Smart Shopping and Waste HOW TO REDUCE YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
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Going Beyond Recycling In 2006‐07, Victoria generated a total of 10.3 million tonnes of waste (including recycling). Nearly 4 million tonnes of waste is still being disposed of in landfill sites (tips) every year. Did you know: 99 percent of everything we buy and use becomes waste within six months of being bought?1 for every one wheelie bin of waste we produce from our homes, 70 wheelie bins of waste have already been produced from the mining, manufacture or production and sale of the things in that bin.1
Victorians are enthusiastic recyclers. Over the past 20 years, we’ve really started to get our act together. We now recycle over 60 percent of our solid waste. So it may come as a surprise that the amount of waste we dump in landfill hasn’t decreased significantly. That’s because we may recycle more but we also buy a lot more. We can each make a difference through the things we choose to buy. Our purchases influence what ‐ and how ‐ things are made and grown. What we choose to do with things after they’re bought affects how much ends up in our landfill sites, and how much greenhouse gas we send into the atmosphere.
Why does it matter? According to Sustainability Victoria, Australia is one of the highest producers of waste per person in the world. Every three months the whole of the Victorian economy produces enough waste to fill the Melbourne Cricket Ground from the playing surface to the top of the stands.
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Our waste is becoming more harmful to the environment and difficult to process. Electronic waste (e‐waste) is one of the fastest growing types of waste — each year, Australians buy more than 2.4 million personal computers and one million televisions. The waste from unwanted televisions, computers and mobile phones contains complex mixes of materials. Many of these material are toxic. Thanks to hard work by Environment Victoria, among others, the government is setting up recycling drop‐off centres for old TVs and computers to open in 2011. However we still need to think about how we produce TVs and computers and how long they last, and to prvent them from being dumped in landfill.
3. It reduces the impact on the environment
Increasing population and economic growth will make the problem of waste bigger. If Melbournians in 2030 are as wasteful as we are now, Victoria’s landscape will have to absorb an additional 235,000 tonnes of waste each year. The benefits of reducing waste
1) Toxins: Many materials that end up as waste contain toxic substances. Over time, these substances leach (or soak) into soils and groundwater, causing a hazard to the environment for years. Televisions, computers and other electronic appliances contain a long list of hazardous substances, including mercury, arsenic, cadmium, PVC, solvents, acids and lead.
1. It reduces our use of valuable resources including:
2) Leachate: Leachate is the liquid formed when waste breaks down in the landfill and when water filters through the waste. It’s highly toxic and can pollute the local land, ground water and rivers and streams.
Minerals – used to make metals and other materials Energy – used in mining, harvesting, manufacturing and transporting Water – used to grow crops, refine and manufacture Native forests – used to make some paper and wood products Petroleum – used to make plastics 2. It saves money Get more use from the things you buy , so you can buy less Reduce waste disposal costs Businesses become more efficient Household incomes stretch further Goods may cost less when they use less resources to make
Less land degraded by mining, unsustainable farming and landfill Reduces pollution and toxins from landfill sites Less fossil fuel used to produce new goods, so less greenhouse gases and other pollution The problem with landfill Landfill sites are ugly. And it’s not just the sight of increasing piles of waste that’s the problem. Landfill is also responsible for toxins, leachate and greenhouse gases.
| SMART SHOPPING AND WASTE 4 3) Greenhouse Gases: When organic material such as food scraps and garden clippings is put in landfill, it is squished and covered. This causes it to decompose without air, releasing methane — a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This contributes to climate change. Methane can become dangerous if allowed to build up. Composting your food scraps and garden clippings reduces the generation of methane.
About 90 percent of households in Australia have access to kerbside recycling. Paper (including cardboard and newspapers) is the most commonly recycled material in Australia. Glass and plastic bottles are the two next most frequently recycled materials.
Apart from the financial costs, garbage buried in landfill breaks down very slowly and remains an expensive problem for our children and grandchildren.
The benefits of recycling Recycling recovers the raw materials used to make the stuff we use. It saves the energy (and greenhouse gas emissions) and water to mine, log and refine minerals to make metals or trees to make paper. Mining, logging and farming can degrade land and cause social upheaval in communities. In Victoria, the environmental benefits from reprocessing recycled materials in 2007–08 (rather than using new materials) included: Victoria saving more than 82 million gigajoules of energy.3 Preventing more than 4 million tonnes of greenhouse gases.3 Saving 47 thousand megalitres of water (enough to fill more than 18,000 Olympic‐sized swimming pools).3
Waste in Victoria In Victoria in 2007‐08, 61 percent of the total solid waste stream was recycled. This was a little lower than the previous year, but most years how much we recycle goes up. The problem is that how much waste we produce also tends to go up. Surprisingly, households recycle a lower proportion of their waste than industry. In 2007‐08 each person in Victoria generated 192 kilograms of rubbish, five kilograms less than in the previous year.
