DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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2 June 2014

Reusing and recycling


I've been reading about recycling and reusing lately and two of the facts I came across absolutely shocked me. Source  They were:
  1. Australia is the second highest producer of waste per person in the world at approximately 650 kilograms per person. This is second only to the United States America, which produces approximately 715 kilograms per person.
  2. The average Australian family of four people makes enough rubbish in one year to completely fill a three-bedroom house from floor to ceiling.
What are we doing!
 Plant a garden and make compost.

The local Council here has been encouraging residents towards a more responsible attitude about recycling and waste for some time. In 2009 they thought our landfill dumps would be full by now, 2014, and although that hasn't happened, I'm guessing it isn't far off. It's time for all of us to take this seriously. What we're doing is not sustainable. Not only do rubbish dumps emit gasses into the atmosphere, they use a lot of land that probably can't be used again.

On average, every year every Australian throws out:
  • 330 kilograms of paper
  • 552 aluminium cans
  • 118 kilograms of plastic
  • 74 kilograms of metals
  • 414 kilograms of food
  • 206 glass bottles/jars
I wonder where Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Holland stand on this. I wonder about Japan, China and India too.

Just looking at that list shows me areas to target. Paper can be composted, aluminium cans can be taken to a recycling depot. Food can be managed better and some bottles and jars can be reused at home, the rest recycled and made into new glass.  I don't know enough about metals and plastic to comment on them but at the very least they should be sent to the recycle depot for processing.

 Bottle and jars can be recycled for preserving and storing.



Get rid of as many disposable products as you can and reuse your homemade products over and over again.

Use modern cloth nappies/diapers.
 Feed waste food to your worm farm or chickens.

Waste management for all of us starts at the shops. As well as choosing products, you also choose the packaging that comes with it. If you think your products are over packaged, tell the manager of the store, either in person or via email, and tell them you won't be buying that product until it's packaged responsibly.  Changes won't be made until consumers complain about it. As consumers, I don't think we fully understand how powerful we are. Manufacturers have to keep us happy and when we don't complain, they think we are. It's up to us to stand up and tell them we won't buy their products unless the packaging is consumer and environmentally-friendly.

Cut up old towels and sheets and use them as cleaning rags.
Buy food in bulk when you can.

And what can we do in our own homes?
  • Before you go grocery shopping, do your menu plan and only buy what you need, not what you think you might use. That will cut down on waste and it will keep money in your pocket. 
  • If you have a garden, compost as much as you can, and give waste food to the chooks or dogs. 
  • If you have a stockpile cupboard, only buy what you know you'll use, add new products to the back of the cupboard and use from the front.
  • Buying food in bulk will save on packaging. Or if you can, buy large packets and then break them up into smaller, reusable containers when you get home. You'll still be getting the product you want but you'll have less packaging and it will be cheaper.
  • Replace as many of the disposable products as you can with reusable ones - nappies/diapers, dishcloths and rags made from old sheets and towels come to mind.
  • Don't buy water or drinks in plastic bottles when you go out, take a refillable bottle from home. 
  • If you buy coffee when you're out, take a reusable cup with you. 
  • Avoid using plastic utensils and paper plates. 
  • Shop at op/thrift shops.
  • Join Freecycle in your area to give away appliances and furniture you don't need.  
  • Growing some of your own food will help cut down on thousands of plastic bags that contain store bought produce.  
  • Make your own produce bags and carry bags and refuse the plastic option at the shop.
  • Swap clothes, kids toys and books with friends instead of throwing them out. 
  • Use the library instead of buying magazines or books, or use your computer to read the digital versions.
I have been meaning to show you this bottle for a long time.  I got two of them from the wonderful Biome store in Brisbane. It's a reusable glass bottle with a silicone covering to protect the glass. The thing I love about it is that I can clearly see inside the bottle to make sure it's clean and the top is very easy to tighten and remove, even for my older, weaker wrists. These bottles would be ideal for someone with arthritis and for children. This is the 400ml bottle, they are also available in smaller and larger versions. They are fairly expensive but mine have lasted two years and have been dropped; I have a feeling they'll last a lifetime.

