Ways I will reduce our waste at home in 2023
It’s a new year, and a fresh chance to look at our habits to see where we can reduce more waste at home.
Reducing waste at home in 2023
At the start of a new year, it’s a good time to have a look at our habits, and make some plans to start new ones. I don’t really like calling them ‘New Year Resolutions’, as I find that resolutions are a bit all or nothing, and can fizzle out within a couple of months.
Instead, I’m looking at what we already do to reduce waste at home, and if it’s working well. And then add a few more challenges, to push ourselves a bit further.
A stock take of what we already do to reduce waste at home
How am I doing currently with the amount of waste to landfill that we generate?
Looking at our rubbish bags to landfill and trips to the tip over the last few years, it’s not too high. But we still end up throwing rubbish away.
How do I remember how much rubbish we put out for collection, you might think? In 2016, our local council introduced pre-paid stickers to go on to rubbish bags that people put out for kerbside collection. From 2019, me and my husband decided to keep a closer eye on how much rubbish we put out, and try to reduce it. We wrote the date that we put out a rubbish sack on the sticker backing paper. We have 4 years worth of data about when we put out rubbish – nerdy, isn’t it? But helpful to see exactly how much rubbish we send to landfill.
Here’s the data for each year:
- 2019 – 4 rubbish bags (including 1 which was garage/building rubbish)
- 2020 – 6 rubbish bags (including 4 bags of rubbish from the compost – I’ll explain below*)
- 2021 – 7 rubbish bags (including 1 which was after a big declutter)
- 2022 – 6 rubbish bags (including 1 bag full of cat bedding that needed replacing)
* The compost rubbish from 2020 – this was the result of years of poor decisions from me about what could be composted. This is a confession that I am very embarrassed about! I used to put things into the compost that couldn’t break down – things like synthetic material clothing, artwork my kids made with mixed materials, even things that I thought were cardboard packaging but turned out to have a plasticized coating. It was a mix of me being sloppy with checking what the materials were, and also a bit of ‘wish-composting’.
We sifted through our three large compost bins, and took out all the bits of plastic that hadn’t broken down. It was shocking to see so much plastic – fruit stickers, teabag mesh, packing tape from cardboard boxes, and elastic from cotton undies! We ended up with four bags of rubbish to landfill. Well, I have finally got that off my chest, and owned up to my not very eco friendly past habits.
On the bright side, since then I am very vigilant about what goes into the compost bin, especially packaging that I think is cardboard but probably has a coating on it. I tend to divert more to recycling now, and also put things in the rubbish bin, even though I want to reduce our waste.
See this article about how to make compost properly – How to make Compost step by step
Back to our waste audit, there were also two trips to the refuse transfer station (tip or dump) since 2019, with a trailer of rubbish from around the garden and from building projects. This waste couldn’t be composted, recycled or repurposed.
So, it’s roughly an average of 6 bags of household rubbish per year, so around 1 bag every 2 months. This is from a family of 4 people and 2 cats.
How we reduce waste at home in general
To reduce as much waste as we can, we generally do these things:
- Compost as much organic waste as possible
- Give food scraps to our chickens
- Try to buy items in recyclable packaging, particularly cardboard, paper, aluminium, glass, and if we have to buy in plastic, then plastics 1, 2 and 5 (which are the plastic types our council accepts for recycling
- Collect soft plastic for recycling, and take it to collection points at supermarkets
- Buy items second hand if possible
- Buy in bulk to reduce packaging
- Donate decent quality items to charity shops.
Some ways we reduce waste at home – room by room
These are the sp4ecific things we do to reduce waste at home, in a room by room guide:
Reducing waste in the kitchen
- Use reusable items rather than disposable ones – washable cleaning clothes rather than disposable cleaning wipes, napkins for sandwiches, etc.
- Drink tap water rather than buying bottled water. We keep some Soda Stream bottles filled with water in the fridge, so we always have cold water (I know they are still plastic, but they have a longer life than single use water bottles).
- Use produce bags and reusable shopping bags when buying fruit and veges.
- Make some recipes from scratch, rather than buying it prepackaged. Here’s a recipe for hummus that saves on plastic packaging.
- Store food well to prevent it going to waste.
- Freeze or use leftovers – this saves money too.
- Grow some food to reduce packaging waste. Here are ideas for easy vegetables to grow for beginners.
- Sometimes shop at the local farmers market – you can use your own bags, as they are generally plastic free. And no stickers on the fruit.
Reducing waste in the bathroom
- Buy toilet paper in bulk from a commercial supplier – there is no plastic packaging, just paper wrapped round each roll (which we save and use with the inner cardboard tube as firelighters in winter). The brand we buy is from Pacific Hygiene
- I have a safety razor from Caliwoods, which I haven’t actually used yet – I’m still using up the stock of disposable razor heads I have had for some time. I’m a firm believer in using up what you already have, before swapping to a lower waste alternative.
- Use shampoo and conditioner bars.
- Buy soap from local suppliers – often it is minimally packaged, or packed in paper or cardboard, so the packaging is easy to recycle.
- Use compostable bamboo or wooden toothbrushes.
Reducing waste from clothing
- Buy second hand clothing where possible.
- We don’t go shopping or buy clothing online very often – trying to buy just specific items, such as replacing worn out shoes.
- If you do go shopping, take a reusable bag, so you don’t need a store bag.
- Donate, sell or swap clothing you don’t wear.