Each person recycled 116 kilograms, five kilograms more than the year before.2 Residents of Victoria are still putting more than half of their waste in landfill rather than recycling it.
The greenhouse gases saved by Victorian recycling in 2007‐ 2008 were equivalent to taking 690,000 cars off the road.
| SMART SHOPPING AND WASTE 5 Waste and climate change Most people don’t see the connection between waste and climate change, even though waste produces the two major greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane. Methane is generated by the breakdown of buried organic matter like food scraps, garden waste, wood and paper in landfill. Most of what households throw out is organic matter, and methane was 87 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions from the waste sector in 2005‐07. Think about the energy (and mineral resources) used to produce these materials:
Tips for Reducing Waste Waste is a problem that everyone contributes to, and we can all be part of reducing the mountains of rubbish. It’s just a matter of changing our behaviours to create less waste, and making this a regular habit. The waste hierarchy
Paper production Recycling one tonne of paper and cardboard saves 13 trees and up to one tonne of greenhouse gases.4
prevention reduce reuse recycling energy recovery
Metal production Recycling one kilogram of aluminium saves up to six kilograms of the mineral bauxite, four kilograms of chemical products and 14 kilowatt hours of electricity (enough energy to power an average Australian house for a day). The cost of recycling a can is much less than manufacturing one from raw materials and metals can be recycled again and again By recycling one aluminium can you are saving enough energy to run your television for three hours.4
The best option for reducing your waste impact isn’t recycling, but preventing waste in the first place. The next best option is reducing waste (e.g. if you get plastic bags, get as few as possible). At the bottom of the waste hierarchy is the worst option — disposing of waste. The next few pages explain some of these options a little more. Prevention Preventing waste can mean changing your daily habits, since the things we use most are the things we regularly buy. Here are some ideas:
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Sustainable eating Prevent waste by eating local, seasonal and certified organic food as much as possible. Reducing the amount of processed food you eat will also cut waste and improve nutrition. When your food travels across seasons and the globe, it uses lots of energy and packaging and some food spoils along the way. Local seasonal food is tasty and healthy for you and the environment. Certified organic farming methods prevent synthetic pesticides and fertilisers entering the soil and rivers, allowing native insects, animals and plants to thrive. Organic farming produces less waste (such as packaging for fertiliser) and uses less energy (to make pesticides and fertiliser). Growing your own food (even a few herbs on a sunny windowsill) cuts out packaging and spoilage from transport and storage.
Organic and local food tends to be more expensive, but buying it from markets makes it cheaper — sometimes even cheaper than conventional fruit and vegetables in the supermarket. You can also find organic food in many supermarkets and health shops, and some organisations will deliver to your workplace or door. If you buy imported coffee, tea and chocolate, look for the fair trade logo which guarantees that growers get a fair wage for their work.
Green cleaning By cleaning your home without harsh chemicals you expose yourself and your family to fewer toxic substances. You will also help the environment. Try cleaning your home the green way by regularly using warm water and a textured or micro‐fibre cloth. Cleaning regularly prevents build‐up and the need for harsh chemical cleaners. Bicarbonate soda will cut through grease and glycerine is great for stains. They’re both available in supermarkets.
Go for garden friendly laundry and dishwashing detergents that are low in salt and phosphate. Even if you don’t use grey water from your laundry in your garden these detergents help prevent excessive growth of blue green algae in rivers and reservoirs. Biodegradable detergents break down naturally in the environment. Buying gifts that don’t cost the Earth Instead of giving people things they wont use, think about giving them experiences — take them to a performance, give them a voucher for a salsa class, or take them somewhere beautiful for the day. Give a home‐made voucher to exchange for your time – cook a meal, do the garden, look after the kids, give a massage. Choose gifts that support greener living, such as fruit trees, herbs, native plants, bicycles, water and energy saving gadgets. Give “virtual gifts” (donations to not‐for‐profit organisations).
| SMART SHOPPING AND WASTE 7 Reduce Here are some tips to reduce waste through smart shopping: Use reusable bags instead of plastic. Keep them handy. Plan to buy what you need – use a shopping list and stick to it. Get a free "No Advertising Material" sticker by sending a stamped self‐addressed envelope to DSB Sticker, PO Box 6252, Karingal VIC 3199.
