZ’s landfills, but if we all took a plate or washable container and refused to use the packaging that would end up in landfill, the behaviour of the restaurants wold eventually change to follow suit. If you forget a bag, it might pay to brush up on your Furoshiki, the Japanese art of tying cloth squares into carry bags.

9. Share Resources – Instead of giving in to the consumerist greed of large corporations that has made it cheaper and easier to purchase new, rather than fixing what we already own, try to shift gears into a stewardship mentality. Purchase items that are made to be repaired, such as Bodum coffee plungers that still produce replacement parts. Join time-swap groups and bring your munted clocks, bikes and other items, such as Lyttelton’s Timebank.

Check out these NZ Zero Waste Heroes & how they have reduced their waste:


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