Georgia Dixon

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6 ways to reduce household waste

6 ways to reduce household waste

Are you becoming more conscious about your environmental footprint? Cut down on household waste with these top tips to start you off on a greener lifestyle.

1. Ban plastic

Despite being some of the easiest products to avoid, one-use plastic items make up a significant proportion of Australia’s household waste.

Melbourne blogger Erin Rhoads of The Rogue Ginger is against the misuse of plastic, and has kept a plastic-free household since 2012.

“The decision was made when I learnt about the impact plastic and waste was having on everything from oceans, marine life, our rivers, health and the people who make these products,” Rhoads says.

“The single-use throw away items like coffee cups, plastic water bottles, plastic shopping bags and takeaway containers are to me the most wasteful items that really are not necessary,” Rhoads says.

While limiting the use of plastic is Rhoads’ long-term goal, she’s careful not to go overboard.

“I don’t see medication packaging as a waste since some people need medicine,” she says.

“I’m not anti-plastic, just anti the misuse.”

2. Save water

If you’re living in an area without water restrictions, it’s all too easy to make long showers a regular event.

While this may seem harmless, clean water is a finite resource that requires careful consideration, even in non-drought periods.

“You can reduce the amount of stormwater that goes into the harbour and waterways by capturing as much rainwater on your property via tanks – this isn’t expensive at all,” says Kylie Ahern, off-grid living advocate and co-founder of Cosmos magazine.

Shower and kitchen water can be recycled via a greywater system and used for flushing the toilet.

“That will reduce wastewater leaving your property by 30 to 70 per cent. Greywater systems cost around $2000,” Ahern says.

“If you have zero dollars, then one easy thing is to use bathwater and excess shower water to flush the toilet. These small things can add up,” Ahern says.

3. Use your scraps

Food scraps are often discarded as waste despite holding untapped potential to be composted or repurposed.

Instead of tossing leftover scraps into the bin, try putting these to use in a small composting system or as part of a new recipe.

Both the NSW and Victorian state governments have developed Love Food Hate Waste campaigns to minimise the amount of food being sent to landfill.

Both campaign websites offer facts, recipes and tips to reduce the amount of food being thrown away, which in NSW alone is considered to be worth $2.5 billion (on average $1000 per household) every year.

Alternatively, consumers can purchase excess food from nearby restaurants to use in their cooking.

Yume is a Melbourne based app that allows businesses to list any surplus food items at 50 per cent of the original price or for a charity to collect. The business model makes eve­ryone a winner – the environment, businesses, consumers and charities.

4. Make recycling a last resort

Recycling is a valuable process for minimising the number of items sent to landfill, however, reduction is always the preferred target.

“Recycling is a last resort. I try to reduce, reuse and repair before I recycle anything,” Rhoads says.

“I see recycling as more of a band aid, and has done very little to curb our rate of consumption.”

Many low-waste household adhere to a set of five ‘R’s – refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot – to be followed in that order.

“People tend to think that waste free living is about recycling more, that it takes more time, that it costs more, and that it’s depriving,” says Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home.

“These misconceptions could not be further from the truth. Thanks to my five Rs methodology, which we apply in order, we recycle way less than before.”

5. Buy in bulk

Buying food in bulk quantities using your own containers or bags eliminates the need for excess packaging.

The Source Bulk Foods is the largest specialised bulk food retailer in Australia, with over 20 stores across the country. All stores are plastic bag free with customers encouraged to bring their own containers, bags and bottles to refill. 

“Shopping at your butcher with your own container or using your own cloth bags at the bakery is not that extreme because our grandparents and great grandparents shopped like that,” Rhoads says.

6. Make your own products

Cut down on the number of bottles and tubes in your cupboards by making your own beauty, hygiene and cleaning products.

Bi-carb soda alone can be used as a replacement for shampoo, facial exfoliate and surface cleaner.

If you prefer traditional products, choose an item with minimal packaging.

“There are a growing number of small businesses that offer beauty products in reusable or compostable packaging,” Rhoads says. 

How to you make your household more environmentally friendly? Let us know in the comments below.

Written by Amelia Barnes. First appeared on

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