I have been a, well, militant recycler for years, and have probably driven some people nuts with my obsession for looking for the recycle-symbol on plastic packaging, and ranting if I don’t find it, but its not the be-all-and-end-all: refusing (refusing to purchase products with excessive and/or non-recyclable packaging, or refusing to use plastic bags at the stops) and reusing/repurposing should come first if at all possible. Recycling uses A LOT of water (for cardboard and paper products) and energy (for plastics and metals), so should be the last option.
I quite often refuse to buy things, vegies for instance, that are needlessly wrapped in clingwrap, or have several different layers of packaging ‘because it looks nice’. That’s just completely ridiculous in my opinion and very wasteful to put that plastic/Styrofoam around something that doesn’t need it, knowing full-well that it will immediately go in the bin the moment the purchaser gets home/decides to consume that item.
I carry around with me a stack of clipped-together and/or wrapped-up reusable shopping bags. Yes, they’re still made from a petroleum product, but they are washable and reusable for as long as the ‘material’ and stitching last (which can preferably be repaired repeatedly until its beyond saving – it would be even better if they were then recyclable once they got to ‘end of life’, but I haven’t been able to find someone who does that yet) which is far longer than the life of a standard shopping bag, which usually rips during the first use and can only then be taken to a recycling bin at places like Coles.
As much as I prefer to support local wherever possible, the ‘big two’ are slowly cluing-up and this is a pic of their plastic-bag recycling bin the last time I was in there:
Not just those grey shopping bags, but also bread bags, vegie bags and other plastics that would normally just find their way to landfill, which is definitely a step in the right direction.
The plastic bags that I do receive, that are still usable after the first use, get reused as carry bags, garbage bags or as packing materials. However, as we’re ‘lucky’ if we produce even one little bag of rubbish each week, we tend to accumulate a lot more grey shopping bags than we can reuse, so most are sent to recycling. (If anyone has any ideas for reusing these bags, please let me know! I’ve been wondering about crocheting them into floor mats. What are your thoughts?)
For consumables that I do buy, I try to look for ones in glass jars, so I can reuse the jar afterwards for jams, lemon butter and chutneys, in plastic tubs that can be reused as storage containers, seedling pots or trays, in cardboard, so it can be given to my worm farms, or in packaging that’s recyclable. Milk and juice cartons and bottles also make good seedling pots, as do cardboard egg cartons and toilet rolls for smaller seedlings/sprouts. You’re only limited by your imagination! Again, potential reusability should come before recyclability.
You’ve probably noted by now that this topic overlaps quite a lot with ‘mindful consumerism’ and this last comment (about composting cardboard) touches on ‘nutrient retention and cycling’ as well. This is what I meant at the end of the intro when I mentioned the ‘interactions between all these factors’. It’s these interactions that can make permaculture complex; it may be overwhelming for some, but it is fascinating for others (like me). (And the latter can help with the former, so don’t be afraid to ask – there are never any stupid questions!)
Ok, back to topic …
I also love digging around at stores like Lifeline, but my favourites are salvage yards and tip shops. Admittedly, there aren’t a lot around Brisbane – too many people comb through them before I can get there (oh the woes of working fulltime in an office!) – but if you’re willing to drive a bit further afield some of the ones on the Sunny Coast are worth a visit, and the Toowoomba one is apparently worth a trip too.
I LOVE old, ‘pre-loved’ things, particularly tools, and just LOVE the romanticism associated with giving something a new life/use, even if it’s ‘just’ a daggy old bath tub with a chip in it (wormfarm ahoy! Or water-vegie garden. Or fish pond. Or container garden. Or livestock watering trough (the traditional use). Or … :P My husband jokes that I have more bath tubs in my garden than in my house :P). All of the bricks used when constructing my chook run were ‘seconds’ from an Austral Bricks sale, the hardwood was from the local salvage yard, the windows were also from that same salvage yard, and the tin roof was salvaged from my parents’ place when they upgraded to solarspan. Whatever could be repurposed, was, and it gives the whole structure a lovely ‘rustic’ look and a sense of having always been there (especially now that there is a huge passionfruit vine climbing all over it). (Credits to my Dad, Dad-in-law and Bro-in-law for their construction expertise and many hands; couldn’t have achieved all this without you!)
All of this could also be called ‘thrifty’ purchasing too.
Another ‘Kimmy thing’/’eccentricity’ is that I also carry around a plastic container if we go out for dinner, in case there are any leftovers (salad greens etc) that I can take home for the chooks, and I also collect everyone’s glass and plastic drink bottles so I can also ensure that they go into the recycling instead of the dumpster behind the restaurant.
I even initiated having a compostables collection bin at work because I was sick of just throwing out my fruit scraps, tea leaves, coffee grounds and paper towel.
Yes, I’m a little obsessive :)
My next project is to get hold of some Honeybee Wraps, so I can ditch the gladwrap too :)