Australia

Tricks to tackle household waste, one step at a time

We could do a lot better at keeping our waste in check. The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data, released in 2019, revealed Australians created 13.8 megatonnes of household waste in 2016-2017.

Kayla Mossuto, the founder of sustainable coffee pods business Crema Joe, believes this housebound period is a perfect time to rethink our approach to the issue.

"If lots of people make one small change, that's where the impact is," she says.

Sophie Kovic of Seed & Sprout, a Byron Bay-based plastic-free homewares brand, agrees.

"The very first step is awareness," she says. "From there, you can start making the actions based on what your habits are."

Here are five waste categories you can tackle right now.

The shampoo bar is equivalent to 3.5 plastic bottles of shampoo.

The shampoo bar is equivalent to 3.5 plastic bottles of shampoo.Credit:Seed & Sprout

Bathroom and household products

Almost empty shampoo bottles and single-use baking paper can ensure the kitchen or bathroom weighs heavily on the conscience. They don't have to, says Kovic.

In an effort to help people go plastic-free one room at a time, Kovic designed a variety of bars (each bar equating to 3.5 plastic bottles), replacing shampoo, conditioner body wash, pet wash and dishwashing liquid.

"Not only does the bathroom become decluttered and you can feel good about the fact that you're not adding to landfill but, in a lot of cases, the products actually enhance your experience," she says.

Woolworths stocks Bar None shampoo and conditioner in both a bar and recyclable aluminium bottle.

Then there's the kitchen. After creating an environmentally-friendly pallet wrap, Jordy and Julia Kay of Great Wrap tackled cling wrap, creating a product that composts within 180 days.

They're currently taking pre-orders for the next batch, set to be manufactured when Victoria comes out of lockdown. They're also working on a version made entirely of plant and food waste, due for release in October.

Waxed cloth wraps – such as those from Beeswax Wraps Australia, which sell by the metre and last around 12 months – are another alternative.

Coffee pods

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Crema Joe's range of reusable, recyclable and compostable pods can be filled with coffee from your local roaster, doubling the positive impact. Mossuto offers "different pods to suit different lifestyles at different price points", including stainless steel, silicone and foil-lid pods.

"If you're having two pods a day at home, that's 700-ish pods in a year," Mossuto says. She stresses that she wouldn't advise people buy a pod-based coffee machine, but that Crema Joe aims to help people who do have them to use them sustainably.

Ask your local roaster which beans to use with your system and simply assemble at home. (Brew best enjoyed in a KeepCup.)

DIY dining staples

Sourdough hardening up? Cube it, douse it in olive oil and make croutons. Carrot shavings and cabbage cut-offs? Turn up the heat on some vinegar and pickle those suckers. Excess food and inattentive preparation has Australians wasting 7.3 million tonnes of food annually.

"We've got to change our habits. It's in our kitchens and when we're cooking, but it's before that," says Alex Elliott-Howery, co-founder of Sydney's Cornersmith cooking school. "You've got to think before you shop... and everyone has to buy less food."

Leftover and wilting herbs can quickly become a variety of pestos and sauces, says Elliott-Howery.

Leftover and wilting herbs can quickly become a variety of pestos and sauces, says Elliott-Howery.Credit:Cath Muscat

Elliott-Howery's to-be-released cookbook, Use It All, features recipes to "reduce food waste while eating generously". Waste hacks – what to do with leftover egg whites; how to make the most of an entire fish – feature throughout.

Cornersmith is running courses online on pickling and tomato preserves. Sydney Community College runs classes covering halloumi, apple cider and low-waste cooking.

Compost Revolution has helped over 60,000 households explore composting.

Compost Revolution has helped over 60,000 households explore composting.Credit:iStock

Beyond-redemption food scraps

Compost Revolution, which started in Sydney's eastern suburbs and has since spread to 33 councils across Australia, encourages composting to tackle climate change.

"There really is a composting system out there for everyone … whether you live in an apartment, townhouse, duplex, house with a big yard or on a farm," says founder David Gravina. "It’s all about finding the right one for you."

Do your research, then invest in a bin for your kitchen. If your council isn't involved, you can contact them to change that. Compost Revolution sells discounted products on their site.

E-waste

In 2016-2017 alone, Australian households generated 369,084 tonnes of e-waste. MobileMuster will take old phones; TechCollect will take computers, parts and TVs; and the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme enables all Aussies to recycle their TVs and computers through affiliated locations, accessible through PlanetArk's database.

You can also give your old iPhone or inkjet printer a new life through FreeCycle, Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace. Wipe all of your personal information first.

Other waste-busting ideas

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