A World Without Waste is Possible
Published Mon 17 September | by Erin Rhoads
Leading by example is one way to demonstrate that change is possible and that yes, a modern life can be lived without plastic and waste. But businesses have a role in helping consumers achieve this aim, by providing information to aid us in making better, kinder choices and show that they are willing to fight the war on waste.
I can fit the last four years of my rubbish in an old Moccona coffee jar.
I wasn’t always this obsessed with the contents of my bin. In fact, none of my family or friends would have predicted that I’d become an eco-warrior on a mission to redefine what is waste and how we can all create less of it. My bins were full of takeaway containers, my wardrobe was cluttered with fast fashion and my recycling efforts left much to be desired.
This all changed when I watched a documentary called ‘The Clean Bin Project‘ in 2013. One movie opened my eyes to the staggering impact our consumption of plastic has on the environment. I wanted to do something. This led me to participate in Plastic Free July, and soon I was using my travel blog to track my attempts to reduce plastic in my life.
The Rogue Ginger became a magnet for like-minded individuals on a similar journey. Outside humble blogs there was not a lot of communication around how to reduce what was going into our bins. I continued my blog as a way to show others how it could be done, sharing resources to help others wanting to fight their own war on waste without feeling they had to run off into the bush. Surely it’s possible to live a modern life with less waste.
I often wonder how many of the habit changes I’ve made to reduce waste will reach the millions of Australians who were not tuned into the ABC’s War on Waste. The show has been a turning point, with conversations around consumption, waste, plastic and recycling becoming more popular and mainstreamed. My only hope is that the momentum continues.
This crisis is an opportunity for us to start making better decisions to shape a new circular system. By ‘us’, I don’t just mean consumers, but business and government. Big businesses often have teams dedicated to researching packaging design – why not focus on more sustainable options? The compulsory use of the Australasian Recycling Label will help end the confusion about recycling common items by clearly explaining what part of the packaging can and can’t be recycled, while also teaching consumers about resource value. It will help decrease the amount of valuable materials ending up in landfill. But it’s not just symbols on packaging required. Businesses that allow customers to bring their own containers need a similar campaign to highlight this service. Responsible Cafes offer a sign for businesses to put up in participating stores, letting customers know they accept and provide discounts for those who bring along a coffee cup. BYO Containers are working with Trashless Takeaway to make it easier for people to identify businesses that encourage reusing. On the South Coast of NSW and here in Victoria on Phillip Island, businesses that limit the amount of single-use plastics can apply to have stickers, created by local plastic campaign groups, to show they are allies in the war on waste. While it might seem a bit counterproductive to distribute stickers to declare waste-wise initiatives, if we want more people to find where they can shop with less waste, we have to communicate opportunities to reduce waste in a variety of ways. And while we can shop elsewhere and choose stores that share our vision of a world without waste, change can also start with an email, letter or even a phone call. It’s through these channels we can put pressure on businesses to help to make consumer choices easier.
Leading by example is one way to demonstrate that change is possible and that yes, a modern life can be lived without plastic and waste. But we the consumers can’t just avoid our way to less waste. Businesses have a role in helping consumers achieve this aim, by providing information to aid us in making better, kinder choices and show that they are willing to fight the war on waste.
When I set out to reduce the single-use plastics in my life, the intention was to cut back on my plastic use, not assess and weed it out of my life and lead a zero-waste lifestyle, as I am now. It’s not that I’m anti-plastic, I’m simply against its misuse. But plastic-wrapped vegetables and fruit, plastic bottled water and throw-away cutlery are not necessary for all of us. Reassessing my use of plastic has also helped me think more about where my money is being circulated and to whom. Above all I’ve learnt that thinking about my environmental footprint aligns myself with a sense of intention, kindness and a responsibility to protect the world for my son and his friends.
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Watch Erin in the War On Waste Melbourne Conversations, talking trash with Lecturer in Hazardous Waste Materials Trevor Thornton, Sustainability Victoria’s Matt Genever and City of Melbourne Councillor Cathy Oke.
Erin Rhoads has been writing about her zero-waste journey since 2013. Her blog, The Rogue Ginger, quickly became one of Australia’s most popular eco-lifestyle websites, and Erin is now a prominent commentator on zero-waste living. Erin is the author of Waste Not: How to Make a Difference by Throwing Away Less (Hardie Grant), was a consultant on Australia’s popular TV show War on Waste and is a regular contributor for ABC Radio. She has been featured on BBC World, The Project, Sunrise, Morning Show, Marie Claire, Australian Women’s Weekly, the Age, the Guardian, Peppermint magazine, and many more.