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#Drop-dead GREXY - reflections and tips for reducing waste!

Three of our four staff have decided to take the #Drop-Dead GREXY challenge with Sustainable Table for the month of April 2016.

Our staff join the #Drop-dead GREXY challenge Our staff join the #Drop-dead GREXY challenge
Our 'jar' for our four person home Our 'jar/pot' for our four person household!

What is the #Drop-dead GREXY challenge? Fit our entire landfill waste for the month of April into a jar.

Here are our thoughts as we take the challenge...

1: This challenge is inspiring!

First of all, I can tell you that even for someone who is as waste and sustainability conscious as I am, the challenge has already been such a good reminder of the ways my habits have slipped, and of how much MORE sustainable I can still be, without much fuss but just by thinking about it. I am already feeling so re-inspired and re-invigorated by taking this challenge.

2: 'The Jar' is an awesome visual reminder

Having replaced our usual 'bin under the sink' with a jar for the month is a really good visual reminder - every time any member of the family goes to throw something not obviously recyclable into the land-fill bin, they see the jar and it prompts us to think....can this be recycled? composted? re-used? And most often, it can - but without the visual reminder, we forget to stop and think it through.

For example, my daughter was about to throw in some used cotton buds....and when she asked me what to do, I could remind her that they are our bamboo and cotton  ones - and hence can go into our compost.

Our 'jar' for our four person home We figured this size was ok for our four person + household :-)

3: Soft plastics - they are everywhere!

Now, I am not sure how everyone else is dealing with soft plastics who is doing this challenge. Of course, the most sustainable way to approach the challenge is to avoid packaging altogether - or as much as possible.

We do that in many ways already - each member of our household has a stainless steel drink bottle, Sean and I use re-usable coffee cups, and we have all manner of re-usable lunch and food packaging. We are members of a local Organic Food Co-op, where we get boxes of packaging free fruit and veg weekly. We use Re-usable shopping bags and one of my absolute favourites - Onya Weigh bags for shopping at the fruit & veg shop.

Soft plastics recycling Sot plastics recycling set up

But STILL - we manage to accumulate soft plastics, which seem to accompany almost every purchased item, from boxes of tea (in plastic sleeve) to hardware fittings (sealed in plastic bags).

In our home, which includes teens and pre-teens, we are making full use of soft plastics recycling to avoid landfill waste. We are really lucky to live in a council area that is very close to including soft plastics recycling into our weekly curbside recycling program - unfortunately this program has not yet been launched (very close)....so in the meantime, we are making good use of the REDcycle soft plastics recycling program.

REDcycle soft plastics recycling

How does this work? It's really simple....set up a soft plastics recycling bin at home, and when you have a plastic bag full of soft plastics, simply drop it into your nearest REDcycle soft plastics recycling bin, of which there are 580 around the country. Ours is the nearby Coles. You can search the REDcycle site for your closest location.

Even better - anyone who can't get to one of the 580 drop off points around the country can post their plastic to: RED Group, Attn: Plastic Packaging Recycling, 10 - 12 Thomas Road, Laverton North, 3026.

Types of soft plastics that can go into your REDcycle recycling bag are: bread bags, biscuit packets, frozen food bags, rice and pasta bags, confectionery packets, plastic shopping bags and old reusable bags. Read more about REDcycling as well as recycling of all manner of household materials in our earlier blog called 'Recycling for all it's worth'

4: Metal recycling

One thing I had not thought of was small pieces of metal waste that I would usually put into landfill. The reason I noticed them was that I cleared our my garden drawer over the weekend and come across bits of wire, old metal watering can heads, and some broken clothes pegs with metal middle thingies. Usually these would go in 'the bin under the sink'. What to do? I remembered that our local council accepts all manner or metals for free recycling at the tip - I've taken larger pieces there before, but never thought of it for smaller pieces. We now have a bucket set up near our bins just for metal scraps to be recycled; this will be a permanent solution for us (not just for the #Drop-dead GREXY challenge during April but forever!)

You'd be surprised at the random bits of metal that turn up Scrap metal recycling

 

5: Sanitary waste

Again, this has slipped off my radar over the last few years. I used to use only cloth menstrual pads....no waste at all. However, I got lazy and moved back to disposables, and in addition our household is now one with multiple females in it who have their own preferences with sanitary products, so sanitary waste is just a fact of life here. As with the metal waste, it had not crossed my mind until I went to empty the bathroom bins this weekend - got to 'the jar', which reminded me that if I emptied those bins into it, we'd never make it to the end of April!

