Saturday, November 30, 2013

A near-zero waste lifestyle

Some weeks ago there was a report of a Dunedin woman who claimed to produce just a half a chip packet of household waste a month.  I find this hard to believe, unless she's keeping stuff that we would regard as waste (and if so, what's she doing with it?) or else she just doesn't buy anything that comes in a packet. 

I was thinking about this again today, and decided to make a list of the things that I couldn't recycle, or re-use (and believe me, we're pretty good at both recycling and re-using around here...and hoarding).  Here's today's list, which I don't think is necessarily indicative of what we throw out some days.

Sheet of baking paper used for cooking scones
Milk bottle lids
butter wrapper
part envelope with cellophane in it x 2
cellophane around The Warehouse advertising
foil package for soup
package of food flavouring
empty frozen pea package.
Okay, perhaps that's not a huge quantity of waste, but if I had a similar quantity each day I'd be hard pressed to get it all in a half a chip packet at the end of the month. 

Ann Dennison, who's become the 'Dunedin City Council's poster girl for waste minimisation,' doesn't buy bread in bags (we re-use ours to pick up our dog's poo when we're out walking).  She is 'a semi-vegetarian, [and] takes a jar with her when she gets fish from the supermarket and buys only tin or glass containers.' Okay, that's fair enough. So obviously she doesn't buy frozen vegetables (we usually keep some on hand for those days when we want a change from fresh ones); she doesn't drink soup from packets, or use flavouring that comes in packets. What does she do with the cellophane from window envelopes?  What happens to the paper that goes round the butter?  It's hardly in a state to be recycled. 

I'd be interested to know more, but the article is very short on details. There's a good deal about the philosophy behind her approach to waste, but not much about how she does it.

I think the hardest stuff to deal with is the packaging that comes round items like batteries, or electrical goods, or tools, or household appliances.  All of these are well and truly overpackaged, and very annoying to open, as well.  But none of these get a mention in the article. 

Photo courtesy of Phillip Jenkins

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