We all know that sending household waste to landfill is a really bad idea and that in an ideal world we would manage to recycle or reuse everything taking our landfill down to zero.
But in these days of highly-packaged products, our consumer culture and of non-stop junk mail, what practical steps can we really take the reduce the rubbish we throw away?
As the old programming adage goes “rubbish in, rubbish out” so the first step to reducing what we send to landfill is to consider reducing the amount of “stuff” that comes into our homes and offices each week.
For a useful exercise, why not set up a journal to record everything you bring into your home and compare it to what goes back out again as rubbish – almost like accounting for landfill. By keeping accurate records you will be able to gain insights into how your lifestyle generates rubbish and how, as a result, you can reduce this.
Here are a few examples of how to reduce the rubbish that comes into your home in the first place:
Shopping – Food shopping produces a lot of waste either from overly packaged products or from the carrier bags they come in. In addition, of course, any food which goes off is also waste.
Trying to buy from farmers markets where far less packaging is used will help, as will taking your own reusable shopping bags with you go grocery shopping.
Try buying larger packs of food which use proportionately less packaging and then decanting them into smaller portion at home. So for example rather than buying 6 small cans of Coke, why not buy a large bottle and then reuse some old bottles at home by filling them with the contents of the larger bottle?
Junk Mail – Use one of the multitude of services available to eliminate or at least reduce the junk mail you receive each week. Swap to online billing for your utilities to further reduce the paper that comes in.
Buy Good Quality – While it’s tempting to save money by buying cheaper goods, consider the longterm cost implications of these. Often buying a slightly more expensive product will result in a longer lifespan, thus meaning you will throw far less away.
Of the rubbish you still produce, what could realistically find a new purpose in your home? For example plastic food trays can be used as seed grows for growing crops. Bottles can be refilled. I even know of one company that turns old CDs into fashionable clocks.
Most glass, paper, cardboard and so on can now be recycled, as can a range of plastics. I have to admit that recycling deserves to be last on the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra because whilst recycling is generally good in terms of reducing landfill, there are of course all sorts of financial and environmental costs to recycling. It’s a help but it’s not a perfect solution with a lot of energy being used to turn one item into another and a surprising amount of waste along the way.
Just because you no longer have a need for an item, doesn’t mean someone else won’t be interested in it. From old electrical goods to books and childrens toys, there are plenty of opportunities to give lots of your “rubbish” away to other grateful people.
Placing a “free to collector” advert in your local supermarket, Post Office or local paper may well yield results, as can donating items to local charities.
Lastly don’t forget the various websites designed specifically with this purpose in mind – to help you give away items you don’t want while other people get something for free so everyone wins.
You might be surprised that you can sell some of the junk you’re looking to throw away. Whether that involves taking part in a boot sale, placing an advert in the local paper or even listing it on eBay you can not on recoup some money (why not donate a percentage to a good cause while you’re about it?) but clear out your rubbish without feeling guilty at the same time.
Could you, or someone you know, actually fix the item you’re considering throwing away? Old electrical items can often be repaired by people in the know. Spare parts can be bought for many household appliances, bicycles, cars and more that will give them a lease of life, save you the money of replacing them and once again reduce the amount of rubbish you throw away.