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Waste not, want not

Mother with her daughters browsing through books at a local market looking through second-hand books

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In 2014-15 Australians generated 60 million tonnes of waste a year. This includes waste from our kitchens, bathrooms, laundries, gardens, and from building and construction activities. By making smarter purchasing decisions and disposing of waste wisely you can reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and the amount of money leaving your wallet for items you don't end up using.

Think before you buy and throw

  • Re-use and recycle. If you have unwanted goods destined for the bin, consider giving them to friends, hosting a garage sale, donating to op-shops or listing them online. Similarly, before buying new things, check op-shops and online for goods you can give a second life to and save money at the same time. Find nearby recycling facilities with Planet Ark's RecyclingNearYou.

  • Upcycling. Reduce landfill and breathe new life into your old items by 'upcycling' them. Upcycling means creating new things from stuff you already own. If you don't know where to start, look online for tips and creative ideas.
  • Collective consumption. Before splashing out and buying a new lawnmower or ladder, it might be worthwhile checking to see if neighbours and friends are willing to share theirs in exchange for borrowing items you might have. Collective consumption means sharing, swapping, trading or renting goods and is a great way to share resources and save money. There may be collective consumption initiatives in your area—a number of these are springing up online.

Reduce chemical, hazardous and electronic waste

  • Changing how you clean. Avoid exposing yourself to potentially toxic or hazardous elements by making your own cleaning products, or by purchasing lower impact options. You can create cheap and highly effective surface cleaners from bicarbonate of soda, white vinegar, lemon, salt and borax. To learn more check out these spring cleaning tips and these ideas for minimising bathroom toilet and laundry waste.
  • Managing hazardous waste. Hazardous waste includes things like pesticides, oven cleaners, batteries and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Follow the rules for these and dispose of them correctly. Check out our guide to hazardous waste to learn more.
  • Managing e-waste. Many electronic items contain harmful substances such as lead and mercury. When items such as your mobile, computer, tablet, or TV come to the end of their useful life, it's important to dispose of them thoughtfully to ensure these substances aren't released into the environment. If they still work well, consider donating them for reuse. If not, drop them off for recycling.

Minimise kitchen waste

A man in an apron preparing a salad in the kitchen

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In 2013 it was estimated that food waste cost Australian households more than $8 billion each year and generated 361kg of food waste annually per person at a cost of over $1,000. By making small changes to the way you buy and use food you can make a big difference to not only your kitchen waste but also your food bills and energy use.

  • Planning. Minimise food waste by planning your weekly meals and checking in the fridge and pantry before going to the shops. If you live in a share house, think about shopping collectively or getting a box of locally-produced fruit and veggies delivered each week. It's generally cheaper to buy in bulk, and you'll reduce your household's food miles.
  • Creating a feast from leftovers. Rather than throwing food out, try getting creative with what's already in your fridge and pantry. Jump online to find recipes for inspiration.
  • Packing prudently. When shopping, you can reduce waste by taking re-usable bags with you and looking for recyclable packaging options.
  • Try composting. By composting your food scraps you'll not only reduce the amount of organic waste that goes to landfill and produces methane—a harmful greenhouse gas—you'll also create great fertiliser for pot plants or the garden.
  • Starting a worm farm. You don't need a lot of space to start a worm farm. They can be kept under the sink or in a shady spot on a balcony or in the shed and are a great way to turn your organic kitchen waste into nutrient-rich fertiliser for your plants.
  • Keeping backyard chickens. Chooks don't just eat your scraps, they also make great pets and of course eggs! Be sure to check with your landlord and local council before going ahead.

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