Join the war on waste. Here’s how to act to reduce our food, fashion and plastic footprint

Australia. We are at war with waste.

We can’t keep making things, use them once or twice, and then bury them forever. So how do we reduce our waste? How to recycle it correctly?

And above all, how to stop considering it as waste?

We’ve made progress, but there’s still a lot of work to do, and some of the solutions start at home.

In fact, we know many of you are already taking steps to reduce your waste footprint, so let us know what you’re doing, and we’ll share your insights in the weeks to come.

“So Craig, what else can I do?” »

I’m glad you asked.

First, watch the new series on ABC iview (and obviously share it widely).

Now that you’re feeling inspired, here’s a handy collection of my top picks for getting involved, helpfully broken down (see what I did there?) by topic.

plastic waste

Craig Reucassel stands in front of 100kg of soft plastics at Manly Beach on a sunny day

While industrial and commercial waste is a problem, so are household habits across Australia. (ABC)

Australia has a big plastic problem. Our annual plastic consumption produces the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as 5.7 million cars.

In 2020-21, we generated approximately 2.6 megatons of plastic waste. Half of this waste was commercial and industrial waste – but most of the rest has been produced by households, meaning what we do at home can really make a difference.

Think about it: Recycling alone will not solve the problem. You see, currently we recycle 13% of plastics, which is far from enough. It is therefore crucial to avoid plastic when you can. Here are some ideas to help you achieve this:

  • Support the BYO Friday initiative: The BYO Friday initiative encourages people to bring their own cups and containers to go on Fridays (because we know Mondays are hard enough!) But earn your superhero cape and aim for every day.
    An aquatic poster with a whale fin sticking out of a trash can and

    We’ve partnered with Responsible Cafes to create this poster which will be displayed in hundreds of cafes, businesses, schools and workplaces across Australia – you can share it too!

  • Say no to plastic in your daily life: Plastic Free July is a global movement where millions of people are part of the solution to plastic pollution. It’s easy – just choose to refuse single-use plastics in different parts of everyday life.
  • Learn about recycling: Are you a confused mess trying to figure out where your now empty pizza box should go? Test your recycling knowledge with the ABC News quiz Loading
  • 13% is not the magic number: Although the average Australian mixes up their waste and recycling doesn’t help, it’s not the cause of our plastic problem. Experts say we’ve had insufficient investment in recycling and too little incentive to prioritize recycled content over virgin fossil fuels. Making plastic from virgin fossil fuels instead of recycled content doubles greenhouse gas emissions. Put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and let big business or government know if you want to see them do better.

Back to the top

food waste

How many of your black-spotted bananas end up in the trash? Or the vegetables you intended to cook? Or leftovers from dinner that “you’ll definitely have for lunch tomorrow”?

Australia sends 7.6 million tonnes of household and commercial food waste landfilled every year. It’s hard to imagine those kinds of volumes, so let’s look at it another way.

A close up of an overripe banana looming menacingly over a bowl of tomatoes and citrus fruits

Is this a familiar sight in your kitchen? (ABC News: Danielle Maguire)

Australian households throw away an average of $2,500 worth of groceries each year. Ouch. This means that approximately one in five bags of food is discarded carelessly. In an average four-person household, that’s half a ton of food waste per year!

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