After watching the War on Waste show on the ABC last year and the movie A Plastic Ocean, I was inspired to find and adopt better ways to reduce our family’s household waste, reduce our impact on the planet and oceans and show our kids how they can do their bit and how we can influence others in doing the same.
As part of our family journey to reduce waste, I thought it would be helpful to share 100+ Easy Ways To Reduce Your Waste to our Busy City Kids readers. These tips and tricks were inspired by members of the community, web articles and Facebook groups such as Plastic Free Future, #waronwasteau, Zero Waste groups, local beach cleanup groups, Plastic Free July etc. where community members share events, news and ways we can each do our bit. These groups led me to create a local Facebook group called Plastic Free Sydney Northern Beaches to encourage locals to reduce their impact and plastic use too.
As a family, we are no way near where I’d like to be in terms of our waste journey and going plastic free, however each day we try a little bit more towards achieving new ways our family can reduce our impact on our world for our children’s future.
Kate and her little ones also recently did their bit and shared simple ways on their Insta page to look after the environment and reduce their waste footprint with Melba Bear. We will share some of Kate’s photos throughout this article. We would also like to thank Pascale at Mailed With Love for her gorgeous illustrations.
So with that, I leave you with a list we have put together of 100+ Easy Ways to Reduce Your Family's Waste and Plastic Usage. We hope you find this post useful. xo Catherine
Note - This post is in no way sponsored. We have mentioned some brands however this is only because we like them.
REDUCE/REFUSE/REUSE - SWAP
1 - REFUSE disposable water bottles - SWAP for REUSABLE ones - stainless steel 18/8 or plastic BPA free only. We love Ecococoon bottles for kids and adults.
2 - REFUSE disposable iced coffee, iced chocolate, bubble tea, boost juice and milk bottles etc - SWAP for large REUSABLE flasks and get your coffee shop, bubble tea, juice & smoothie bar to put those drinks in them.
3 - REFUSE single use juice boxes and fruit bottles etc. - SWAP for REUSABLE BYO your stainless steel bottle and fill up at fruit & veg shops who let you fill your own juice bottle.
4 - REFUSE single use coffee/tea/hot chocolate/babycino cups - SWAP for REUSABLE ones - BPA free only, ceramic or glass and get a discount on your coffee. Checkout Responsible Cafés for a participating coffee shop near you.
5 - REFUSE single use zip lock bags, foil and clingwrap for lunch boxes - SWAP for Nude Food REUSABLE lunch boxes, they can be BPA free plastic ones or metal ones. NO wrap NO rubbish. Encourage kids and parents to do Nude Food and take part in Nude Food Day.
6 - REFUSE single use yoghurt pouches - SWAP for bulk yogurt, use REUSABLE pouches, use your REUSABLE containers or RedCycle the pouches (see below).
7 - REFUSE single use ice cream cups and plastic spoons - SWAP for a cone or BYO container, reusable spoon or coffee cup to put ice cream in.
8 - REFUSE single use plastic straws - SWAP for REUSABLE straws - stainless steel 18/8 or bamboo or silicone.
9 - REFUSE single use packaging - SWAP for loose fruit & vegetables not wrapped in plastic and try to find alternatives to packaged foods, make your own if possible.
10 - REFUSE single use meat packs - SWAP for REUSABLE containers and bring those to your local butcher that accepts BYO containers.
11 - REFUSE single use bread plastic bags - SWAP for REUSABLE bread bag at bakeries - our favourite bread bag is from OnYa.
12 - REFUSE single use grocery shop or any other retail shop plastic bags - SWAP for REUSABLE canvas grocery bags or REUSE what you have at home. Find your closest Boomerang Bags to buy, sew or borrow. Drop your excess reusable bags at Boomerang Bags boxes.
13 - REFUSE single use plastic fruit & veg plastic bags - SWAP for REUSABLE produce and grain bags - lots of options online and in-stores.
14 - REFUSE single use plastic containers - SWAP for REUSABLE plastic BPA Free containers or better glass containers - our favourite Pyrex glass containers. If you have BPA free plastic containers at home REUSE those up before buying other containers and stop buying new plastic containers.
15 - REFUSE single use containers & packaging from take away shops and sushi shops - SWAP for your own REUSABLE containers at delis for takeaway and leftovers - lookup or/and add a business to Trashless Takeaway and ask your local take-away shops, cafés and restaurants. Say no to those little Sushi Soy fishes, did you know they can can never break down and wildlife can eat lids and other bits thinking it’s a fish in the ocean.
