There’s no denying it: as a society we throw away a lot of stuff. And you can’t even console yourself by saying ‘it’s okay, I recycle’; according to a new study, having the option to recycle actually increases consumption! I read some statistics recently on the amount of rubbish New Zealanders send to landfills every year, and it’s truly frightening. It’s not easy to get away from, either. While I can take reusable bags to the supermarket and avoid an ever-growing pile of plastic bags at home, it’s hard to avoid all the packaging.
As an example of unavoidable packaging, we use those thin plastic bags at the supermarket to put fruit and vege in. Apart from buying pre-packaged fruit and vege (which hardly seems the answer), there aren’t any other options. However, what we’ve started doing now is to re-use those bags from one week to the next. We can always throw away the bags when they start looking too gross, but that hasn’t happened yet. This seems a much better option than getting new bags every week.
To address the mountain of other rubbish, there are heaps of ideas for re-purposing unwanted stuff. For example, there’s ‘Upcycle Magazine‘, where they have loads of projects using scrap materials. I also came across the website of Trash Footwear here in New Zealand. They make shoes out of used conveyor belts and offcuts of canvas, clothes and leather (thanks to Sam Judd of the New Zealand Herald for the link). There is also The Formary here in Wellington: they transform other companies’ industrial waste (mainly fibre) into new products.
Of course even with upcycling and re-using items, we can fall into the trap of justifying the buying of more stuff because we’ll re-use it. I would rather buy as little as possible in the first place. But it’s great to get some ideas of things to do with the unavoidable waste.
Speaking of unavoidable waste, there are always food scraps, but even that can be ‘upcycled’ – into compost! So, as part of my mission to send less to the landfill, I am now the proud owner of a ‘Rotayta’ composting bin. And yes, it’s made in New Zealand, and made from re-purposed materials. Apparently in about 3 weeks’ time I will have the first batch of compost for my garden. Will it work, and will it be as easy as it sounds? Watch this space to find out!
My Rotayta compost bin