If you have a bin specifically for recycling, go to your Council or local authority website and read about what you can recycle in your area. Many Councils now have a Waste Minimisation Strategy. You should read that too. Your Council will probably also have a list of what it accepts for recycling and if it needs any special treatment by you before it's placed in the bin. Here, for instance, we must rinse out all the plastic drink, milk, yoghurt etc containers, and newspapers must have any plastic wrapping removed before we place them in the bin. And when you have your recyclable waste in the bin, don't contaminate it with anything. If your bin is contaminated, it will probably not be recycled because that kind of sorting just doesn't happen at the depots now.

I hope you'll join me in trying to reduce the amount of materials sent to the land fill. What you do will affect your local area both now and in the future. Surely many of us could cut the amount of waste we generate by simply using some of the methods listed above. There certainly is no better time to start than right now. How do you recycle? Do you have some special tips to share?


56 comments:

  1. In Holland we waste about 74 kg of food per person or (approx)120 per household a year.

    34 kilo's of glass
    32 kilograms of paper
    60 kilograms of plastic
    22 kilo of glass bottles/jars
    The metals and cans I couldn't find!

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  2. Oh and: 80 % of our waste is being recycled, 16% is used for energy and 4% goes to the land fill. In the EU that is 38 % being recycled and 40% goes to the land fill. So we are doing pretty well, I think! And I know the government and the people are trying even harder to get these results down!!

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  3. In our area of the UK, and not all areas are the same it can vary greatly town to town, our council does still do weekly collections, we have a blue box that everything glass goes into, we have pink sacks that are made from recyclyed plastics that you put everything else into except food waste, polysterene etc, so pink sacks are for plastics, paper carboard, food packaging, metals textiles, we have a green bin is for garden waste and food waste, we have a small yellow bag for batteries, all of the above goes off to various recyle plants, black sacks are for anything that cannot be reycled, most households in our village rarely put out a black sack, we have the local council refuge centers that we can take items too, there is a section for electrical, a section for wood, a section for garden waste, there is a section for old clothes, a section for unwanted books records dvd's, there is a container for old cooking oil, a container for old engin oil, a section for old furniture, a section for old building materials including hardcore, all of this free to residents to use, and it is all re-cylcled and if you cannot get bulky items there you can phone the council and they will collect. This is something our local council has worked very hard at over the years and like I said it varies greatly from town to town.

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    1. Gosh Dawn, your council is miles ahead of any town I've ever heard of! That is absolutely fantastic to have all those resources for recycling provided. The equivalent here of your 'black sack' is a red wheelie bin, and many people here just throw everything in there because they are too lazy to sort it out. We also have what is called a transfer station, that takes batteries, oil, building materials and all those things that aren't picked up by the council, but there is a limit to what you can leave there.

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  4. Hello Rhonda
    Thank you for this very good post
    In holland we waste 47 kg food per person every year. It is a big issue at the moment. And to my opinion far to much. It is a good matter to be aware of the limited food we have, we should be more carefull.

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  5. We are in the USA and have a HUGE landfill in our county. It is like a mountain and it stinks. We recycle and reuse all that we can and it is a reminder every time we see that mountain of garbage to do so. It is astounding how many foods come in individual serving packages and I think that just outlawing those would significantly reduce that garbage problem.

    I have a small can near the larger garbage can for recyclables and our 22 month old grandson thinks that somehow we just don't know where the garbage goes so he unloads the small con into the garbage if I don't remember to put it up before he comes.

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    1. I am also in the USA, and things very greatly on location. I am in CT, a very small state with no open landfills. All trash must be either taken by the municipality to a trash to energy plant (and then no one wants the toxic ash) or it's shipped to other states, at a cost. Luckily, I live in a very "green" town, in fact, the state's recycling program is modeled after ours. Here, we do all as you have suggested. Family of 4, with the equivalent of a 5th person tossed in for good measure. I drive the trash and recycling over to the transfer station twice/month. I usually have 2 13 gallon aka tall kitchen garbage bags of actual refuse and minimally 4 if not more same sized bags of recycling. We are able to recycle in mixed stream, although I didn't mind the sorting of things in years past. So recycling 67% of our trash, IMO, is awesome.