16 - REFUSE single use plastic party plates, cutlery, tumblers - SWAP for REUSABLE & washable plastic tumblers and plates and/or ask friends & neighbours to bring some to the party to avoid single use plastics. Use what you have around the house, your own cutlery, plates and glasses or grab some second hand at charity shops. This will cater for parties to come.
17 - REFUSE balloons and plastic confetti - SWAP for confetti made out of leaves and forget balloons all together. What goes up must come down so when a balloon fly off and later lands in water or on land, chances are it will hurt wildlife.
18 - REFUSE Polystyrene if you can. It cannot be collected in your council recycling service. It is made of 98% air, derived from a non-renewable resource - oil and is a type of plastic. Although it can be recycled it’s not ideal - SWAP for green eco peanuts which biodegrade. Expanded Polystyrene Australia is the national EPS Industry Group. They are the drivers behind collection facilities in the capital city of each mainland state. These facilities are capable of accepting all types of EPS from both packaging and building applications. Find a facility near you.
19 - REFUSE bubblewrap even if it can be RedCycled. Use eco alternative like cornstarch packaging, paper and cardboard, biodegradable air peanuts, mushroom packaging, newspapers, old clothes among some options.
20 - REFUSE single use coffee pods - SWAP for REUSABLE refillable coffee pods.
21 - REFUSE single use tea bags as some contain plastic - SWAP for leaf tea like Nerada which is Australian grown and pesticide free, their tea comes in cardboard or metal tins. Check if your favourite tea bags contain thermoplastic fibres as this will mean the tea bags are not compostable or biodegradable. Brands are slowly changing their tea bags due to customer pressure, such brands that still have plastic are Bushells, Yorkshire Tea, some Twinings tea bags and Dilmah amongst some of the brands.
22 - REFUSE single use plastic water bottles - SWAP for REUSABLE water jug with filters to filter tap water. We love Britax.
23 - REFUSE single use milk bottles - SWAP for milk in glass or bring your glass bottles to your local food co op if they have refillable milk. Schulz Organic Dairy and Barambah Organics dairies have various retailers stocking their milk in glass across Australia.
24 - REFUSE single use soda water bottles - SWAP for REUSABLE Sodastream bottles. 1 SodaStream bottle saves 2,190 bottles from going to landfill. Each bottle lasts 3 years. SWAP empty gas bottles for filled bottles at petrol stations, Coles, Woolworths, BigW etc. The empty gas bottles will be refilled and reused again. Once your Sodastream water bottle has expired, recycle it as per guidelines.
25 - REFUSE single use dish clothes - SWAP for REUSABLE & washable dish clothes & sponges.
26 - REFUSE single use plastic dish brushes - SWAP for bamboo brushes.
27 - REFUSE single use cleaning products in plastic bottles - SWAP for eco friendly refillable alternatives or refill at your co op or bulk store or use bicarb soda & vinegar and lemon juice to clean.
28 - REFUSE single use laundry liquid in plastic bottle - SWAP for concentrate powder from bulk stores or look into Laundry Detergent Eco strips.
29 - REFUSE single use baking paper - SWAP for REUSABLE silicone trays or lining sheets.
30 - REFUSE single use plastic utensils - SWAP for stainless steel utensils.
31 - REFUSE single use freezer bags or zip lock bags - SWAP for reusable freezer bags or reusable zip lock bags.
32 - REFUSE single use vacuum seal food bags - SWAP for reusable freezer bags.
33 - REFUSE single use clingwrap and foil - SWAP for REUSABLE & washable Beeswax wraps, reusable silicone covers and use REUSABLE containers and jars too.
34 - REFUSE single use plastic bin liners - SWAP for homemade newspaper bin lining or opt for compostable bin bags. Our favourite Adelaide based Biobag is fully compostable as well as others made of corn or potato starch. Compostable will not break down in tiny pieces of plastic like Degradable plastic and will break down unlike generic plastic bin liners.
35 - REFUSE single use napkins - SWAP for REUSABLE & washable cloth napkins. Place them in the wash once dirty.
36 - REFUSE single use vacuum bags - SWAP for bag-less vacuum cleaner once the old one no longer works and has been recycled at the tip.
37 - REFUSE softener - SWAP for vinegar instead, it will keep your machine clean and doesn’t have a scent.
38 - REFUSE plastic toiletries containing micro plastics (like facial scrubs with micro beads) - SWAP for soap bars.
