Waste and in particular, plastic, is everywhere! It is an environmental epidemic and the sad part is a lot ends up in our waterways and on our beaches, irreparably harming our marine and bird life and, of course, the ecosystem.
We’ve all seen those disturbing pictures and videos floating around the internet whereby marine animals have a straw permanently wedged in their nose, or fishing line caught around them, or plastic rings struck around their necks.
It’s heartbreaking to see but the reality is, this is caused by us and it needs to stop!
What are the stats
Here are some alarming statistics from the ABC’s documentary series, War on Waste which you can watch on ABC iView:
- Australia is one of the most wasteful countries in the developed world.
- Australia’s waste is growing at twice the rate of the population.
- Australian’s throw away around 1 billion single use coffee cups a year.
- Up until recently, Australians were using 10 million plastic bags every day.
- 85% of soft plastics from bags and packaging end up in landfill.
- The average family throws out over $3,500 worth of food every year, which equates to about a tonne of food.
- Approximately 1/5 of bought food is thrown away.
- On average 1/3 of household rubbish is food waste.
- Supermarkets and other retailers throw out approximately 170,000 tonnes of food into landfill each year.
- There is 3.3 million tonnes of food waste produced every year. 2.6 million of which comes from households.
- When food rots in landfill it produces methane, which is 25 times more potent than the CO2 emitted from cars.
- If as little as 1% of the population composted their food scraps instead of throwing them in the bin, it would save 45 million kgs of CO2 emissions.
We find these stats abhorrently appalling!
Did you know that single-use plastic bags take around 1,000 years to break down!
We’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s time to wake up and take responsibility for this earth so that it’s healthy and strong for generations to come because as it stands now, we’re killing it!
Bananas are the single most purchased product in supermarkets. We eat around 5 million bananas every single day and as consumers, we want them all year round.
A banana farm that produces around 1.5 million cartons of bananas per year (that’s 80 bananas per carton), will throw away around 40% of their crop as it is not deemed shelf worthy by supermarkets. So, even though the banana may taste the same as every other banana, because it may look different it’s deemed unsuitable.
This equates to the farmers growing 120 million bananas each year with 80 million of those being thrown away. This is just ridiculous on so many levels.
It takes 9 months to grow a banana tree which only bears fruit once! The amount of waste being forced onto farmers just so that they can make a living is staggering.
Personally, we couldn’t care less what the banana looked like, as long as it tasted like a banana!
Living in a disposable society
These days everything has a shelf life, and we mean everything!
Gone are the days where an appliance would last you 20 + years. Hands up if you remember hand-me-downs? This was just common practice, especially with siblings, but not so much anymore.
Can you remember back to your parents or grandparents’ generations where they had the same things in their house for years and years and years. That’s just what they did. They appreciated their belongings, looked after them and only upgraded when it was absolutely necessary.
Nowadays with our consumerism society, nothing is made to last. We are always having to replace items because they’re not well made, or we simply get sick of it, so we throw it out and buy something new.
This consumerism mentality has certainly developed over time, but unless we do something about it, it will just get worse.
The tide is slowly turning
Whilst all of this is seriously shameful and just downright depressing, it’s not all doom and gloom.
We now have wonderful organisations who rescue food so that it can be used.
They are Australia’s first ever rescued food supermarket which is stocked with produce that has either been donated or would otherwise go to waste but is still perfectly edible.
Their philosophy of ‘take what you need, give what you can’ ensures that their rescued food is available to everyone, especially those who need it.
At this stage, their supermarket is just in Sydney, but hopefully, with enough donations and popularity, they will add more stores around the country. Wouldn’t that be great!
Go check out OzHarvest and give them some love!
Their aim is to achieve an Australia without hunger by working with the entire food and grocery industry to source nutritious, wholesome meals for vulnerable Australians in need.
They are the largest hunger relief organisation in Australia. The provide 67 million meals a year to over 2,400 charities and 1,750 schools.
Foodbank works with the entire Australian food and grocery industry including farmers, wholesalers, manufacturers and retailers. Donations include stock that is out of specification, close to expiry or excess to requirements. Companies also make monetary donations as part of social responsibility or a cause-related marketing campaign.
In addition, Foodbank collaborates with suppliers, manufacturers and transporters in programs like Collaborative Supply Program, to source key staple foods that don’t come in sufficient quantities via rescue channels.
Their mission is to deliver the most food, to the most Australians in need, in the most efficient and effective ways. Foodbank estimates that the volume of food and groceries required to meet the total food relief need across Australia is approximately 75 million kilograms. Currently, combined, Australian hunger relief organisations provide 50 million kilograms, which means there is a 25 million kilogram gap.
They will continue to work with farmers, wholesalers, manufacturers and retailers to develop new programs and initiatives in order to end hunger in Australia.