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    2. That is awesome that you can recycle that much. Unfortunately our huge land fill does take garbage from other states for profit. As we are driving down the interstate we are often near stinking trucks of garbage. It really makes me angry and just sick that we have done this to ourselves.

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  6. Hello Rhonda, it is appalling, isn't it. If you look around in stores, there is so much unneccessary packaging. It already helps to not buying ready made food, but cooking from scratch.

    Since you asked, I looked up the numbers for the Netherlands (Holland). In 2011 (most recent numbers I could find) the average person in the Netherlands threw away appr 535 kilo waste per person, of which 270 kilo's was waste which was collected separated. (glass, paper, cans, green waste, plastics. The other kilo's are 40 kilo's of 'big rubbish (waste from buildings and demolishing etc) and 225 kilo;s of 'other waste, which ends up in a landfill. In the landfills, they retrieve 4,5 kg of metals per person (with magnets, I think).

    Plastic bottles hardly ever end up in rubbish, because you can get some money back if you return the empty bottles to the stores. They are reused again in the factories I believe.

    So, it is way better than in Australia, especially because of the different collections of the goverment. (In my town, they collect paper, plastics, glass, cans, green waste, rest waste, milk cartons all separately, all we have to do is put them on the side of the road on the right day). O yes, and when our children were wearing diapers, we could also bring those to a separate collection point. I do not want to think about the recycling of that! ;-).

    But still, it could be way way less if people took more care of their shopping and (re)using.

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  7. Your post prompted me to look up the figures for my country (UK) the latest available are for the financial year (May to April) 2012/13 the landfill was 423kg per person the recycling rate was 43.2% on average across the country with variations depending on the area.

    We have kerbside collection of many recyclable items and a green bin for compost waste from the garden. We also have a place in the village to take recycling and the village gets a payment for the amount of recycling out in these bins, money which is then spent in the village. In the local town there are many places to recycle so many things and each year our local council provides a booklet on where things can be taken and what can be recycled.

    I agree that it is important to consider what you are buying. I try to do this as much as possible, packaging is very hard to avoid but I do my upmost to bring a little into the house as possible. If I have to buy something packaged I will look to see if it can be recycled and if it can't I will think twice about putting it in my basket.

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  8. Hi Rhonda, I'm sure you will be interested to hear that Coles in Brisbane (and many other places, I'm sure) have a collection box for plastics that you can't normally recycle and have to put in your regular bin. Here is the link http://downtoearthmother.com/2013/01/17/great-news-for-recycling-fans/
    Cheers, Melindi

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    1. I love this idea and have written to the company behind it to encourage a bin at our local Coles, but they never got back to me :( hopefully it will become more widespread. Meanwhile there is a private recycling company which takes soft plastics, so that is where we send all our soft plastic packaging, cling wrap etc.

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    2. I had heard about Coles doing this some time ago. What a great initiative. Unfortunately I don't have a Coles near me but only a Woolworths. I contacted Woolworths and suggested they start something similar but unfortunately the response I received was not a positive one.

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  9. What a thought provoking post, The kids movie " Wal E" was a good starting piont to get children and adults to think about the waste they produce, but it didn't seem to address solutions to the problem.
    There must be millions of the snap apart yoghurt/snack containers discarded every day and I have never found the recycle symbol on any of them .....that must be a daily mountain

    Disposable nappies are a huge problem, and the majority of people will not stop using them, that is something councils and governments should be pressured to address.

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  10. I made up some produce bags and use those instead of lots of little plastic bags. I agree, this is a huge issue here in Australia, but it only takes a little thinking and a bit of planning/organisation to quickly reduce our waste. Great Post.

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  11. I like the first step outlined in the Zero Waste Home manifesto- refuse! So many things we accept graciously because we don't want to appear rude or just haven't thought through the consequences of accepting e.g. pamphlets, complimentary samples, cheap pens with company logo etc. These usually end up as waste but the companies keep giving them out because it appears they work.

