Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Cut food waste. Give scraps to a neighbour.

60% of our bin contents is organic waste - according to War on Waste. Some of that is garden waste. About 31% is food waste says my local council.

One massive thing we can do to reduce food waste is to compost our food scraps.

But we don't all have compost

Many of us live in apartments, or just aren't into composting and gardening. We need another option.

That's where ShareWaste comes in. If you've got food scraps you can find a compost person in your neighbourhood. If you do compost you can put yourself on the map to get extra organic waste from local people. What a great idea!

Screenshot of the Share Waste website where you can connect with neighbours to compost your food waste

The first in your suburb?

If there isn't anyone close to you on the map, still sign up. This is quite new - and still growing.

You can register to be alerted when there is someone new near you. Also, you can share this post so that more people find out about it.

Food recycling?

This is an unusual but effective form of recycling. The nutrients in our food scraps can help fertilise more food to be grown. Or maybe flowers. Either way, at least it's not being wasted.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Take the e-waste quiz

According to War on Waste, the average family generates 73kg of e-waste per year. For a family of five this can be 140kg. Over a decade that's 1.4 tonnes.

This family of five will generate 1.4 tonnes of ewaste over 10 years acccording to the War on Waste

As the father of the family remarked, it's quite a lot when you look at it all at once.

Obviously e-waste is big issue. for recycling options near you, see the very well-named website Recycling Near You.

Also see how much you know about e-waste, with ABC's e-waste quiz. The average person gets about 6/10.
(Hint: I gave away one of the answers yesterday)

To learn more, read Where are we with e-waste recycling.

Monday, August 06, 2018

How to recycle your mobile

Australia has a good recycling system for mobile phones. But not many people know about it. Only about 10% of phones are getting recycled.

Why is it important?

As a nation we have 25 million old phones lying around the house.

How much is that?

Craig Reucassel from War on Waste covered this car (and filled the hatch) with mobile phones. He fit in 1,500 phones. To carry all of Australia's old and broken phones, he would need 17,000 cars like this.

Car of phones fromCarig reucassel and the War on Waste

That's a lot of waste if they get thrown in the bin. Even the little bit of gold in each broken phone would add up to tens of millions of dollars being thrown away.

So how do we recycle them?

The program is Mobile Muster. You can drop in the old or broken phone to a phone retailer. If you prefer to go direct, you can get a free mail satchel at Australia Post outlets or print the online label and post it yourself.

Mobile Muster also have more information about the recycling process and what it accepted. It includes chargers, batteries and even smart watches.

See how much phone waste you can recycle from your place.
Also, if you missed War on Waste, see the full episode on iView.

Friday, August 03, 2018

Battery Recycling at Battery World

Right now Australians recycle just 3% of our used batteries. Where can we recycle them? Many people don't know.

For Australian readers, you can take household batteries (AAA, AA, C, D and 9V) to any Aldi store. See my earlier post for more information.

Battery World take dead batteries of any kind. They can also give you one of these mini-bins, which are handy for collecting used batteries at home or in the office.

Now that we know where we to take them, hopefully the rate of recycling can increase. According to this week's War on Waste, Switzerland recycles 72% of its batteries. So we definitely have room for improvement.

PS. Now my local library is also collecting used batteries. Does yours? I'd be interested to know how widespread that is.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

When does your country overshoot?

If you spend your whole year's income in 7 months, that's not good. That's what we're doing to the Earth.

Today (1 August 2018) is Earth Overshoot Day. Already this year we've used up a year's worth of natural resources.

Clearly, we can't keep going like this - unless we have a second Earth to farm, fish, pollute and dump our waste on. One Earth just can't handle all we're doing.

Australia really bad

Worse still is that countries like mine are chewing through resources even more recklessly. If everyone behaved like Australia, Earth Overshoot Day would be 31 March. That means we'd need four Earths!

How does you country compare?

Here's where that day falls for other countries. See if you can find your country. If it's not there then your country is being responsible. (Click for a larger image).

Let's not wait until it's too late

It really is like we're spending more every year than we earn. Do we have to wait until our savings have all disappeared? Hopefully we take action earlier than that - and have a long-term future on the one Earth we do have.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

How we're killing Angie

This is Angie - a turtle who swallowed a plastic bag. War on Waste told us she has "floating syndrome". But what is that? Why is she stuck in turtle hospital? Why can't she go back to the ocean?

Here's a brief description from Fred Nucifora of Reef HQ Aquarium:

"Floating syndrome is caused by a build up of gas in the turtle’s body, which can happen after it has ingested marine debris that blocks its gastrointestinal tract and prevents food being properly digested. The body’s unreleased gas keeps the animal afloat which not only stops it diving for food, but also makes it more vulnerable to predators like sharks or boat traffic in the area."

The options aren't great for turtles that swallow plastic. They get eaten, hit by a boat, or starve to death. That's why she'll have to stay in turtle hospital probably for the rest of her life.

