Here are some tips to change the way you shop to reduce waste, help our environment and even save money!
Waste-wise shopping why should I do it?
Currently all of the rubbish that we throw out is sent to the tip (landfill) and buried. However, we are quickly running out of space. As a result, the cost of getting rid of our rubbish is increasing every year, and it is important to try and find more ways of reducing the amount of waste that ends up in our rubbish bin.
"Waste-wise" shopping is a great way of reducing the amount of waste you create before you even bring your groceries home. And don't be surprised if it saves you money!
Before starting on your shopping trip, try to keep in mind ways that you can REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE!
Say "NO" to plastic bags! Take your own calico shopping bags, basket, box, backpack or even a laundry basket!
TIP: Calico bags can be reused over and over again simply wash them when they get dirty. Calico bags often hold more groceries and are stronger than plastic bags, which means no more "double bagging". You could even make your own or give them as presents instead of using wrapping paper!
What's the problem with plastic bags?
Plastic bags are a convenience, however they also cause many waste and environmental problems.
- Plastic bags are a litter problem which not only looks ugly, but can harm and kill our wildlife.
- Plastic kills up to 1 million seabirds, 100 000 sea mammals and countless fish each year worldwide. When the animal dies and decays the plastic is free again to repeat the deadly cycle.
- Plastic bags take a long time to break down, which can be anywhere between 20 and 1,000 years.
- Plastic bags are a common contaminant in council curbside recycling bins, which results in recyclables that are inside the bags being sent to the tip as rubbish.
- Plastic bags can be recycled through many supermarkets which have special plastic bag recycling bins. Despite alternatives such as calico or string bags being available, people keep using plastic bags. In fact, Australians use around 10 billion plastic bags per year, nearly 7 billion of which are supermarket plastic bags!
What would make this easier for you?
Some examples could be:
- keeping calico bags or boxes in the trunk of your car;
- keeping a spare calico bag or plastic bag rolled up in your handbag for any unexpected purchases;
- getting into a routine and returning bags/boxes to the same place after unloading your groceries.
Buy goods with less packaging. Buy fruit and vegetables loose, not wrapped. Avoid products that are individually wrapped, or with multiples layers of packaging (e.g., biscuits in a cardboard box which is also wrapped in plastic; bars of soap individually wrapped in plastic). Many fruit and vegetables have their own "packaging, so why buy them in a plastic bag or wrapped on a foam plate (e.g., corn and bananas)?
Buy economy sized products, concentrates and refills. Save both money and packaging. Less packaging means less rubbish. This could include goods like detergents, juices, cordials and cleaning products. For example, if you are buying potato chips for your kids, don't buy the multi-
packs. Buy large single packs of chips and put individual servings into reusable plastic containers.
TIP: Why not join a food co-operative where you can bring your own refillable containers?
Reuse plastic bags and choose items that can be reused many times. Choose durable and reusable products instead of disposable ones.
- pens with replaceable refills
- razors with replaceable blades
- refillable lighters
- using reusable utensils and plates/cups instead of throwaways
- using rechargeable batteries instead of single-use ones
- sponges instead of paper towels
- cloth nappies and bottom wipers instead of disposable ones
TIP: Next time you buy any second-hand goods (especially electrical items) check to see if they have a warranty.
Choose products with recyclable packaging. Learn what can be recycled and choose as many products as possible made from recyclable packaging. Recyclable packaging which is then recycled means less waste being sent to landfill!
For example, why not buy:
- Toilet paper wrapped in paper instead of plastic
- Dishwashing detergent in a recyclable bottle
- Yogurt in recyclable HDPE containers (marked with a 2 on the bottom) instead of non-recyclable Polystyrene containers (marked with a 6).
Waste Wise Tips for Buying Presents
Christmas is getting close, so here are some ideas on how to shop smart to save waste and money!
- Give "experiences" as presents - Massage vouchers, dinners out, or even your time, make great presents, and they don't need any wasteful wrapping.
- Give presents in reusable "wrapping" - Instead of wrapping presents in throwaway paper, calico bags and tea towels make great wrapping, which is waste-wise and a great gift! Colorful ribbon will "dress up" your present, and can be used instead of sticky tape.
- Buy long-lasting presents and ones that can be repaired if they break (e.g., Wooden toys for children).
- Make your own presents - Home-made presents can be cost-effective yet thoughtful with minimal or no packaging.
- Why not make reusable shopping bags as gifts!
- "SNUB" - Say No to Unwanted Bags. Try to take reusable shopping bags or a basket with you and decide whether or not you really need a new bag for every purchase.
- Compost vegetable peelings and food scraps except meat, seafood and dairy products.
- Try to buy Christmas decorations that can be used for several years.
- Close the loop buy recycled Christmas cards, wrapping paper, tags, diaries and calendars.
- Avoid buying presents with excess packaging.
- Make your own cards and presents if possible with reusable materials it could be a lot more fun and more personal. Have a go at making your own gift labels by recycling last year's Christmas cards.
- When shopping, make a list! Don't buy unwanted presents! You may be creating unnecessary waste. Before you buy, think whether it will be a welcome gift.
- If you receive a present that you don't like, why not give it to the charity shop and give someone else a chance to enjoy it rather than throwing it away.
- Email electronic Christmas cards saving money, paper and the environment. (LMS Note: Not to mention expensive postage!)
- Don't waste paper wrap creatively! Use tea towels, cloth, wool, ribbon, reusable bags or Christmas stockings.
- Reuse old Christmas wrapping paper (and open your presents carefully!).
- Recycle paper, cardboard and recyclable containers from your Christmas cheer (glass bottles and jars, soft drink bottles and other recyclable plastics, aluminum and steel cans) through kerbside collections. Even the corks can be recycled by dropping them off at any Body Shop stores or Girl Guides.
- Recycle your old Christmas cards by taking them to Planet Ark drop off boxes at Coles, Video Ezy or Body Shop stores in January and February. (LMS Note: I cut off the pictures on the front - assuming there's not personal note on the back of the picture - and use them as gift tags on future Christmas gifts. This saves me money in buying gift tags and dresses up gifts.)
- Buy 'live' Christmas trees which still have soil around the roots ready for potting. After Christmas you can replant it in your garden. Or artificial trees can be re-used year after year.
- Choose gifts and products which are long lasting, repairable, refillable, reusable or recyclable for when they eventually reach the end of their life.
- Avoid purchasing items which are non-functional and gimmicky. Avoid buying gifts which need batteries.
- If you are throwing a party, avoid using disposal items such as cups, plates and napkins. For example, why not hire out glasses. (LMS Note: I assume this means to rent glasses, but I would recommend going to a resale shop and buying glasses cheaply. It doesn't matter if the glasses match or not and you can use them again and again.)
- If goods are packaged, choose items which are made from recycled materials, and that can be easily recycled by you after use, such as glass and paper products.
- Christmas gifts don't necessarily have to be material items. Treat somebody to a day out, buy cinema or theater tickets, open a children's savings account, make a donation to charity, or arrange a year's subscription to a society such as The National Trust, or magazine such as Habitat, ECOS or Amnesty International.
- Plan meals wisely. Think ahead when buying food and plan for left-overs - after a big roast dinner for example. This will help minimize the amount of waste you throw away and avoid wasting money.