39 - REFUSE plastic travel & hotel toiletries or cosmetic samples - SWAP for your own soap bars and toiletries.
40 - REFUSE plastic boxed tissues and plastic covered paper towels - SWAP for REUSABLE & washable cloth tissues and tea towels.
41 - REFUSE plastic covered toilet paper, tissues, paper towels - SWAP for paper wrapped toilet paper like Who Gives A Crap. These guys use recycled paper and bamboo toilet paper and donate 50% of their proceeds to build toilets in third world countries. We love the premium Bamboo TP.
42 - REFUSE plastic shower gel and liquid hand wash bottles and hand sanitiser - SWAP for soap bars or buy refills and avoid sanitiser as it contains BPA plastic.
43 - REFUSE plastic shampoo bottles - SWAP for shampoo bars - our favourite is Sydney Based Shampoo with a Purpose, we’ve tried all 4 bars (you can too with their sample pack for only $5) and love the OG the most but all are pretty good too. They are natural, plastic free, SLS free, it’s a shampoo & conditioner, easy to use & lathers up nicely and each bar replaces 6 plastic bottles.
44 - REFUSE plastic/glass/aluminium covered deodorants - SWAP for plastic free deodorants. Our favourite is Sydney Based No Pong is 100% paraben, aluminium, cruelty and plastic free and comes in a fully recyclable tin and the anti odourant is all natural and comes bicarb free too.
45 - REFUSE plastic insert disposable breastfeeding/nursing pads - SWAP for REUSABLE & washable pads.
46 - REFUSE disposable wet wipes - SWAP for REUSABLE & washable wipes or make your own wipes with recycled paper towels.
47 - REFUSE plastic hygiene pads & disposable tampons - SWAP for REUSABLE & washable pads and undies like brand Modibodi (we can’t wait to try soon) or menstrual cups.
48 - REFUSE plastic children’s nappies if you can - SWAP for reusable clothes nappies. Did you know that the average parent can use up to 3,800 disposables nappies in 1 year that go straight to landfill. By switching to cloth nappies, a parent can use 24 cloth diapers which can be re-used and can cost half of the price of disposable nappies and can be used from 1 to 3 years. Lots of brands out there, our favourite Bambooty.
49 - REFUSE disposable plastic cotton buds - SWAP for paper stem or bamboo ones.
50 - REFUSE disposable plastic toothpicks - SWAP for bamboo toothpicks.
51 - REFUSE plastic toothbrushes and plastic toothpaste - SWAP for bamboo toothbrushes and toothpaste tablets if your dentist approves of them. Recycle oral care packaging through the TerraCycle program.
52 - REFUSE plastic boxed floss - SWAP for floss in glass jars.
53 - REFUSE plastic disposable shaving razors - SWAP for reusable safety razors like old times.
54 - REFUSE plastic pegs - SWAP for stainless steel pegs.
55 - REFUSE single use plastic around your dry cleaning/pressed shirts or give back to your dry cleaners and return coat hangers if you’re not using them.
56 - REFUSE plastic toys - SWAP for second hand toys or wooden toys or sign-up to a toy library near you - the best thing is that you can return the toys if the kids get bored with it and no clutter at home.
57. REFUSE plastic highlighters - SWAP for wooden highlighter pencils.
58 - RECYCLE plastic, paper and cans in your council bins. Check your local council website for guidelines on what you can recycle.
59 - RECYCLE soft plastics with Redcycle at Coles and Woolworths. Checkout their website for a list of where you can and what you can Redcycle. The plastic will be made into furniture and other products. The program recently advised that it would soon reach capacity so it’s advised that soft plastics should be avoided if possible.
60 - RECYCLE cans, juice boxes, plastic bottles and glass bottles (no wine bottles) at return & earn schemes return points and receive 10c per container in return. This reduces contaminated recyclables and it ensures a high percentage of recycled containers. Not available in VIC yet unfortunately but available in NSW, SA and QLD. Find out yours locally and what you can return & earn.
61 - RECYCLE disposable coffee pods with Planet Ark. Places like Nespresso and TerraCycle do it. take them back. This will ensure the coffee grounds break down into compost and the aluminium from the pods is recycled.
62 - RECYCLE batteries at your nearby Aldi or Ikea shop if you have one, or your local library or lookup your local council website for places to recycle batteries.