So - a bit more thinking required, and I decided that - all of the pads being Natracare pads, which are made of organic cotton and are plastic and chlorine free, I'd compost them. Not everyone's cup of tea to add pads to their compost I imagine, but being someone who composts absolutely everything I can (including the odd dead chicken or mouse), it seems fine to me.

Plastic free Natracare pads Compostable, plastic free pads

6: more composting

Basically, anything made from material that was once living can be composted, and should be to keep your landfill waste bin as empty as possible for your #Drop-dead GREXY challenge! This includes old cotton and woolen clothing, dead straw hats, dead mice, and household items that are made from natural materials such as old kitchen scrubbers, and wax food wraps that have been completely used up, and for those of us who are comfortable with it, organic cotton, plastic free menstrual pads.

Fair trade kitchen scrubber made entirely from natural materials Biodegradable kitchen scrubber

For a comprehensive guide to setting up composting in your own home, we can't do better than this one from Sustainable Table written specifically to help people with the #GREXY challenge- enjoy!

7: OK - writing a tip a day was WAY too optimistic

So I take it back....I'll just write as new aspects of this challenge come up. Ok? thanks.

8. Some random waste items we've added to our collection

There have been just a few random new pieces of waste that have me stumped - here are some of them.

Hard to recycle thingsBroken crockery and cutlery? Can't see any use for it...

Tablet wrapper...pretty sure this is un-recyclable?

Old sock? If my kids were little I can imagine a pretty groovy sock toy....but they aren't....

Butter packaging - even if I switch to wax coated paper it is not going to be recyclable...i guess I could go for a plastic container?

And....sigh...the delicious, organic and fairtrade coffee we drink is in a package of paper lined with plastic (to keep it fresh)....so I'm going to contact them and ask if they would consider alternative packaging.

9: So the question is - do we need to up the ante on our challenge?

To be honest, if we were to keep doing the challenge as we started it - relying on recycling to deal with a fair amount of our waste, then the challenges we faced right at the start have remained our biggest ones. EG. our pile of scrap metal is growing, as is our bucket of e-waste (both to take to the recycle centre), as is our soft plastic recycling.

It seems like for us, we need to make the challenge harder by avoiding even recycling waste...here are some ways we already do this - along with some of the things we are going to to to become EVEN BETTER at it!

Fruit & Veg

- any fruit & veg we purchase in addition to our food co-op box, we will only purchase un-packaged, using our Onya Weigh bags (had them for years, they are sensational!)Onya weigh produce bags- we'll ask fruit & veg shops for un-packaged versions of things if they have only packaged ones. Let them know how consumers feel about excess packaging.

- You can also go to your local Farmers market or Food Swap - and just take a bag for all your freshly picked goodies

Bread

Buy un-packaged loaves of bread- carry them in a 4MyEarth Bread Bag to keep them clean and fresh. Our local fruit & veg shop has amazing sourdough loaves for sale, unpackaged!

Bread bagDeli goods

- We already make our own olives, sun dried tomatoes, apples, pears and nectarines with our Dehydrator...any other things we buy, we'll buy in bulk and decant into a smaller jar as we need to. I wonder if the deli counter at the IGA will let me bring my own container to put deli goods into?

- We still buy cheese....we have a cheese making kit though, so I'm going to do a cheese making course in May to encourage myself to make my own. We also buy some bulk cheeses (Parmesan and ricotta), which we split into sections and freeze.

- Our local health food shop Natures Harvest Wholefoods in Hurstbridge is very happy for people to bring their own jars and containers to our freshly ground peanut butter, local honey and cleaning products into (dispensed from bulk containers) - make it your new health food shop, or see if you have a local shop that will do the same!

Tins of food

- we preserve enough tomatoes each year that we never have to buy tinned tomatoes, and we pressure cook beans to be frozen for when we need them. But we do still buy things like cans of corn kernels...we'll avoid buying tins as much as we can...and try to use the fresh version or just stick to seasonal produce.

Cleaning tools

We already use tools that are made from plant materials, like our organic cotton dishcloths, coconut fibre scrubbers and vegetable fibre and wood scrubbing brushes. Just got to keep it up, and compost them at the end of their lives!

Vegetable fibre and wood scrubbing brush Organic cotton Tidy dish cloths Safix coconut fibre scrubber

10. to really help you focus - use this reminder from one of the awesome daily email updates for #DropDEadGREXY challenge participants!!

THE 3 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU BUY SOMETHING

GREXY

To be continued....let us know what you are learning while doing the challenge!

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