    We also use reusable bottles (we used to use our reusable coffee 'keep cups' religiously but I've gotten the heebie jeebies about the plastic and need to move onto an alternative) and I love my daughter's Klean Kanteen. It's a stainless steel water bottle but what I love about it is you can buy the lids/tops separately so as your child grows you can change to a more appropriate top e.g. from baby bottle top, to sippy cup, to sports spout etc. We also use cloth nappies and I always shudder when I think how much money and waste is spent on disposable nappies! So many people just haven't been exposed to the alternatives so it all seems 'too hard' but it really is just as easy.

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  12. I'm from Canada but don't know where we stand in refuse stats. We personally try to reuse everything. We have a backyard compost. When my children were babies I used cloth diapers some of which I still have for rags.
    On garbage day it amazes me to see other peoples bins over flowing when we rarely have more than a couple of small bags.

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  13. Oh and I have the very same bottle as you! I bought them for all my family at Christmas.

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  14. Wow that is so alarming & agree with Margaret this being such a thought provoking post. I have just finished reading Zero Waste Home a great read. I do most if not all of what you have mentioned here & have been using cloth nappies MCN for the last 6 years (4 children have used them) I use family cloth for us & only have paper toilet paper for visitors to our home. I was very proud of miss 4 year old the other day when my teenage son put a class jar in the bin she told him we don't throw out we reuse & recycle. I use home made fabric produce bags & take along my own containers to butchers etc I tell them politely I want your product but not the waste & have not had a problem so far. Most of our food is made from scratch & snacks & yoghurt etc is in small glass jars. We are a family of 5 living here & we still have around half a bin load of waste going out each week but working towards getting down to much less. For me its being mindful what I bring into the house & what waste that brings

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  15. I really love this post Rhonda, its something we all have to work on. Waste not want not. I have clothed myself and three children and even my parents from the opp shop its my favorite shopping spot. xx

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  16. Perhaps one of our European readers can supply more details but, I remember hearing of a movement in Germany (quite a few years ago now) where women got sick of excessive food packaging and started going through their bags and taking off useless outer wrappers and leaving them behind before they left the supermarket. I believe it resulted in the state levying manufacturers on the amount of packaging they used with some caveats as what costs they were NOT allowed to pass on to the consumer. We live on a farm with no collection system so we're pretty good at recycling and don't actually buy much stuff at the supermarket anyway but I get frustrated when I see products that have always come in glass jars being put into plastic jars or pouches. My favourite wide mouthed peanut butter jars (with volume measures on the side) went plastic some years back and I just don't buy them any more and the few I have left are precious.

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  17. My greatest difficulty lies in convincing my daughters to separate their rubbish. The eldest thinks we are are disgusting if both bins are not filled whereas I see a partially filled bin as a win for the environment. I am slowing replacing all our plastics with oven safe, freezer safe, microwave etc glass containers. This is because food is wasted when the food inside cannot be seen.

    I confess we have recently swapped dad over to disposable underwear. I needed to do this for my sanity. My children had cloth nappies as often as possible.

    I hate food waste and excess packaging. Food waste means precious dollars are wasted too.

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  18. I so enjoyed reading everyone's experiences and ideas! Isn't this how we change the world?? One at a time!

    I live in a very small community in NC (USA). We don't have curb trash service unless we pay a private company for it. And, we live on a farm. We heat with wood, so we can burn any paper in our trash (along with bones and other sundry trash because our furnace burns so hot). Food goes either to the hens or the compost heap. I make laundry detergent and most house cleansers. We recycle everything we can as one of our local service clubs uses recycling to fund their programs and scholarships. Since we live on the farm, I can most of our food or we have our meat slaughtered and processed. The meat is the only thing we have in plastic bags because we vacuum pack it to keep it fresher longer in the freezer. While I do can much of the meat, some just tastes better from the freezer... However, the bags burn in the wood stove, so they are not going in the trash. All in all, we have one bag of trash a week from our kitchen can.

    Years ago, I read "Plain and Simple", a book about a woman's experience with the Amish. In the memoir, she discusses how little trash there was in the house at the end of the week. That impacted my desire to reduce. It is a terrific read, if you are looking for a summer book.

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    1. Matty, I'd really like to read that book, I'm quite interested in how the Amish live anyway and always looking for inspiration to reduce our waste as well. Do you happen to remember the author? Searching on Goodreads yields a lot of results with that title, but I don't see one that looks like what you describe.