63 - RECYCLE old beauty, dental and optical plastic containers with TerraCycle recycling program. Checkout their website for local drop off locations. Make sure the containers are empty first. Places like L’Occitane and Body Shop (Return Recycle Repeat) offer customers discount when you drop off used brand containers at their shop but you can also drop off other brands there too, you will receive 10% of product at L’Occitane (Find out about the scheme here) or with Body Shop you will receive a reward (Find out about the scheme here). You can also get refill bottles of their product to save on money and save on a new container.
65 - RECYCLE old print cartridges with Planet Ark. Places like Officeworks have drop off boxes instore. This will ensure correct disposal and the plastic will be recycled.
66 - RECYCLE old mobile phones, mobile phone components including all brands of handsets, along with their batteries, chargers and accessories with Mobile Muster. Free of charge at old major phone retails.
67 - RECYCLE old electronics at your local tip to avoid it by dumped in landfill. Electronic components are a valuable resource that we can recycle and disposing of them properly will mean components won’t leak into soil. You can recycle your old television, printer, laptop, computer, VCR etc.
68 - RECYCLE old paint, strippers & varnishes, pesticides, herbicides & poisons, solvents & household cleaners, motor oils, fuels and fluids, batteries, gas bottles, pool and hobby chemicals, fluorescent globes and tubes. Household cooking oil can be stored in a sealable jar or wiped up with absorbent paper, to then be placed in your general waste bin. Cooking oils can also be filtered and recycled into products such as bio-fuel, cosmetics and stockfeed so check your local council for recycling centres, drop off locations and businesses near you. Also lookout for recycling events and community recycling places near you to dispose of and they will be recycled for you, for free. Find out about the cooking oil scheme here. Find out about motor oil schemes near you here.
69 - RECYCLE old car batteries. Used car batteries, as well as other used lead-acid batteries are hazardous waste and should be disposed of appropriately through recycling programs. Lead-acid batteries also include batteries in motorcycles, boats, emergency lighting and air conditioners. Most car workshops, scrap metal dealers and service stations will accept used car batteries for recycling. Check with your car battery vendor when purchasing a new battery. Find out about the scheme here.
70 - RECYCLE old white goods either at your local tip or if you’re buying new white goods, most stores will take them from you when they deliver your new goods.
71 - RECYCLE old plastic bottle caps and bread tags, some rotary clubs and preschools/daycares love to reuse and recycle these. Organisations like Aussie Bread Tags for Wheelchairs and Lids4Kids collect bread tags and bottle caps to be converted into recycled objects or prosthetic limbs.
72 - RETURN expired or unwanted medicine at your local chemist. The old medicine packets and tubes are disposed of safely. They are in no way reused or recycled however this will ensure appropriate disposal of drugs so they don’t enter the waterways or soil. Find out about the scheme here.
73 - RECYCLE your pre-loved bedlinen, quilt covers and towels at Sheridan stores. The recycling program is across all 56 Sheridan factory outlet stores, after the ongoing success of the program in their Boutique stores which launched in February 2019. The program, which encourages customers to return pre-loved bed linen and towels, has collected over 4000+ kg of textiles to date, which are then broken down and recycled and repurposed into new products. They accept any brands and try to reuse and recycle the products as much as possible including donating to animal shelters and zoos. Find out more about their initiative here.
OTHER THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
74 - Go through your pantry & fridge and use up the food you have to make meals and snacks with them. It’s estimated that one in five shopping bags end up in the bin = $3,800 worth of groceries per household each year in Australia.
75 - Enjoy your coffee and food at coffee & restaurants, sit down and take the time to relax. Reduce single use plastic containers as a result.
76 - Make your own food and avoid packaging and processing foods, you will be saving the planet, your wallet and tummy.
77 - Shop locally at your local butcher, veggie shop, farmers market by BYO your own containers to reduce excessive packaging. Local shops and farmers market encourage customers to bring their own containers and bags. Not only this reduces packaging but it reduces their packaging costs.
79 - Find a local food co op shop where you can buy groceries from - some co ops give you 10% off and up to 25% off if you volunteer at the co op. We love our local Manly Food Co Op. Bring your own containers, measure your container before and after you fill its contents and help your local food co op.
80 - Take part in local beach or bush cleanups and yearly Clean Up Australia Day cleanup or organise one any day of the year.
81 - Reduce your fashion footprint by buying clothes secondhand or by swapping with friends or by buying clothes that last and clothes made of natural fibres. Polyester, nylon, acrylic, and other synthetic fibres - are all forms of plastic. These fibres contribute to ocean plastic pollution in a subtle but pervasive way: The fabrics they make — along with synthetic-natural blends — leach into the environment just by being washed. Estimates vary, but it’s possible that a single load of laundry could release hundreds of thousands of fibres from our clothes into the water supply.
