Sorting our rubbish between the paper, plastics, glass and landfill bins has become a weekly ritual for most of us, with some incorporating a worm farm or compost bin as well. However we still have a long way to go to make an impact on the amount of rubbish we create.
Here are some tips to give you an even brighter environmental halo:
Instead of plastic wrap or bags, use beeswax wraps or reusable containers. Beeswax wraps are becoming increasingly available at markets and shops, or you can buy online at places such as biome.com.au. You'll be surprised at how long they keep vegies, and even bread, fresh.
When shopping, try to avoid any food that comes wrapped in plastic and don't use the plastic bags provided for your fruit and vegies. Invest in a few string bags if you need to contain smaller items such as beans or greens, otherwise there is no reason to put larger items in a separate bag.
Ditch the single use cloths and paper towels in favour of microfibre cloths, or even better, cut up your old towels - after use simply throw them in the washing machine and dry in the sun (if possible). If you're a bit stuck on paper towels, you can get machine-washable bamboo towels, which are similar but more absorbant, and you can wash them up to 100 times.
Instead of buying bottles of cleaning products, get a couple of reusable spray bottles and either make your own cleaning solution (diluted vinegar with a bit of tea tree and lemon essential oil works wonders) or take larger bottles to somewhere that refills containers, such as Source Bulk Foods or Floraandfauna.com.au.
This is an area where you need to be careful. Bin liners labelled biodegradable, and even plant-based, add to landfill. They may even be made from recyclable material, but they could take thousands of years to degrade. The only product that will completely break down are compostable bags - look for the AS5810 home compostability logo. For more details about this one visit https://www.bioplastics.org.au/composting/home-composting/
Alternatively, there are resuable bin liners available, you could make your own from newspaper, or don't use a liner at all - just tip it straight into your wheelie bin and rinse (wrap food waste that can't be composted or feed to worms in newspaper).
This can be the hard part. You want to do the right thing, but what do you do with stuff that isn't an obvious fit for your recycling bin or compost.
Free programs offered by Terracycle.com.au cover items such as beauty and hygiene products, bread bag tags, coffee pods, balloons, pens and Woolworths Ooshies. You simply collect the items in a bag or box, download the postage label and send it off (postage is free). The participating organisation covers all costs, and many also donate a certain amount per kilo of your waste to a non-profit organisation or school of your choice.
Terracycle also offer paid solutions for waste such as cigarette butts, straws, toys and snack wrappers; you can buy the boxes through Australia Post or Officeworks.