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    2. I'd love to know what people do with meat scraps/bones. We can't compost them at home (our compost heap doesn't get hot enough to break it down, plus that would attract the rats from the woods), and our community doesn't have a curbside compost program. I make bone broth before pitching the bones, but eventually they do still go in the trash, which is frustrating. And while I would be okay going vegetarian, my husband is not, so that's not an option for our family at this time.

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    3. Actually, never mind my earlier comment, I think I found it on Amazon. Is it by Sue Bender?

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    4. Helena yes Sue Bender is the author & the book can be found here http://www.amazon.com/Plain-Simple-Womans-Journey-Amish/dp/0062501860 & if your in Australia Bookworld have it as a eBook & hard copy to

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    5. Helena, I have a bokashi compost bin http://www.bokashi.com.au which I put anything organic in. Which includes bread, rice, meat on bones etc. It sits on our verandah and when it is full I put it all in the compost. The meat comes off the bones and only the bones are left and get spread with the rest of the compost on the garden. My gardener says my compost is the best domestically produced compost he has come across.

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  19. I live in Alberta, Canada and in our city we recycle EVERYTHING except Styrofoam-there is no market for it apparently. We pay a deposit when we buy all beverages. Everything from milk, cream, juice, beer, alcohol and water containers etc. We put ours in a large orange garden waste bag. When it is full we take it to the bottle depot and usually get about $12.00 each time. Lots of organizations have bottle drives to raise money-boy scouts, sports teams, community associations etc. A lot of the homeless population spend their days 'bottle picking' to make money. I'm sure, as a city, we still have a long way to go but more people seem to be getting on side with recycling.

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  20. g'day
    what a post! i put my bin out about once a month, i'm on my own now so i don't buy as many items i once did when i had the kids living here but it still took me some time to realize that half the items i bought was rubbish or junk, i no longer use condiments so no throw outs there, maybe mayonnaise sometime down in the future if i don't learn to make it myself by then; i buy my butter in the paper wraps, i try to buy items that are boxed but even they have gone over to double packaging now with the plastic packet inside, why? who knows, maybe its something to do with health & safety? all my paper items i put into a paper bin which goes outside & then gets burned, i use the ash in my compost & for the chooks in their dust baths, any large papers i'm saving as i intend to make some new gardens & will be putting it down under all the other stuff (no dig)
    it takes time to work out what we don't need, not all of us are good cooks, i don't preserve but might learn one day who knows; i also save all my glass jars, as they are much better to store foods in than the plastic, hoping one day i will find an alternative to the freezer bags too

    selina from kilkivan qld

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  21. We do recycle, compost, buy in bulk (when possible), cook from scratch, buy/trade used goods, cloth diaper, make our own green cleaning products, etc...but we find that even among a large friend circle of liberals, we are the odd ones. Visitors are stunned that we don't use paper napkins or paper towels and some visibly curl their lips at the thought of using one of the many white washcloths we keep for wiping faces. I don't understand why THEY don't make these changes so I guess we're even.

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  22. I'm quite stunned by Australia's second highest position of waste per person. I knew the Europeans were a long way ahead of us but this is especially sobering.

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  23. Such an informative post, thank you. As a pensioner I shop carefully and rarely buy anything I don't make or grow myself (aside from cheese, butter, milk, and cereal). I have learned from your blog to make bread and yoghurt. I once read on another frugal blog about making one's own toilet paper and my first thought was "GROSS"...but I sewed a few myself and since I live alone, who cares anyway? The unexpected benefit was comfort...no more crumbs left behind. I just made multi layer flannel strips with machine sewed edges. They wash up nicely and are changed often. Of course, the paper is always there for other daily events and visitors. It's gone from a frugal thing to a comfort thing. xx debbie

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  24. Now that we are retired we have much more time to think and put in place all of these ideas. We also have the sign on our letter box not to leave any Junk Mail which saves such a lot of paper waste. I wish more people would do that even though some of the deliverers just dump it on the ground anyway. Great post.

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    1. Thanks for reminding us about the No Junk Mail sign. We have one too and it saves us from a lot of junk paper.