82 - Reduce your furniture footprint by buying furniture secondhand or by buying furniture that will last and that is multipurpose. IKEA Tempe in Sydney has launched a new furniture take back pilot, encouraging customers to recycle unwanted goods and help the local community. If you don’t want your IKEA products any more, and they are still in good condition, consider bringing them back to IKEA Tempe. Allowing you to up-cycle your unwanted goods instead of throwing them away and minimising the contribution to landfill. If your item(s) qualifies for this service, we will reward you by providing you with a voucher to be spent at IKEA Tempe. More info here.
83 - Take your rubbish with you wherever you go especially beaches and lakes to avoid waste going into the sea and rivers and affecting wildlife. If you spoke, dispose of cigarettes carefully. The chemicals found in one cigarette butt can leach out and contaminate approximately 7.5 litres of water within one hour. This contaminated water is lethal to aquatic life.
84 - If you see litter, pick it up and dispose of it and talk to your children about litter and best ways to dispose of waste.
85 - Encourage your children’s school or workplace to take environmental action about their waste. Lots of ideas and resources on the War on Waste website.
86 - Buy appliances that last rather than buying cheap appliances to reduce your waste as appliances currently do not have a recycling program.
87 - Find a local street library where you can Take A Book - Give A Book - Share A Book or more! Checkout a local street library near you.
88 - Next time you’re tempted or hassled by kids to buy them a new kids toy, see if you can borrow that toy at your local toy library. Reduces waste, clutter in the house and you can return it once they don’t play with it anymore.
89 - Next time you receive a present you don’t like or no longer need that is in great condition, think of re-gifting and be part of the gift economy.
90 - Next Christmas, think of wrapping presents in recyclable paper, recycle the kids drawings or wrap in material. Most wrapping paper contains plastic thus cannot be recycled in the paper bin.
91 - Next Easter, keep the foil from the Easter eggs in a box and make a big ball of the foil that you can put in the recycle bin to recycle!
92 - Check your local council website and see their tips & tricks and initiatives to reduce household waste. Some councils offer worm farms, compost bins as well as allow you to put food scraps in vegetation bins. Councils have dedicated tips to dispose of electronic waste, hazardous chemicals, paint etc.
93 - Share waste in your community if you don’t have room for a compost bin or worm farm at your place. The ShareWaste website is a great place for people with scraps to find composts or for people with compost to start receiving scraps.
94 - Get a worm farm (great for small places) or a compost bin (great for large gardens) and convert your food scraps into soil for your garden and use the worm juice to help your garden grow and reduce waste to landfill. Don’t add processed foods, meats, garlic, onion and acidic fruits like orange and lemons. Check with your council as some offer discounted or free worm farms or compost bins.
95 - Repair - Fix or upgrade broken objects rather than throwing them out. Lookout for local repair shops or repair community events.
96 - Donate your old clothes, toys and furniture to local charity shops or put them up on local community groups on Facebook for people to have/buy or swap you something with. Sell your old things on Gumtree, Ebay, Buy/Swap/Sell Facebook groups or at second hand markets.
97 - Donate old towels and blankets to animal shelters.
98 - Reuse your own cardboard boxes, old shoe boxes, old post satchels, old parcel boxes and send with Sendle to reduce postage costs and the use of buying new products. Australia Post allow customers to reuse boxes however the costs savings aren’t great at the moment.
99 - Regenerate nature around you to take part in combating climate change by introducing more flowers to your garden to help bees, planting fruit and leafy trees on your property, planting little veggies patches in your garden or nature strip if allowed and share it with neighbours and community.
100 - Walk to school, work or the shops or take public transport when you can to reduce your carbon emission footprint.
101 - When you travel interstate or overseas, don’t forget your reusable items (coffee cup, water, cutlery, produce & grocery bags, straws etc) to avoid waste on the plane, in the car or during your travels.
102 - When you head to grocery shops, just try and think of ways you can swap plastic wrapped products like fruit, veg, meat and dairy for loose products or buy from delis and butchers where you can BYO containers. Kids snacks are notoriously heavily packaged like single serve cheese, popcorn, crisps, lollies, biscuits even snack cucumbers and snack carrots! Opt for full size packs to divide later, you’ll save money and save on waste.
Thank you for taking the time to read our 100+ Easy Ways To Reduce Your Waste. Feel free to share with family and friends xo Catherine