Did you know that among developed nations, Australia is one of the countries that makes the most waste? About 67 million tonnes each year to be exact. A large percentage of this number comes from food and garden sources. And 130,000 tonnes of which is plastic that ends up in our oceans. So, it’s high time we help out and do our part. Read on to learn how you can be a home-based eco-warrior and start your zero waste kitchen today!
Australia’s War on Waste
Next to the United States, Australia is the world’s second-highest waste producer. Every year, each one of us creates about 690kg of waste to the landfill. When combined, we have sufficient waste to cover the entire state of Victoria! Here are some facts relevant to our war on waste:
- One Australian family throws about $3500 worth of food each year.
- Out of five shopping bags of purchased food, we throw one bag away.
- One-third of the rubbish collected from homes is food waste.
- Australians use over 10 million plastic bags every day.
- About 85% of our plastic packaging ends up in the landfill.
These concerning conclusions clearly show that food and plastic are the primary sources of household waste. The good news is, we can help and do something about it through waste free living.
Zero Waste Kitchen Swaps
The kitchen is the centre of waste production at home. That is why I believe starting a zero waste kitchen is one of the most effective solutions in saving our environment. Swapping a wasteful product to an eco-friendly option promises big payoffs and is a practice even your kids can do. Here are some examples for inspiration.
1. Plastic bags to cloth bags or totes
Time to go grocery shopping? Then you’ll likely come home with so much plastic bags that you don’t need. These are likely to end up in our oceans and take hundreds of years to decompose.
Swap tip: So, why not help reduce plastic bag waste by using cloth bags or totes? I like the canvas types as they can withstand heavy loads and are easy to wash. I also recommend reusable bags that fold up to a compact roll so you can slip them into your car compartment or work bag.
2. Single-use packaging to reusable food containers
While in the grocery store, I like checking out what’s new on every aisle. And it doesn’t help that they come in attractive but wasteful packaging.
Swap tip: Best to skip those sections and make your way to the bulk aisles instead. Bring reusable food containers along with your shopping tote for weighing and packing your staples without the extra plastic or paper. For example, buy spices in bulk rather than in individual plastic shakers. Purchase nuts, cereals, grains or dried pasta and place them in your reusable bulk or bread bags. Produce bags are perfect, too, and let your fruits and vegetables breathe.
3. Processed food to home-cooked meals
Processed food in tins and takeaways are convenient but come in packaging that adds to the waste we make. Also, these food options do not have the nutrients our family needs.
Swap tip: Use these food items sparingly and stick to home cooking whenever you can. They’re healthier and cost less, too. If time is the enemy, dedicate a day every week to do some meal prepping. This way, you can prepare a few meals ahead for quick reheating during the week.
4. Disposables to reusable cups and cutlery
Takeaways, be it coffee from the shop or fast food burger, produce multiple paper and plastic waste: the cup and lid, stirrer, burger box, food bag and plastic straw and cutlery. And that’s just one customer.
Swap tip: Making your coffee at home is so much better. You can store it in your reusable coffee cup, drink it on the go and skip the long café queue. Then, rather than bond over store-bought pizza and takeaways, why not organise a family picnic trip at the park? If you plan to do this often, it’s best to use a wicker picnic basket with reusable cutlery and utensils included.
5. Plastic cooking utensils to sustainable bamboo
Plastic kitchen spoons are not only wasteful but also dangerous to health. While inexpensive, their low-quality construction is not safe for constant heat contact.
Swap tip: Create a zero waste kitchen by filling your utensil jars with bamboo turners and spatulas. Bamboo is a highly sustainable resource, making it an eco-friendly choice. They’re more durable and look chic in the kitchen, too.
6. Food scraps to compost
Food wastes that go to the landfill produce several problems. When they break down, they emit a harmful greenhouse gas called methane. And, once they combine with other metals in the landfill, they create a toxic sludge that can easily seep and pollute our groundwater.
Swap tip: Save our atmosphere and water by investing in a compost bin or pail. These containers make composting at home so much easier. Fill them with vegetable peelings, rotten fruit and other food scraps then let them turn into compost. They even come with a filter to control odour and keep flies away. This swap tip is even better if you have a vegetable garden, where you can use your natural fertiliser for revitalising the soil and growing your food.
7. Plastic wrap to reusable wraps and covers
Yes, we do need to reduce food waste by storing leftovers properly. But reaching for a roll of plastic wrap or aluminium foil defeats our purpose. Plastic wrap is single-use and non-recyclable because of the complex chemicals that make it cling and stretch.
Swap tip: Enter beeswax wraps and bowl covers to the rescue! If you have the materials and the sewing skills, you can make cloth bowl covers. But for multipurpose and long-lasting quality, silicone bowl covers work best. Beeswax wraps, on the other hand, are great for covering irregularly shaped food items like cheese, bread and sliced vegetables or fruits. Look for reusable wraps that are fully compostable and have anti-bacterial properties.
8. Plastic storage to glass or stainless steel
Plastic food containers are lightweight, durable and reusable. But the problem is, they can also stain and absorb food odours. The chemicals used to make them can also leech and find their way into your food. Several washes and leftovers later, you’ll have to throw them away to purchase a new set.
Swap tip: I prefer multifunctional glass containers with snap-on lids. These containers keep food fresh in an airtight seal and are transparent, so you can easily see what’s inside. They are also safe for freezer, microwave and oven use. Stainless steel containers are also excellent alternatives.
9. Paper towels to washable cloth
Paper towels quickly come to mind when we need to wipe or dry something. Pull a sheet or two, use them, then into the bin they go. While convenient, paper cleaning products need resources and packaging to make, and eventually, just add up to landfill waste.
Swap tip: So, whenever you can, wipe your hands or those spills with a reusable rag or tea towel. I recommend using Swedish dishcloths. They are durable, colourful and, best of all, biodegradable.
10. Sponges to rags or compostable scrubbers
Wet and stinky sponges are breeding grounds for bacteria. They even disintegrate rather quickly and shed these tiny sponge pieces that go into our waterways. And after only a few weeks, we need to throw them out and buy new ones. With these cleaning tools, we’re not only adding up to waste but also wasting money.
Swap tip: For a zero waste kitchen, scrub pots and pans with wooden dish scrubbers, wash plates with loofa sponges and reach narrow openings of glasses with washcloths. These effective cleaners use natural materials that are long-lasting and biodegradable.
Small lifestyle changes go a long way! Start your zero waste kitchen habit today and let your kids join in the fun, too. And while you’re at it, check out these tips that will not only reduce waste but also save money.