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    2. We have always had a No Junk Mail sign also. It used to frustrate me to pull it out of my letterbox and put it in the bin, as we would never read it anyway. We now have a PO Box and have told the Post Office that we do not want any junk mail. I will go into my local supermarket and read the catalogue whilst in the store.

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  25. In the UK households have been encouraged/urged by their local councils to recycle for years. However it has always been slow to take off. Something I have never understood. Recycling figures were creeping up but I read last week that they are expected to fall by 2%. Why? Don't understand what is so hard about putting used paper and newspapers in one bin, tins, foil & glass jars & bottles in another;a big wheelie bin for garden rubbish and food waste & plastics in a sturdy sack! A bit of effort which is obviously too much for over half the population! We even have kerbside collection! Some things have to be taken to a recycling centre: hard rubbish(unwanted furniture, rubble etc) and food cartons but all do-able. I really enjoy recycling, makes me feel satisfied that I am doing my bit and I am cross to think so many folk can't be bothered to do theirs! I re-use plastic bags as much as I can, refuse them whenever I can and re purpose things too.generally I think products have less packaging than before. Some supermarkets are using cartons for things like tomatoes instead of tins which I think is a good move.as long as the cartons get recycled! I re-use greetings cards as notelets & gift tags, clean side of letters etc are drawing paper for my little granddaughter and ripped into smaller pieces are used for grocery lists & phone messages, margarine tubs etc are re-used as storage containers for the fridge and freezer , etc etc. all the usual things I guess which don't take a moment to do but hopefully all help the planet in the end. Just wish everyone could do the same and get those recycling figures up above the 40% figures. Our local council, Warwickshire, does very well at informing people about recycling and all the kerbside boxes, wheelies, haver sacks are supplied free of charge so there is really nothing stopping everyone from doing their bit!

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    1. It is weird, I agree, partly it is due to mentality of people. I personaly know a wonderful young family, great people, well educated and kind, but they do not bother to do any recycling as they ARE CONVINCED ( wrongly! ) that everything gets to the landfill anyway. They just so believe in it, that nothing would change their mind, even though NEw Zealand's third largest city is doing great in terms of recycling. sad sad sad.

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  26. Great post, thank you, Rhonda. I'd like to add something that has not been mentioned- we use toy library for our children, it means we have new toys every few weeks and we do not have to buy them ,we rent them and then return back. Our toy library has a huge range of toys and rents them only to families, no hospitals or public places. Toys are well looked after and clean, and I clean them before giving them to my children anyway. :)

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  27. And yes, regarding nappies, just a thought.... I've been using cloth nappies for my older child, but recently I've been introduced to the "Elimination communication" by my friend which implies using no nappies at all and is widely practised around the world today, mainly by non- industrialised counties. Apparently my mom used it on me and I was nappy free by 9 months. Ingrid Bauer has written a good book about it, it makes sense and I am in the process of learningit with my second baby :)

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  28. Here, in Leicestershire, UK, we have a council that has progressively been re-cycling more and more stuff and earning from it too.
    Personally, I have been re-cycling most of my 'waste' for many years and stepped up a notch or two since being unemployed.
    I take my own plastic 'bags for life', cotton carry bags etc with me when I do my (usually) fortnightly main shop. I have cloth dishcloths which go in the wash with my teatowels. I use the plastic containers for growing stuff in until they become too brittle, then wash them and put them in the recycling bin.
    Some leafy veg that is past it's best, goes to the neighbours' hens for 'recycling',(when I get my own hens, this will probably all go to my hens). Veg peelings, rotting veg(rare), goes in the compost bin. At the moment, I'm trying to get some water containers to store rainwater in from various freecycle websites. I try to grow/preserve as much as I can. The egg trays are torn up and added to my compost in layers with other waste vegetation. When I get my hens,they will 'help' turn a different compost heap, yet to be made from pallets.
    When my Sister takes me to the local Fabric Guild, where you get free tea/coffee/biscuits, I collect as many plastic cups up as I can, these are used for sowing/transplanting seeds/seedlings, washed after use and stored for the next sowings again, until they are too brittle.
    I make some of my clothing, upcycle/recycle other clothing,(knickers make excellent dusting/polishing cloths!), darn or needle felt holes in the heels of my socks, embroider or applique over bad non-removable stains, patchwork etc etc.
    I'm not the perfect re-cycler though, still use kitchen paper, though mostly, that gets re-used for the kitty litter tray, with plastic bags that have had things in before, like porridge oats etc.
    I've just discovered that the kitty litter I use, can be re-cycled without the faecal matter in, takes a couple of years to rot down and composted with horse manure, makes a great mulch. Just got to make a secure compost area for that, to stop my soon to be here, hens from getting at it before it's fully composted.
    Long comment,I'm passionate about re-cycling!
    Thanks for your wonderful, inspirational blog! Noticed the new photo, you look younger in it!

