The first steps in the transition to zero waste can be challenging, so we designed the rethink rubbish program to help people switch on some new sustainable life skills that make starting out a little easier. We believe transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle can start anywhere; going zero waste is a bit like weeding an overgrown garden, you just need to pick a spot and start weeding! I started my zero waste ‘weeding’ in my kitchen bin. Let’s start yours now.
Wait, does this mean I need more rubbish bins?
Yes and no! You can continue to use your existing bin for landfill waste. Your compostable food waste can be collected in anything - I have a compost bin on my kitchen bench, but if it gets full half way through a big cook up I just use a plate or bowl that I take out to the compost bin when cleaning up. Recycling can always be collected in a bucket or box and then taken out to the recycling bin. You don't have to buy new things to deal with your waste differently, in fact, in a few months time, you may not need a landfill bin inside your home at all, so hang onto it knowing that you can repurpose it for recycling later on.
Phase one: operation observation
Pause before ditching anything
Food scraps are one of the easiest things to throw out because we 'make them' so frequently, not just when we cook, but also when we forget about leftovers in the back of the fridge! Not only are foodscraps completely compostable, but they are often what fills kitchen bins the fastest, they also produce the most bin stink. A liquidy mess or nasty stench can mean your kitchen bin gets taken out before it's full, which also means bin liners are being thrown out before they are full. (We'll come back to food waste and bin liners later!)
Pausing before purging gives you a moment to reflect on the waste before you toss it out. Are you throwing something in the bin that could be recycled or composted? Not sure? Double check!
Double check with your council
Still not sure? Keep searching!
A web search for is this thing recyclable? will almost always yield results, and often they’re surprising!
Researching your waste can be pretty quick and in the process you can check if an item is recyclable somewhere local to you or if it needs to be collected/disposed of in a specific way. If you have waste streams that can’t be recycled through your council it’s no big deal, just save up those items and deal with them all at once at less frequent intervals.
This is where an old bin or a couple of buckets/boxes come in handy, if you sort and store recyclables in your old bins as you make the waste it makes taking them to their respective recycling centres a million times easier. No one wants to sort through recycling that’s been laying around for a year, so sort it as you’ve googled what to do with it then you can store it til it’s time to deal with it!
Switching on your zero waste brain
You’ll know when your zero waste brain starts to switch on because you’ll suddenly feel pangs of garbage guilt. Becoming more conscious of the impact of our waste is crucial; for many of us more fortunate folk living in urban and suburban Australia, waste can be pretty invisible so remaining conscious takes practice. But all our rubbish ends up somewhere, and with global landfills overflowing it really is time for all of us to learn how to better manage our waste, and most importantly, how to minimise it in the first place.
How long should I naval gaze over my rubbish?
You’ll want to do this for at least a week or two and really take note of what is going into your landfill bin. Research the kinds of waste you make and look for patterns in what you see in your bin - recognising the patterns in your waste will help you connect it to particular products or behaviours.