In Angie's case it was a plastic bag someone used for probably a few minutes. It really is obvious that we should reduce our use of disposable plastic and increase the amount that gets recycled.

PS. The episode also showed turtles with a drinking straw lodged up their nostril. In one case it seemed to be the entire length of the straw. Ouch.
Bonus link: More on buoyancy disorders

Friday, July 27, 2018

Would you pay $1000 for water?

A bottle of water a day costs a thousand dollars a year. So why do people do it?

Is it healthier?

Craig Reucassel (War on Waste) took several bottled water brands - and tap water - to the lab. No brand is really any better than tap water, and many are far worse for you.

Does it taste better?

Craig took to the streets to give people a taste test of tap-water (pretending it was bottled water) and people actually said they would switch to that "brand".

Perhaps it's all just a marketing con

The bottled water use nature-sounding words and lots of marketing. Perhaps that's why we buy it. To illustrate the point Craig made this satirical ad for Robinet Water:

Is it more convenient?

It makes it getting it easier. But without a nearby recycle bin it also makes waste easier - and that's not good. It also costs $1000 for that convenience.

Surely given the choice of having your own refillable water bottle or paying $1000 every year, the refillable bottle has to be the winner.

See the whole episode on iView now.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The biggest footprint I've ever seen

The War on Waste is back for a second series and this week they made a giant footprint from 1 tonne of plastic waste (in plastic bags).

Australia generates 666,000 tonnes of plastic waste a year - so this footprint is what we generate every minute (or 47 seconds to be precise).

For scale, that little thing in front of the big toe is a person.

They literally emptied a truck of these plastic bags onto the beach to visualise what 1 tonne of plastic waste looks like.

It's so much that it didn't even fit in the giant footprint - they had to pile it up.

While it took a few people quite a while to set it up, we generate this amount in under a minute. We've probably generated another footprint just while you've been reading this post.

To see it like this really is quite stunning. Surely we can get more of this recycled.

See the whole episode on iView now.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

War on Waste Q&A

The new series of War on Waste starts tonight on ABC. Last night, panel discussion show Q&A was all about waste - how we can reduce it and how we can get more recycling happening in Australia.

Craig Reucassel (the host of War on Waste) was on the panel with people from social enterprises, a waste management expert and a representative from local government. Replay the conversation by downloading the episode or reading the transcript. You can also watch the QandA episode - and the first series of War on Waste in a special iView collection.

Stats on Waste

Here are some numbers that came from the episode:
- Last year Australia generated 64 million tonnes of waste. That's more than 2.5 tonnes per person.
- The average household wastes $60 each week on wasted food. That's 1 in 5 shopping bags.
- By 2050 there'll be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
- 95% of plastic is used only once. (I guess that includes straws, plastic bags, water bottles, coffee lids, takeaway food containers etc)

Questions from the audience included topics such as what happens to the material we recycle, how to encourage people to use tap water instead of wasteful bottled water, how to reduce food waste and the role of government in reducing waste and increasing recycling.

Tune in to ABC tonight to catch the start of Series 2 of the War on Waste.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Re-usable bag from an old T-shirt (no sewing)

Reusable bags are great. Even better if they're unique. Here's one way to MacGyver yourself a unique reusable bag - and hold on to a fave T-shirt for a little bit longer.

Grab an old T-shirt that you like, but has been retired from public wearing. After 10 years, my New York one is a great example.

Take out the arms and the neck area. For speed, just cut along the inside of the seams. Or you can use a plate to trace a nice round curve. Up to you. You can always cut more off later, if you want to adjust the shape.

Now let's seal up the bottom. Turn it inside out. Decide how deep you want your bag to be and draw a marker line there. Cut slits up to that line. I did them about 1.5 - 2 cm apart, but it's up to you.

Tie each pair of strips together. Now you have a bunch of knots across the bottom with tiny holes in-between.

To strengthen the bag, and seal up those small holes, tie together a strand from knot 1 and a strand from knot 2. Keep going for knots 2 and 3, knots 3 and 4 etc. Now you've got a completed bag - but with a large fringe.

Cut off the excess strands and turn the bag back to the right way out. The bottom should look something like this.

Now you're ready to go. Mine turned out a little smaller than I thought - I cut the slits quite long. But this size is great for picking up a couple of things from the shops, and those other times you just need to carry a few items.

So there you go. That's how you can turn a T-shirt into a reusable bag with just a pair of scissors and a marker pen.

PS. If you like the fringe at the bottom - or you're making something for Country & Western Week - then ignore the bit about turning it inside out before cutting the slits, and just stop once you've tied all the knots.

Friday, July 06, 2018

The cleanest nation in soccer

With the quarter finals about to start, here are the greenhouse emissions (per person) of the nations competing.

