You’ve heard of the 3 R’s right: reduce, reuse, recycle? Well now there’s 5. And did you know they’re in order of preference?
Recycling is down the bottom because it’s a kind of ‘last resort’ if you can’t take the other four actions. That’s because whilst recycling helps to reduce landfill and virgin resources, it still requires a lot of non-renewable resources such as water, energy and gas, with most recycling in Australia being shipped to developing countries for processing in questionable conditions for the environment and workers (See The Problem with Plastic for more info)
Following the 5 R’s in their order should be the way we go about things instead. Let’s explore:
Chances are your home is filled with stuff you don’t need; stuff you haven’t touched in years; stuff that just collects dust. Everything we buy has an environmental as well as a human cost, so think twice before making your next purchase and ensure you really do need it.
Do we really need a different product for every single different application? How different is a bench cleaner to a floor cleaner? A floor cleaner to a bathroom cleaner? Marketers are great at convincing us we need different products for everything we do, but it’s simply not true.
Reduce the products you need and you’ll not only save a lot of money but help to reduce the embedded environmental cost too.
Swapping single use disposable products for reusables is one of the easiest ways to do your bit for the environment. Start with a reusable coffee cup, drink bottle and straw and then take it from there… like lunch kits, mesh produce bags, cloth bags and more. Here’s a lovely photo of lots of reusable items to think about.
Take what you’re no longer using and either use it for another application or give it away to someone in need or to an op shop so that others can enjoy your pre-loved item.
Finally, if all other options are not possible, go with recycling. You can recycle everything from plastic containers to old computers – check the Recycle Right Website for more.
What about soft plastics?
The best thing to do is to limit use of soft plastics altogether by refusing plastic shopping bags and buying as much produce as you can using your own packaging.
For the times when you do end up with soft plastics…
Most Councils around Australia don’t accept plastic bags and soft plastics like biscuit trays, pasta packets, frozen pea packets etc in the kerbside recycling bin BUT these items can actually be recycled via special recycling bins located in most major supermarkets.
These bins are called REDcycle and you can find one near you via the REDcycle Store Locator. Here they are turned into park benches and other hand items.
Things you can recycle in the REDcycle bins – think ‘soft plastics that you can scrunch’:
- Plastic shopping bags
- Bread, rice and pasta bags
- Biscuit packets and trays
- Frozen food bags
- Confectionery (lollie) packets
- Newspaper wrap
- Bubble wrap
- Dry cleaning bags
- Old green (and other re-usable) bags.
TIP: Store these in a reusable shopping bag under the sink and when the bag is full, drop the contents off at your nearest location.