Bag Lady

Some general “stats” about recycling in Australia:
Rates range from 16% (sorry, Tasmania!) to 70% (go Adelaide!).

This (amongst other things) makes me proud to be a South Aussie. It is deemed publicly cool to reuse/recycle/up cycle/free cycle/buy bulk produce. The state wide ban on retail plastic bags turned us into a role model both nationally and inter-nationally, and it is accepted common practice to turn up to the store/ market with your jute tote bag/ basket in tow (because if you want a plastic bag you can expect to pay anywhere from 10 to 20 cents for one).

If you do end up without a bag you can:

a) try to cram apples into your handbag (me) or

b) balance all your produce in the crooks of your elbows whilst concerned Mediterranean men look on (me) or

C) capitulate and buy a reusable tote ($1-2) or buy said plastic bag from above (most of which are “biodegradable” or insanely strong, so at least you can keep re-using them).

It’s such an accepted practice in SA now, that I actually did get quite the culture shock when I moved interstate for work for the first time. Plastic bags are still in an abundance in the Gold Coast, and I had so many awkward exchanges with cashiers. E.g. I’d hand them my crumpled tote bag with a hopeful gleam in my eye- they would look at me strangely- then there is a flash of I-get-it! recognition- and they would unceremoniously dump my groceries in a plastic bag, and then place it into my tote #sorrynotsorry

So while we waited for the rest of the country to catch up on this whole reducing waste jig, SA powered ahead and started introducing green organic household bins- originally marketed to catch all your lawn and tree trimmings to be sent off to be turned into compost, the councils (in varying degrees) started trialling household compost bins to add food waste and other organic material to the green bins. Some councils have fully embraced it, some are still a bit half-half. We’re lucky enough to live in a council area which now provides you with a free kitchen compost bin with a roll of compostable bag liners (made of corn starch and designed to break down in 30 days), which should tide you over for a year, after which they’ll drop off a new roll every year (or you can buy another roll from the library for a nominal fee- which is actually still MUCH cheaper than buying online, trust me!). What impressed me was what could go into the green organics bin nowadays (besides the obvious):

  • All food scraps, bread, dairy etc.
  • Tissues and shredded paper
  • Human hair and nail clippings
  • Pizza boxes (!)
  • Bones, sea shells (freeze them until the fortnightly collection day if the smell bothers you)
  • Animal droppings

So after about 2 weeks of using our cute new composting bin with relish, I am very impressed with how little was now going into our general waste (landfill) bin. (This was back in March 2015)

But what about the smell?
Shut your eyes and your mouth, don’t breathe in and just hoik it in there (also don’t inhale those little flying bugs). Or- you can layer stuff with lawn clippings or shredded paper or newspaper sheets.

Of course, the ideal mindset would be to go zero-waste, or as close to that as possible i.e. Not having to recycle at all; having our own compost heap; have no landfill waste. I am not making an excuse, but I am standing up for the rest of us- we are not stay at home mums, freelance writers or artists or travel bloggers. We work in a profession where single use is king; where surviving a gruelling training program (that shuttles you interstate every year at great personal, monetary and environmental cost) often means living a life of convenience foods, little to no sleep, and online shopping late at night to mitigate those dark feelings after telling someone that no, their mother is never going to wake up. Ever.

This blog was originally written with waste reducing for busy professionals in mind- people who are aware of the cumulative environmental impact and want to help, but don’t know how. It’s always great to get little ideas to implement in your own daily practice, and just because you are not a self-sustaining juggernaut of zero waste fuelled purely by rabbit poo, does not mean that the small habits you adopt now make no difference! One less coffee cup, one less plastic bag, learning to recycle properly, educating your children- it is all adds up. All you need to do is start something new.

Task #1: If you don’t already have a compost bin- ask your council! I was really impressed after speaking to my council about waste management options, and their websites are often filled with useful tips. (note- not all councils in Adelaide are participating in this program, but reaserach is just a click away!)
Happy zero wasting!

Lisa x

(Pictured above- a roll of green compost bags. I pretty much high-fived the council lady when she gave me these!)

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