Obviously I'm going to be cheering for the cleaner teams in each game. If all goes to plan Brazil will meet Sweden in the final and win. Three teams on my scoreboard are on 5 - but Brazil's 5.03 is slightly better that Sweden's 5.28 or Croatia's 5.49.

Having said that, I'd be OK with any of those three nations winning. They are all cleaner than the world average of 6.27 and far and away better than Australia's pathetic 25.

If only our emission could learnt a lesson from soccer - and take a sudden dive.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

How to take out the Top 4 of plastic pollution

Today is the start of Plastic Free July. You can take the pledge to be plastic free and one of the options is to eliminate the top 4 most polluting plastic items for the month (or ideally for longer).

Here are some tips for how do do that:

Coffee cups

Get a re-usable cup. These last ages and even though some are made of plastic the point is that instead of tossing hundreds of disposables into landfill, you can use just one - and you can put that in the recycle bin when it gets really old.

Check out Responsible Cafes - it's a map of great coffee places that give you a discount for using a BYO cup. That could save you hundreds of dollars.

Plastic Bags

It's really quite easy to bring your own bag. The green bags are about $1 at most places and last for ages (often years). If a dollar is too much for you, my bank is giving out canvas bags for free.

If upcycling's your game, it's quite easy to upcycle a t-shirt into a re-usable bag without even sewing. Check that out.

Plastic bottles

I still can't believe these sell. How can you put a free thing (water) in a bottle and charge money for it? What's next? Bottled air? Just use a glass at home or a water bottle or drinking fountains if you're out and about.


This is probably the trickiest because you have to be on your game. Sometimes when you get a drink the server (without asking) will put a straw right in there as a default option.

You just have to be quick. Add it to your order. "I'd like a ____ with-no-straw". I hyphenate it to emphasise how quickly you have to say it sometimes.

If you absolutely must have a straw - maybe you're under 3 (well done on reading my blog) or maybe you just really love the slurping sound at the end of a milkshake - you can also get re-usable straws made of metal. You know, like cutlery.

Bonus tip

If you're looking for some takeaway, ask if you can put it in your own container. Many places let you do this. If your local takeaway does, then add them to the Trashless Takeaway map.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

World Cup of Polllution

Australia has been eliminated from the Soccer World Cup, again. As I looked at the points table for Group C, I wondered how these nations compare in terms of greenhouse gases.

Here are the scores:

Not only does Australia pollute more per person than any of these nations, but the average Australian pollutes more than a French person, a Dane and a Peruvian combined.

These other nations are better at soccer and better at taking care of the planet.

And it's not just group C. It turns out that Australia is the highest polluting nation at this World Cup at 25 tonnes of greenhouse emissions per person.

Next worst is Saudi Arabia at 18 and Russia at 15. Hardly anyone even has half the greenhouse emissions of Australians.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Grab a bag from Bank Australia (for free)

Bank Australia is helping out Queenslanders with free calico bags, ahead of the state phasing out single-use plastic bags from this weekend.

At long last the state government is making shops be responsible and stop giving out single-use plastic bags. Shops will still be able to sell re-usable bags.

Bank Australia is an ethical bank that avoids lending to coal gas and oil companies - and even gives a percentage of its profits to community groups doing good things for our environment.

So to help people make this positive change, the bank is giving away these free calico bags. You don't even have to be a customer, though I do recommend being one - they have such great interest rates, and ethics.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Are we Scienceblind?

The book Scienceblind is about the intuitive theories we have about the world, why they're often wrong, and why we sometimes hold on to them despite overwhelming scientific evidence.

You might imagine I headed straight for the climate change chapter. Actually, I read the introduction first. But then straight to Chapter 7.

Climate and weather

Turns out that we really do confuse weather and climate. In surveys done on hot days, people are far more likely to agree that climate change is happening.

Should one day's weather in one tiny speck of the planet really change our mind about whether the entire planet is warming year after year, decade after decade? Probably not. But it does.

What can we feel?

The thing about intuitive theories is that they are based on what we perceive. We can't perceive this month's global average temperature and compare it to similar months over the last 3 decades. We sense today's temperature - right here, right now. So that's the data we use. Not very scientific.

Another thing we perceive is that serious climate change must lead to serious behavioural changes. The more fearful we are of such changes the more we are inclined to deny that climate change exists, or deny that it is serious.

So what's the solution

Often people don't know what it is they a rejecting. A study in which people were given the following description were found to be more accepting of global warming.

Earth transforms sunlight’s visible light energy into infrared light energy, which leaves Earth slowly because it is absorbed by greenhouse gases. When people produce greenhouse gases, energy leaves Earth even more slowly - raising Earth’s temperature.

A second solution is to inform people that 97% of scientists agree that human carbon emissions are causing climate change. People tend to think this figure is around 60-70%.

Finding out that the science community is practically unanimous resulted in people being more accepting of the reality of climate change and also more willing to take action.