Managing waste & my plastic problems

A sustainability diagram

My bin has been looking so full of single use soft plastic and other rubbish. It’s got me thinking, how can I use less plastic and waste less?

I am already finding less time to be organised after a speedy return to semester. I have been chewing through my soft plastic covered muesli bars, buying more conveniently wrapped or packaged food from the supermarket and cooking less. All of this combined has meant I am eating more packaged foods and producing more waste. This has been a problem I have struggled with in the past. Here are some key ideas I have previously tried and tested that always help me waste less (when I’m organised enough to do them).

  • Composting and gardening

Having a backyard compost or worm farm is a great way to sustainably throw away some leftovers and scraps. While you have to be careful not to overload it and it can take a bit of time to get right, composting is a sure way to reduce the number of scraps and rotten food going into your bin and our rubbish systems. Gardening is also a great way to save costs, mentally and physically unwind and feel more connected to your food. When I am stuck with limited space or time, I always try some garden herbs. They are ridiculously expensive in the supermarkets, covered in plastic and add a flavour bomb to your cooking when fresh. I have also tried starting a community garden before. Ask your neighbours, friends or roommates if they want to grow some garden goods! They might surprise you.

  • Adding soft plastics to my recycling 

Soft plastics cover everything. From the necessary bag of chips to the oddly covered cucumbers in our supermarkets. Unfortunately, I am finding it harder and harder to avoid soft plastics in my life and it can make me feel a bit down in the dumps and like an environmentalist fraud. Although it is far from perfect, I have been trying to recycle my soft plastics when I can. I leave an extra bin out for recycling them.

This leaves me with four simple sorting bins.

  1. One bin for my recyclables
  2. A second bin for my waste and rubbish
  3. A third bin for composting
  4. And a fourth bin for my soft plastics

Unfortunately, there comes a point when a satchel of icing cake frost wastes more water than it’s worth to clean and recycle it. So, while I don’t wash every soft plastic to recycle it, I always try to put clean easily recyclable ones in the bag. Both Coles and Woollies have soft plastic recycling drops right next to the check out.

  • Cooking more

Cooking more is a great way for me to eat out less, buy less take away and choose fresher, less packaged ingredients. This can be tricky when I am in the busier periods of a semester, and I find that I don’t always have the time to prepare well-thought-out meals or even shop for the freshest ingredients. One thing I try when I have the time is doing a big cook up on the weekend of some pasties or biscuits and freezing it in the fridge ready for the week’s lunches.

  • Taking control of my shopping

Buying more unpackaged food is something I am always aspiring to do. But it can be tricky. I’m trying to always remember to bring my own shopping bags which is a great way to reduce packaging and fill up my own quantities without having to touch store plastic bags or packaged food. Similarly, I try to get out of the supermarket when I can. The Adelaide Central Market and the Sunday farmers market at Wayville are two local markets that allow me to find the best local produce at great prices and in a self-serve plastic free environment. Finally, I find doing a beach clean up or just trying to pick up one piece of rubbish a day is a small gesture that can bring me a lot of calm. It helps me feel like I am contributing to something bigger than myself and encourages a feeling of control over the waste problems in my life and the waste problems facing our environment. 


Tagged in environment, sustainable, Student life, organisation, What messes with your head