Choose long‐lasting and repairable items Bulk‐buy products with a long shelf‐life. Avoid individually wrapped items. Buy products made from recycled materials Reduce use of things that are hazardous (e.g. paint) – to avoid having to deal with disposing them afterwards. Grow your own fruit and vegetables (avoid packaging). Reuse Using the things you buy over and over again rather than disposing of them will help the environment and save money. Here are a few ideas: Buy reusable items rather than disposable ones (e.g. rechargeable batteries). Hire, share or borrow tools or other things you only use occasionally. Borrow books from the library. Repair broken items rather than throwing the item away. Have a garage sale, sell things on eBay or give them away to allow other people to re‐use things you don’t want.
Save old containers, egg cartons, coloured paper and wrappings and donate them to a school for their crafts.
Recycle To find out what you can recycle in your area, check with your local council, or check with Recycling Near You, on their hotline on 1300 733 712 or at www.recyclingnearyou.com.au. Recycling Near You can tell you everything from which plastics your council collects to where to recycle corks, gas cylinders and tyres. Kerbside Recycling In your kerbside recycling bin you can recycle the following: Paper and cardboard (for example newspaper, cardboard, magazines, envelopes, office paper, phone books, etc.) Aluminium and steel cans, empty aerosols and clean foil Glass bottles and jars Milk and juice cartons (tetrapaks) Plastics (check the types of plastics you can recycle in your area) In your green garden waste bin you can recycle the following: Grass cuttings Leaves Small branches (up to 10cm wide x 30cm long)
8 | SMART SHOPPING AND WASTE Composting food and garden clippings Typically half of the waste put out for landfill is food and garden waste. You can dramatically reduce how much you throw out by composting it instead, and creating wonderful compost for your garden. Alternatively worm farms are great for people with a small (or no) garden, as they can be located in laundries, or on balconies. Another option, bokashi bins, are good for people with no outdoor space at all, because they can be kept in your kitchen. However you will need to find somewhere to bury your food scraps once they’re composted (a community garden?).
You can compost: Fruit and vegetable scraps Shredded newspaper Grass clippings Weeds (not seeds or bulbs) Tea leaves and coffee grounds Egg shells Avoid putting meat and dairy products in your compost to discourage flies, rats and mice. For advice and further details consult your local nursery, local council or Sustainable Gardening Australia. Household and hazardous waste The Detox Your Home program accepts hazardous waste from homes, like old paint, car batteries, energy saving light globes, and all those old chemicals which lie around in sheds. Call 1300 363 744 or visit
www.resourcesmart.vic.gov.au/for_households_2826.html for a timetable for annual mobile chemical collections in your area. Mobile phones, computers and related equipment To find the nearest drop‐off point for recycling mobile phones, computers, printers and more, go to www.recyclingnearyou.com.au or call their hotline on 1300 733 712.
Old Medicines Take old, unused or out‐of‐date medicines to your local pharmacy. Do not put medicine in your rubbish bin or flush it down the toilet.
You can make a difference... To help make a difference to the environment and what ends up in landfill, try looking at your own smart shopping and waste reduction habits. Use the checklist on the inside of the back cover to find out where you are doing well and where you could do better. Not all actions are appropriate for everyone, but this checklist should give you some ideas of what to work on. Then make some commitments to what you will definitely change in the near future, using the cut out list on the next page. (We would have put it on the last page, but we didn’t think you would want to cut up the back cover.)
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I’m doing my bit
Things I pledge to do to look after the planet
Smart Shopping and Reducing Waste Commitments
I pledge to do this
I do this already
Recycle all I can: paper, cardboard, plastics, glass, aluminium and steel. (you will save up to 1,900kg of greenhouse gases per person per year) The best way of following through with good intentions is committing to change. Choose the actions you would like to take, and tick the boxes on the right to remind yourself that you’re serious. If you are already taking most of these actions, try pledging to encourage someone else to take action in the row at the bottom. Then cut out your promises, and stick them to your fridge.
