When we started our Reframing Waste Advent Calendar series, the part that was certainly the most staggering to wrap our heads around was the fact that Australians actually produce 30% more household waste over the Christmas Period.  We calculated from the National Waste Database 2018 that this is an extra 0.4 million tonnes or 386 Olympic-sized swimming pools! War on Waste has brought the issue of food wastage into Australian households by approaching shoppers just outside Woolies and Coles to highlight that 1 in every 5 shopping bags will end up in the rubbish bin!

However, to minimise the enivronmental impact of the chaotic mess that erupts after a Christmas gathering , we can take a few easy steps beforehand. Day 15 is all about setting up a simple, straightforward waste management system for all your Christmas parties this December. By organising different containers for each of the key waste streams in your household, you can be sure to direct materials to the right places and bins!

Split up them streams!

I’m going to guide you through the way in which we manage our household waste in our apartment of two. We regularly host board game nights and dinner parties and I wanted to come up with an approach that was easy for our friends to use, so that we can have a fun time and reduce the amount of time spent by us sorting through our rubbish the next day when we tidy up the flat afterwards. This comes down to a five-step approach:

Step One: Food Waste

For our food waste in our apartment block, we’re very fortunate to have a composting set-up in our backyard. On our kitchen bench we keep an old yoghurt tub to put in scraps as we’re cooking, coffee grinds, the odd banana peel and apple cores, and on the odd occasion food that’s past it’s prime.

Food waste buckets chilling out next to our coffee machine

If you don’t have the green space attached to your household to compost, there are a few different avenues that you can go down with:

  • Sharewaste – is a great program connecting people with food waste to neighbours that have chooks or composting systems in their backyards!
  • Kits like Bokashi– they degrade food waste in a different mechanism to composting via a process called fermentation, giving you a by-product fertiliser that’s smelly but great for your houseplants.
  • Connect with your local community composting hub – in Brisbane we have a network of community gardens that you can register, get a free compost caddy and drop off your food waste to, for it to be turned into rich, luscious compost! See the Council’s website for a full map and list of locations.
  • Worm farms – need to be aware of how sensitive the type of worms are that you get (no citrus or alliums (garlic and onion bits) – check out Costa’s video below for more information!

Some important things to keep in mind are that you can only put the following ingredients in these kinds of set-ups:

If you have any spoilt meat or dairy products, the best option is to freeze it and add it to your general waste bin on collection day to avoid odours for your neighbours! Want to learn more? Check out the Brisbane City Council’s Pocket Guide to Composting and Worm Farms.

Step Two: Container Deposit Schemes

Depending on the state that you live in Australia there are different container deposit schemes that exist for approved products. In West End, we connect with the Tomra facility that’s just down the other end of Montague Road from us, right near Davies Park Markets.

As Tomra allows you to do a fast drop-off if you take in one of their bags with over 50 bottles, we keep this bag in our garage and have a milk crate that we keep upstairs in our recycling cupboard. On the front of the cupboard we have a snippet of the allowable containers so that friends when they are visiting can check if what they’re holding in their hand goes to the recycling crate or the CDS crate.

We’re going to cover what are the acceptable types of containers that can be taken to facilities in Queensland in a follow-up post by actively checking what bottles and cans have been put in the crate by our mates!

Step Three: Is it recyclable?

The fun question to answer! Recycling is a tricky one, it will typically depend on what types of systems that your local council will have in place to transport and separate the different recyclable streams. For Brisbane City Council, we have the following information on our bin lid about what is able to go into the yellow bin!

  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Aluminium and steel cans
  • Plastic containers
  • Newspaper, junk mail, brochures, office paper
  • Gift wrapping and packaging paper
  • Glossy paper and magazines, envelopes (including window envelopes)
  • Phone books and used note books
  • Greeting cards, coloured paper, paper bags and scrap paper.

We essentially keep a ‘recycling’ crate in the cupboard along with our CDS stream, so that we can easily sort misplaced bottles into either pathway. As mentioned previously, we’re going to be sorting through our waste from our events over the weekend and give you a breakdown of where the more complex recycling items are going to go, bust some myths about Christmas decorations and wrapping paper based on our constraints here in Brisbane.

Keeping CDS and recycling near each other make it quick to put items in the right place!

Step Four: Are soft plastics and food packaging accessible for you to recycle?

Plastic has been getting a lot of coverage in the media, with the roll-out of plastic bag bans in Queensland last year. Like recycling items, soft plastics and food packaging are a little difficult to determine where they’re going to go…

Redcycle are starting to expand their reach across Australia at participating Coles and Woolies stores across the nation. With the idea that consumers can drop off their soft plastic waste when they go to do their next shop at the local supermarket.

A general list that PlanetARK has collated include:

  • Plastic shopping bags
  • Bread, rice, pasta, lolly and cereal bags
  • Biscuit packs (but not the trays)
  • Frozen food bags
  • Bubble wrap
  • Fruit and veg bags and netting
  • Toilet paper packaging and similar product packaging
  • Old green bags (and other re-usable bags)
Soft plastic and food packaging waste – Imaged Sourced from Redcycle.

There is a more comprehensive guide about what can and can’t go in a Redcycle bin via their website. We’re going to be using this tool-kit in our upcoming post to ensure that we can reduce the amount of material that we’re sending to landfill!

Curious about what happens to materials that go in a Redcycle bin? The collected soft plastic is sent to an Australian manufacturer Replas that utilise the material as the resource to produce recycled-plastic products like fitness circuits, sturdy outdoor furniture, to bollards, and signage for public spaces like parks.

Park benches created by recycled soft plastics by Replas

Since Redcycle’s launch, they have collected 380 million pieces of soft plastic that’s equivalent to:

  • Circle the world over three times!*
  • 1,525 tonnes, that’s equivalent to 381 elephants (weighing 4 tonnes each)*

*Wonder how they arrived at these figures, check out Redcycle’s FAQ for more information.

Step Five: Should I put it in the general waste bin?

After all of these other steps if something doesn’t fit the other options, then and only then does it go in a general waste bin! Soft plastic sorting is an extra step that you can do as a check within this waste stream, as it is harder to implement than the other approaches as this additional step is only known about by 22% of Australians according to PlanetARK!

When using your general waste bin with the red lid, have a check to see if what you’re putting in is appropriate. Sometimes you may need to consider putting something aside for hard rubbish like e-waste or even product stewardship programs like for batteries. This is something that we’re going to cover in more detail later this week.

Where to from here?

Well, to show how this system works in practice, I’m going to be doing a follow-up post with a waste audit and source separation from our household waste over our weekend. We have a jam-packed weekend of events with a Poker Night, a Christmas Potluck with our apartment block and a Crafting Day with friends. I’m going to practice what I preach and show the steps that you can undertake to divert your household waste streams from landfill.  

Share with us!

Today’s feature image is our set up for managing our apartments household waste streams. It’s not perfect, we could definitely stand to improve how much soft plastic we recycle and move towards having a smaller general waste bin. This is something that we want to change as a part of our New Year’s Resolutions for the new decade!

We hope that this approach deconvolutes the way that you think about household waste and assists you with getting ready for your festivities. Have any tips that you use to handle your waste streams? Let us know in the comments below.

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