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  29. Very interesting to hear what others are doing to recycle. Something I do is to use recycled items in my tiny, on the side of the house, plant nursery where I grow a few plants to sell to help my travel account. I always use used plant pots or any kind of plastic container that is a good size to grow plants in....eg. plastic food containers, large tin cans, large plastic red cups, etc. I also reuse the old potting mix from thrown away dead pot plants......I mix it with composted wood chips to make a free potting media. The plant labels I cut out from plastic milk bottles.

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  30. As always, Rhonda, most, if not all of your readers already recycle and reuse and I have enjoyed not only your post but all the responses. Your figures are very sobering and I only wish everyone realised what is going on in reality. We saw it with the SPC saga, no one will act unless it is too late (or close to being too late).

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  31. What a great post. In Canada it varies by municipality about what can be recycled and how easy it is for people to recycle. I find if people have to go through a big hassle to recycle or compost they won't.

    In my region we can recycle everything, even plastic bags and wrapping. That is so exciting, because no matter how careful I try to be about reducing my packaging, there always seems to be some sort of plastic. My region also has a green bin program where all kitchen scraps, paper towel, shredded paper, meat etc. can be put in the bin. I'm amazed with everything that can go in it. It is then taken to the waste management centre and turned into super rich compost that we can pick up for free. They also take our yard waste and turn it into mulch that we can use for free.

    Even with all these awesome programs people still don't recycle or use their green bins which is mind blowing to me. I just keep doing my best and I try to encourage and educate those around me about how awesome these programs are. In the past two months two of my friends started using their green bin! One step at a time.

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  32. yep we all need to recycle, the land fills will not hold much more, plastic will not disintegrate like paper.

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  33. oh my goodness! This is terribly embarassing! I know Americans are very wasteful but this is nuts! Yes, I have made some efforts to cut back on waste. But I am going to be doing more! All your suggestions are very doable! Thank you for opening my eyes to this world problem.

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  34. Good post, Rhonda. I had always been an ardent recycler, and so it came as a great shock to me a couple of years ago to learn that the United States ships its recycling to other countries for processing. We don't actually recycle and reuse any of our own refuse. It's a nice thought that someone else will reuse it and the trash doesn't wind up in a landfill, but my thought process has progressed beyond that now. It sickens me to think of all of the fossil fuels that are polluting our oceans and air to ship garbage, literally, around the world. I believe that to really fix this, we must shift our entire mindset and do without things from the store in favor of making them ourselves. Manufacturers are ever-so-slowly changing their packaging, but until that change is complete, we have a duty to significantly lessen our waste output. Just banning plastic grocery bags would make a tremendous start. Thanks for bringing all of these things to light, and it's wonderful to be here with so many like-minded people. A revolution can begin with just one whisper.

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  35. Rhonda would you mind explaining about the jars and lids in one of your photos? I think it's the fourth photo on this post. The jars with lids of yellow, green, gold, and red/white checks colors. Are those recycled lids or new? The yellow lids appear to be plastic, is that right? How do you process the food so the lids are reusable? I mean do you water bath can or pressure can using recycled lids? Please explain.

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    1. If you google: "down to earth blog recycle jars" a number of my posts on the subject will come up. I've been writing about it for years. The two yellow tops are plastic lids. They were given as gifts and used straight away, they were not meant to be kept. Recycled lids must be metal with a pop-top.

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    2. Thank you for explaining. I was confused by the subject of the post along with an accompanying photo of food in the jars being reused.