Compost or recycle all of my green garden waste (you will save 1,900kg of greenhouse gases per person per year)
Write a shopping list and only buy what I need, instead of being persuaded to buy what I don’t need
Take my own reusable bags when shopping and not accept plastic bags
Cut the amount of rubbish I put in my bin by half, e.g. by composting food scraps
Buy certified organic, seasonal local food as much as possible
Put a ‘no junk mail’ sticker on my letter box
Encourage my friends and family to…. …………………………………………………………...
Buy things that can be reused or will last for a long time instead of disposable or short life items Buy products with minimal packaging or packaging which can be recycled
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Disclaimer Environment Victoria provides this booklet as a guide. However, it cannot take responsibility or liability for any loss, damage or injury incurred as a result of the use of any of the information within this workshop package. We recommend that you obtain appropriate professional advice and assistance where necessary.
This information pack is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia license. A copy of this license is available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by‐nc/2.5/au/ or by writing to email@example.com. You are free to copy, communicate and adapt the work, so long as you attribute Environment Victoria and the use is for non commercial purposes. This has been specifi‐ cally chosen to enable you to modify and use the material to suit your individual requirements. However all logos are protected by copyright, and the photo of the MCG is by Mugley and protected by the Creative Commons Attribution‐Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Endnotes 1. 2. 3. 4.
The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard, www.thestoryofstuff.com Sustainability Victoria, ‘Kerbside Services in Victoria’, online at www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/www/html/2150‐kerbside‐services‐data.asp, accessed 10/03/10, last modified 6/10/09. Sustainability Victoria, ‘Recycling in Victoria’, online at www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/www/html/1352‐recycling‐in‐victoria.asp, accessed 11/03/10, last modified 27/08/09. Towards Zero Waste WA, ‘Zero Waste Fact Sheet — Paper’, online at www.zerowastewa.com.au/documents/paper_fs.pdf, accessed 11/03/10
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Smart Shopping Checklist Easy actions Do you write a shopping list before shopping? No Do you throw out packaging? Yes
Write a shopping list to avoid buying things that will not be used. Buy items with minimal packaging or with recyclable packaging, e.g. loose fruit and vegetables.
Do you accept plastic bags when shopping? Yes Do you buy used books, furniture and clothing? No
Take reusable shopping bags to the shops instead.
Do you buy things with recycled content such as recycled toilet paper? No Do you buy environmentally friendly cleaning products? No
Purchase things with recycled content and help promote recycling.
Buy environmentally friendly, low irritant cleaning products (available from supermarkets or health food stores).
Do you buy organically grown local food that is in season? No
Buy locally grown organic food where possible, for example at markets, farmers markets, health food stores and some supermarkets.
Do you buy gifts which wont get used? Yes
Give experiences instead. Make gifts such as homemade jam. Give “virtual gifts” (donations to not‐for‐profit organisations).
Search charity shops, Trading Post, etc. before you buy new items — try to find a great used item instead.
Reducing Waste Checklist Easy actions Do you put recyclables (paper, bottles, plastics, etc.) in the recycling bin for collection? No
Put a box/bag in the kitchen to separate the recyclable materials from the waste, and to carry recyclable materials to the recycling bin for collection.
Arrange appropriate disposal. For example through Detox Your Home. Call Sustainability Victoria on 1 300 363 744 or visit www.resourcesmart.vic.gov.au/ for_households_2826.html . Actions which require a bit more effort Do you have unused hazardous materials or chemicals stored in your home or shed? Yes
Do you get junk mail that you don’t want or don’t read? Yes Do grow herbs, veggies and fruit on your windowsill or in your garden? No Do you separate garden and food from general rubbish, so it can be composted or used in a worm farm? No
Put a no junk mail sticker on your letter box.
Grow some of your own food. Begin with a few herbs if you haven’t grown food before. Purchase or build a compost bin or worm farm. Place a container on the kitchen bench to collect food waste. Put all garden and food waste in a compost bin or worm farm.
Environment Victoria mobilises people to safeguard our environment. As the state’s peak non‐profit environment group, we believe our future depends on all Victorians. That’s why we’re asking all 5 million of us to be part of looking after our environment. With your help, we can persuade every Victorian to get involved. It won't be easy. But 5 million people can get our representatives hopping. Get businesses bending over backwards to become truly green. Get the whole country to pay attention. Maybe even the world. So what do you say? Are you in? Visit www.environmentvictoria.org.au today or ring 9341 8100 to join.
This booklet printed on 100% recycled paper.
This booklet was funded by the Department of Sustainability and Environment