They are a fabulous non-profit organisation and Tracey has volunteered there numerous times to pack relief boxes. It is so fulfilling doing something like this, so grab a friend, child or partner and give them a call, they are always after volunteers.
You can check them out here.
What can we do to make a change?
Let’s take a look at simple things you can do that will have a big impact.
- Take your own reusable shopping bags with you and ditch the supermarket plastic bags. Have them in the back of the car so you never forget. Some even roll up small so they fit into handbags and pockets, making it super convenient to have them on hand when needed.
- Take your own reusable produce bags when buying fresh produce. We love the 4MyEarth ones which you can get from here.
- Choose fruit and vegetables that are not pre-packaged in plastic wrapping. It’s simply not necessary.
- Take your own containers to the butcher, baker, deli, grocer, retailer.
- Opt for products with minimal packaging.
Opt for lunchboxes that unpackaged food can go straight into and remain fresh. Ones with little compartments for each food item, like the Go Green lunchboxes (which you can shop for here). These are the ones that Jo’s kids use and she loves them, so do her kids!
Ditch the cling wrap and use reusable food covers to store your leftovers. The 4MyEearth range is perfect for ditching cling wrap. Ours are over 5 years old and still going strong. There is something for everyone – sandwich wraps, plate and bowl covers and even a large cover that fits over food platters, all making it easy to ditch plastic. Check them all out here.
Ditch the zip lock bags and store food in reusable containers.
At home, don’t use regular plastic bin liners. Throw your rubbish straight into the bin and wash the bin as needed.
Or, if that is not something you wish to do, then try and use compostable plastics in your home. There is a great range of products from If You Care (which we now stock as we loved it so much), you can shop for it here.
Recycle your plastic bags
Think plastic wrappers, the bags frozen veggies come in, cling wrap from watermelon or pumpkin… that sort of stuff can’t go into the regular recycle bin, it needs to be disposed of in a REDcycle bin. So take your soft plastics (which can be scrunched up into a ball) to your local REDcycle bin which can be found at most major supermarkets. Find your nearest bin here.
Buy a water filter for your tap at home and drink from that instead of buying bottled water. Also, refill your reusable water bottle from your tap instead of buying bottled water. You can purchase re-usable bottles from pretty much anywhere – the supermarket, KMart, Big W etc.
This is seriously one of the easiest things to do – just say no to plastic straws. These end up in our waterways and severely harm or kill our precious marine life. Instead, purchase reusable straws which you can get from here, or simply go without.
Grab yourself a super funky, eco-friendly coffee cup and ditch the single-use, disposable ones. Don’t forget that around 1 billion disposable coffee cups are going into landfill every year, but we can all do something about it.
Buy clothes consisting of sustainably sourced fabrics and of good quality materials so that they will last the distance. Yes, they may cost you more per item, but they will last a lot longer than mass-produced inferior quality clothes which you would just have to replace, so the cost would actually balance out or work better in your favour.
Only buy the food that you need. If your veggies are starting to wilt and getting close to going bad, then chop them all up and freeze in reusable containers until needed or blitz them all up and make a soup or sauce out of them.
If your fruit is starting to turn, blitz it all up and make ice-creams out of them. You can source your reusable ice-cream moulds from here.
With your scraps, get a compost bin and compost them. Not only will your gardens thank you for all the lovely nutrient-dense fertiliser you are creating, but the environment will thank you too for less methane that’s going to be emitted into the atmosphere.
Tracey saves all her food scraps in an airtight container and then blitzes it up at the end of each week. She then pours this around the garden and allows it to compost in by itself.
Try, where possible, to buy your fresh produce either from markets or directly from the farmer. This will help to ensure all the produce grown is getting eaten as well as being a cost saver to yourself too.
Do your research and ask a bunch of questions to the retailer about the life expectancy of the product or can it be fixed/serviced if needed. This will ensure you are buying the best quality you can afford.
If an appliance in the house is broken, look at getting it fixed instead of throwing it out and buying a new one.
If you simply must upgrade to the latest tech, look at donating your old one to those less fortunate than you.
Old furniture and other household items
If you are having a cleanout in your house (aka doing a Marie Kondo, lol), consider what can either be donated to charity for reuse or sold via a garage sale or on your local buy, swap and sell pages etc. rather than just throwing in the trash.
Not only is one man’s trash, another man’s treasure, but you may earn some extra money in the process.
Make a difference
There are so many ways you can be less wasteful. Have a think about what you have in your house and what can swap for an eco-friendlier option or where you may have items wrapped in plastic that simply don’t need to be.
The more conscious you are about it, the bigger the changes you can make.
We hope this has given you some food for thought (yep, pun totally intended haha) and made you think about what a difference you can make to take care of our planet.
Tracey and Jo