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  36. Great post Rhonda.
    I love that bottle! Hope I can find one in the UK.
    Best wishes,
    Angela (south England) UK

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  37. A day late to this post-but for those people who mentioned that they don't have a Coles nearby or other supermarket that recycles soft plastics; it maybe worth visiting your local councils website to see if they now recycle them? Our local council started recycling soft plastics, plastic wrap and polystyrene about 12 months ago. If they are not doing it, it could be worth a phone call or letter to make the suggestion.
    Another issue is electronics equipment. In Melbourne, the Melbourne Zoo ahs a permanent campaign to collect and recycle mobile phones. there are other groups who do 'mobile musters 'as well. of course it would be easier to simply keep using existing electronics, but f/when you upgrade, it is good to know where to send them.
    Finally batteries are a huge problem for the environment. They absolutely should not be going into landfill due to the toxic metals that leech out of them. Aldi is one company that will recycle them.
    Here is a website link that can help direct people (in Australia) of places that can help them to recycle other things, by putting in your council and postcode.
    http://recyclingnearyou.com.au/
    I find in general we do pretty well, but could be better; and some things I find hard such as large items, other electronics (computes, TV's, video players), paint etc. There are local refuse stations that now sort and recycle and sell out of their own 'shops' rather than just 'tips'.
    Thanks for a great post

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  38. some comments refer to the zero waste home book...this author has opened my eyes to a different level of awareness: to the principles - refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, to investigate our country's manifest on waste (and unfortunately what is sometimes really happening), incorporating this zero waste philosophy wherever i am (every little bit helps - i'm an ideologist;-)....once started, i'd like to say 'there's no turning back;-)' ...but every step is filled with awareness, with continuous learning, and then with the responsibility of answering the present and practical question every time - what am i going to do about this?

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  39. I work in a supermarket and I am surprised that the "safe" and other recycled toilet papers that are supposedly made of environmentally friendly packaging etc...come to the store wrapped in plastic! Our store then recycles the plastic (or we are supposed to) but the young boys that I work with end up just tossing it in with the cardboard (therefore making that cardboard non recyclable?)

    I am interested to know in the photo's what you are knitting in the picture with the knitted dishcloths? Is it a container to store them in?

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  40. Hi, I'm a first time commenter on the blog, but I have been reading your blog for a few years. I'm a Norwegian living in Italy. I know you didn't ask about Norway, but I'll give you some figures anyway:

    In 1950 the average Norwegian threw out 25 kilogrammes of waste, in 1992 the numbers had gone up to 237 kilogrammes and in 2012 we threw out 430 kilogrammes including 50 kgs of food. 82 % of all the waste is recycled. We have a kind of recycling programme on bottles (glass/plastic) where you pay a deposit when you buy soft drinks, beer, water and afterwards you return the bottles to the store and get a refund. The bottles are then reused for the same purpose a certain number of times before they go to the "normal" recycling. We recycle as much metal that we could make 300.000 bicycles a year. Not to bad, I think. After all we're only 5 million people in Norway.

    In Italy they throw out 535 kilogrammes in average every year. In 2011 they recycled only 34 % of their waste so they have a long way to go. Many people do a good job recycling, but a LOT of people I know thinks it's too much trouble to recycle and they don't see why they should be bothered. So, progress is slow here. Anyway, I do my best and recycle everything while I try to educate my Italian husband, even going after him picking out what he's throwing in the bin and putting it into the right recycling container.

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  41. We're lucky in our area that the local authority pick up most re-cycling twice a month, so it's as easy to re-cycle as it is to throw things away. Between our compost bin and the re-cycling (and where we shop) we could cope with garbage collection far less frequently than it happens. One thing I do differently here in Britain than when I lived in the US is to use cloth hankies instead of kleenex, mainly because with the cold weather here I always have a runny nose! Not only do I not have to keep replenishing my supply, I don't forget to check and come out with shredded tissue in my laundry. I love my collection of hankies - so vintage! They are something else to iron, which will put some people off, but my husband is in the habit of ironing a lot of things and I don't really mind ironing much. I wear and hang my clothes quite a few times before laundering, which cuts down on ironing (unless something needs a touch up to look nice). I don't wear expensive clothes but I do like to look tidy if I can.

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