While our aim is to always take a top of the cliff approach when it comes to avoiding waste, sometimes it is just unavoidable.
In these cases, how we dispose of our waste becomes super important. Here is a quick breakdown (pun totally intended) of the different types of waste disposal options and what goes where.
This is always the first choice. Look for packaging that can be composted, ideally in your home compost, otherwise in a commercial compost facility.
Here is a list of common household items that can be composted:
● Fruits and vegetables
● Coffee grounds and filters
● Tea bags
● Nut shells
● Shredded newspaper
● Yard trimmings
● Grass clippings
● Hay and straw
● Wood chips
● Cotton and Wool Rags
● Hair and fur
● Fireplace ashes
● Compostable packaging (check for printing on the packaging as to if it is home or commercially compostable).
Sometimes there might be no alternative packaging in which case we look for recyclable packaging options. The next step is to ensure that they get recycled correctly! So what does correct recycling actually look like?
STEP 1: Know what can be recycled.
Even before you purchase goods, ensure that packaging at the very least can be recycled by your local waste care system (better yet go for compostable or zero packing first). Here is a list of some examples of what can be recycled here in Auckland, New Zealand:
● Paper & Cardboard - this includes newspaper, magazines, paper and cardboard packaging, egg cartons and even pizza boxes, milk and juice cartons (including Tetra Pak ®).
● Glass - bottles and jars.
● Tin, steel and aluminum - cans, empty aerosols (make sure they are no bigger than 4L)
● Plastic - bottles and containers (soft plastics ie. plastic bags need to be dropped off at designated recycling locations as they can’t be processed by recycling systems as they get caught in the machines).
STEP 2: Prepare.
This step is key. Contaminated recycling in your recycling bin can contaminate the recycling in the truck, so be sure not to skip this part.
● Wash out containers to ensure there is no food or product residue (this can disrupt the whole recycling process).
● Re-secure lids on all bottles and containers.
● Remove any plastic packaging from cardboard boxes.
● Break cardboard boxes down and fold down if possible.
● If it’s waxed or foil backed, unfortunately it can’t be recycled.
● If it's smaller than a credit card, it also can’t be recycled.
Unfortunately, if it absolutely can’t be composted or recycled then landfill is the last resort. When we reach a point of disposing of waste in landfill then it is often a sign that we are not using our resources efficiently. This means that we are choosing convenience over the health of our planet which is never ideal. So, in these situations what do we do? Here are a few ideas:
● Purchase as few of these items as possible
● Avoid products with a lot of packaging
● ALWAYS take your reusable cups and containers
● Try to buy secondhand items
In summary, the best place to start when it comes to avoiding waste, is at the point of purchase. Making conscious decisions as to what packaging we are selecting and bringing into our homes, can make all the difference!