26 November 2007

Recycling, reusing, reducing

Glass jars can be reused many times for your jams. New lids can be purchased when the seal goes.

Choose your packaging carefully when you are buying groceries. It’s great to recycle and reuse plastics but it’s much better to reduce the amount of plastic you buy in the first place.

If you buy those plastic sauce dispensers, buy one, then buy a bulk pack of sauce and keep refilling the dispenser, ditto with mustard. The same goes for those plastic bottles of water. When the bottle is empty, refill it instead of buying a new one. Naturally you’ll need to wash it every day. Cleaning chemicals often come packaged in plastic. There are more natural ways of cleaning your home, look here to find some I use. Even when a product looks like it’s in a plain cardboard box, the box is often coated in wax or a thin plastic to make it watertight. Just scrape the box with your fingernail and if you have anything come off under your nail, it’s probably been waxed. Milk and juice cartons are made from a product called Liquidpaperboard, which is a mix of paper, aluminium foil and plastic. When you recycle these cartons they are made into office paper.

Make your own laundry powder and refill the same container.

Speaking of paper, that is one of the materials that must be recycled, either in your own garden, compost or worm farm, or at the recycle depot. If you add paper to your household waste bin, it will go to land fill and as it breaks down it will add significantly to the methane gas that’s emitted from your local tip. Methane is one of the most harmful greenhouse gases. Paper is easily recycled and uses 90% less water and 50% less energy than paper made from trees.

Shredded paper makes excellent hens' nests.

Australians use over five billion plastic shopping bags a year. That is shameful. In Australia, plastic shopping bags should not be added to your normal rubbish bin, nor to the recycling bin. Despite this over 200,000 plastic bags are loaded into landfill every hour. They should be taken to a store or major supermarket (Coles, Woolworths, Franklins, Safeway) that accepts them back. These bags are then sent en masse to a special recycling station where the bags are processed and recycled. Plastic bags are generally only used for the time it takes to carry your groceries to your home. Then it takes between 15 and 100 years to break down. I can’t stay on blogs or sites that have those plastic bag counters on them. It is the one thing that will move me off that site immediately. I can’t bear knowing how many of those bags are being accepted into people’s lives every day. There is no reason to accept a plastic bag when you go shopping. We have been living with green shopping bags for years now and if you haven’t bought some or made your own shopping bags, why haven’t you? Be prepared, take your bags with you when you are grocery shopping.

Instead of using plastic wrap to pack your lunch each day, buy a lunch box with small containers that fit inside a larger box that firmly hold your food down. You'll have a lovely homemade lunch, that survives the trip to work or school, without the plastic wrap.

There are patterns for crocheted shopping totes here or here or a fabric one here. The bags below are the net bags I use when buying vegetables, nuts and fruit. They are just a piece of tulle or netting, sewn along three sides and hemmed at the top. Simple! One of my readers has just alerted me to her home business that makes a similar fruit and vegie bag, here is the link for online sales. Thanks Rebecca.

Net bags will allow you to bring home your produce without plastic. They also allow the shop keeper to see what you have in the bag.

Buying butter in paper wrappers instead of a plastic tub is the way to go. If you buy bread, buy it from a local baker and ask that they wrap the bread in tissue or a brown paper bag. Or take your basket with you with a clean tea towel and wrap that around your bread. Better still, make your own bread. You'll be able to buy your flour in bulk heavy paper bags with a string closure.

These bags can be composted or given to the worms after being cut up.

If you’re serious about the amount of packaging and waste you throw out, it would be a good idea to sit for a while and work out a waste reduction and recycling program for yourself. I did this a few years ago and now our bin generally contains only a very small amount of waste. Give your food scraps and peelings to your compost, chooks or worms, and you’ll be cutting back on a lot of waste. Newspapers, cardboard, old telephone books etc can all be composted or shredded and used for the chooks or in compost. If you cut back on the amount of plastic you buy, you’ll be on the road to making a valuable contribution to your planet. It really is easy to do this, it only requires a bit of thought and determination to carry it through.


  1. Thank you so much for your kind words and for visiting my blog.

    I love your netting bags. I will have to make me some of those. Great post. I have been trying to use up all my "store bought" cleaners so I can use my homemade cleaners 100% of the time. Thank you so much for the link from your natural cleaners post.I am especially thankful for the heavy duty laundry detergent post. We live on a farm so you can only imagine what kind of stains hubby and boys come home with. I posted one of my favorite homemade sink cleaners on my blog today. It smells wonderful when you clean your kitchen sink with it.

    Have a great day!

  2. Hi Rhonda Jean,

    Loving your site! My friend Alex and I actually make reusable Fruit and Vegie Bags called "The Fregie Sack" and sell them online at www.thefregiesack.com.au and in 10 stores across Melbourne & Geelong. They are made in Melbourne and are very similar to the ones you have made! I love how many people you are touching with your words of wisdom and the impact you are making on people's lives and how they live. The environmental movement will only work from the ground up so every little bit we change so too will society! Thanks again for such a great Blog,


  3. Hello Rose, I'll check out your sink cleaner later.

    Rebecca, I added your link to my post. Thanks for sharing your info.

  4. Hi Rhonda,

    I love your veggie bags but since I'm sewing challenged I was VERY excited to see the fregie sacks - I just order 10 of them :-). Thanks for the great post.


  5. Thanks for posting this!
    I am trying really hard to buy things with minimal packaging and trying to reuse what I can and recycle what I can't...

    I have been making my own homemade cleaners and laundry soap for awhile and love them...

    Thanks for always posting things that convict me or make me think!

  6. Hi Rhonda Jean

    I've been reading your blog for a couple of months now and find it very inspirational.

    Here in Ireland there is a tax of 25c on plastic bags (unless the bag is in contact with produce such as meat). This has reduced the number of bags used considerably. The tax was initially 15c per bag but when the number of bags started to increase again the tax was raised.

    The majority of people now take their own bags and shops pile all of their boxes by the checkouts for customers use. Your net bags are the next stage - an excellent idea! It'll get me a few funny looks at first but I bet it will catch on before long!
    Thanks for such a great blog!

  7. Those are fabulous net bags. What a great idea--also for gifts. I have a friend who hates plastic produce bags and reuses them painstakingly. Guess what she'll be getting for Christmas?

    Can I request a post? We're moving soon and I'd like to make my own curtains. Can you post about how to do that? I know you made some pretty ones with your sister.


  8. Rhonda, we do carry our shopping in plastic bag, but we re-use and recycle them many times in our household. But now you challenged me to cut down anyway!

  9. still reading your archives! I only just discovered some calico bags at a local coffee shop in Katoomba. one that roasts their own beans from Fair trade.. and they were throwing the bags away. I asked them to save them for me so that I could recycle. I am looking into making some cloth shoulder bags with them as well as some soft toys for my grandchildren. I think they would even make perfect cushions!
    I am learning so much by reading back.. you have inspired me to get rid of my credit card. It isn't a huge debt but to rid myself of it will make me feel liek I have achieved something!

  10. I also think the bags would make good gift bags :)

  11. Hello Rhonda,
    I have recently discovered your wonderful blog and have spent the last couple of weeks reading through your archives each lunchtime when I'm at work.
    Today I am reading "Recycling, Reusing and Reducing" from 2007 and i was wondering what you line your kitchen bin with if you don't use plastic.
    Thanks so much. HelenP

    1. It depends, Helen. We recycle a lot and compost. Dry waste is just carried to the council bin outside and anything messy that can't be composted is wrapped in newspaper and put in the council bin.


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