- Use worn out cotton clothing like old t-shirts for cleaning rags.
- Mend clothing that has minor damage like a missing button or a small tear.
Reducing waste from laundry and cleaning
- Laundry – wash full loads and in cold water cycles as much as you can. This saves on water and energy use.
- Buy laundry powder in bulk or in cardboard packaging. Sometimes I add bicarbonate of soda to the washing powder, to make it go further.
- Natural cleaning products are cheap and can be bought bulk. Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) is a great cleaning product, particularly for cleaning toilets. White vinegar and lemon juice are also effective cleaning products.
- Repurpose old toothbrushes for cleaning and old cotton clothing for cleaning rags.
- Line dry clothing as much as possible – I use clothes airers outside, and finish drying off in the tumble dryer.
- Houseplants in bathrooms and kitchens help purify the air, instead of using air fresheners.
Reducing waste from the home office
- Put a ‘No Junk Mail’ sticker on your mail box, and cancel phone directories. I also sign up for most bills and bank statements online now, rather than getting hard copies in the post.
- Save packaging from parcels, and reuse it when you need to post things. I use paper based tape, it is the type sold as painters masking tape – it is recyclable.
- Use reusable batteries in TV and Gaming controllers.
- Use local libraries for books and magazines, or swap books with friends.
Reducing waste from gardening
- Have a compost bin in the garden, that you can put your food waste and garden waste into.
- Reuse plastic plant pots, or return them to Garden Centres that accept them for reuse or recycling.
- Swap or sell plants, seeds and produce with friends and neighbours.
- Buy soil, potting mix, stones etc in bulk, rather than in plastic bags.
- Put in rainwater catchment systems and water tanks. Even small water tanks can help save on using municipal supplied water to use on your garden.
My goals for reducing waste at home in 2023
On top of the lists of actions above, I am going to try out these new habits in 2023 to reduce waste at home.
Reducing waste at home – in the kitchen
Buying milk in glass bottles
Buying milk in plastic bottles from the supermarket is our norm. When I was a kid, we used to get milk delivered in glass bottles, which were collected when empty and reused.
I am going to start buying milk in glass bottles again, from Dreamview Creamery, a dairy farm that delivers to my area. I have already tried their products, and they are delicious.
It is a premium product, so I can’t afford to replace our total weekly spend on milk with their products. We usually buy a 3 litre plastic bottle of milk for around $5.80, in comparison, Dreamview Creamery milk is now $4.50 for 1 litre. But I will buy a couple of litres every two weeks, and see how that impacts on our food budget.
Buy from local Farmers Markets and Bulk Store more often
I have occasionally bought from bulk stores and the local Farmers Markets, and the products have been good quality and packaged in less plastic overall (and sometimes, no plastic packaging). I’m aiming to do more bulk shopping at specialty grocery stores, such as buying spices from an Indian Supermarket I recently found.
At the end of last year, I also became a member at a grocery wholesalers, so I will shop there every few months to stock up.
Reducing waste at home – in the bathroom health and hygiene
I have just bought some period undies for myself and my daughter. I have used reusable washable cloth sanitary pads in the past, but I’ve heard great reviews of the period undies, so will give them a go.
Shampoo and Conditioner concentrate bars
I’ve used shampoo and conditioner bars for many years now, and find them great products. They can cost more initially compared to ready to use shampoo and conditioner in plastic bottles, but they last for a long time if you let them dry out between washes, so they do seem good value overall.
In a gift box from Ethique I received, there were shampoo and conditioner bar concentrates, which I had not used before. I made them up according to the instructions, and poured the liquid into old shampoo bottles I had in the house. We will give them a go, as an alternative to shampoo / conditioner bars, and to reuse the bottles we had.
Reducing waste away from home – how to still be low waste on holiday
We are going on holiday for just over a week later this year, and that will bring challenges about being low waste away from home.
I will make sure we recycle as much as we can at the holiday house we are staying at – I will check out the council website in the area we are going to. And follow their rules for recycling, as they might be different to the ones we are used to at home.
Are you going to reduce waste at home too?
How are you going to reduce waste at home in 2023? Do you have some new habits to take on?
How much waste to landfill do we all make? Some facts on household waste
New Zealand waste to landfill
According to the Ministry for the Environment, the amount of waste to landfill per person in New Zealand in 2018/19 was 740kg:
Waste sent to Class 1 landfills (landfills that accept household waste) increased by 47 per cent from 2,499,571 tonnes in 2009/2010 to 3,682,419 tonnes in 2018/2019, with per capita waste increasing from 580kg to 740kg per annum.https://environment.govt.nz/facts-and-science/waste/estimates-of-waste-generated/#amount-of-waste-generated
Which is a pretty huge amount.
How about the world in general?
Data from the World Bank in 2017 estimates that the amount of waste worldwide will increase by 70% by 2050 – from 2.01 billion tonnes to 3.40 billion tonnes.
If the World Bank’s projections are correct, waste generation will dramatically outpace population growth by more than double by 2050.
The countries that produced the most waste in 2017 were Canada, Bulgaria, the United States, Estonia, and Finland.https://www.investopedia.com/articles/markets-economy/090716/5-countries-produce-most-waste.asp
This is a hard amount to imagine, and feels almost impossible to deal with. But we can change our ways, and reduce waste. Take it one step at a time, and if we all make the effort, we can reduce the huge amount we send to landfill.