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Zero Waste - An Operational Baseline

March 1, 2018

As many of you may remember the Living House has received some wonderful funding from the Auckland Council Waste Minimisation Fund that is allowing us to share our zero waste journey with you all. At the start of this process we defined waste as zero waste to landfill, thinking that recycling was all good. However since then I have been doing a lot of research and reading about plastics in particular how little can in fact be recycled. Especially since China has stopped accepting the world’s rubbish for sorting and recycling.

 

So our zero waste to landfill journey is slowly morphing into a zero waste journey (in both construction and operation). As the first step on that journey we have spent the month of February stockpiling all the waste that we have created for the month. And that has been a bit of an eye-opener let me tell you. If you had asked me before we started doing this where I thought the majority of our household waste would come from I would have told you plastic milk bottles. However this is in fact not the case. We actually have not used as many milk bottles in the month as I thought. But Ezibuy catalogues! Eyecrumba! They seem to arrive every second day. I never really thought about them very much before as I’d just throw them straight into the recycling bin but once I started to stockpile them! WOW! To the point that I actually rang up at the end of February and took myself off their mailing list….and I told them my reasons for doing so.

 

The next on the hit list. The NZ Herald. I realised that so much of the paper everyday is stuff that I don’t actually read. I’m mostly only interested in the headlines and business section, but every day comes with some other supplement that I never touch, and some days are really bad! You have Viva, Taste, Time Out, Driven, Homes, Travel all sorts of stuff. And how much time, paper, ink, petrol does it take to get it to my house where I just throw it straight in the bin. Better to not ask for it in the first place I think in hindsight. So thus ends our subscription to the NZ Herald.  We’ll read it online from now on.

 

Then we head off into the land on meat and meat packaging. We send all of that to landfill and I was very surprised about how many empty meat packets we throw out each week as we don’t eat meet every day. So a new habit will now be to not purchase pre-packaged meet at the supermarket. Instead we will be off to the butcher in Howick (our local Beachlands butcher closed down last year and was replaced by a pre-packaged Meat Direct place) with my own containers to get my meat without packaging!

 

Our little experiment of documenting our waste for one month really shone a light on our consumption practises and we were really surprised at what it told us. It is so easy to just throw your waste in either the bin or the recycling bin (especially the recycling bin) and think that it is all OK. Out of site out of mind. But what happens to it from that point, does recycling actually get recycled, if so where does it get recycling (in NZ or overseas) and in reality is it upcycled, recycled at the same level or down-cycled. I don’t think that a lot of us realise that our plastic milk bottles don’t go to be recycled into more milk bottles. No! All our milk bottles are from virgin plastic (i.e. oil). The bottles that we recycle end up getting down cycled and then eventually end up in landfill.

 

The best plastic is the plastic that you never buy in the first place!

 

The below photos show all the single use 'light weight' plastics that we used this month. I generally bag these up and take them to Countdown and put them in the recycling bin. But now that China is no longer taking that waste, what is going to happen to it? Can we recycle it in NZ. If so what kind of products does it get made into? These are questions for me to find the answers to in the coming months.  But regardless of the answers I am going to try and eliminate all of this plastic waste from our lifestyle. 

 

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