Zero Waste

Wandering around the world I am increasingly aware of our waste turning up on the coastlines, entering the oceanic food chain and littering our roadsides. I love to indulge in some beachcombing but the more rubbish I collect, the more I realise that the solution is to address the issue at source. That source is us and our overwhelming waste.
Coutesy of Surfrider Foundation
"Zero Waste" is a phrase that brings a reaction of incomprehension and fear of failure has condemned "Zero Waste" to the too hard basket. There is no doubt that waste is accumulating at an ever increasing rate and its implications are negative whether they be in the oceans or leaching from landfills. My adventures have taught me never to be put off by what is considered impossible. All long journey starts with small steps untill one day the goal looms on the horizon almost by surprise. It is time to make a start.

The mission is to take measures to reduce my non-biodegradable and not readily recyclable waste stream with an end goal of eliminating it altogether. This is not to be an austerity drive and its objective is to enhance lifestyle rather than detract from it. This is not about sacrifice.


The most effective strategy to achieve this is to reduce consumption which is why "zero waste" is an uncomfortable concept for those that see consumption as the driving factor in a growth economy which we are currently relying on. In reality it would be very difficult to eliminate consumption completely. The key here is identifying marketing manipulation while differentiating between need and want. The products end life in the waste stream is also worth considering.

Reject Packaging @ Store
As consumers we are often distanced from the manufacturing process and the people that make decisions on content, design and packaging. The closest we get to this is the retail outlet where we vote with our dollar. It is also here that we can reject excess packaging. Politely setting it aside for inclusion into the retailers waste stream.

Use a product for its full life or pass it on to someone else who needs it. A get out of jail free card if we can pass it on to some unsuspecting soul. Hoarding is not part of my Zero Waste program.

Recycling assuages a lot of guilt about throwing something away and many materials are not readily recyclable. Glass and metals are generally readily recyclable but plastics on the other hand are only actually recycled at a rate of just 7%. Recycling plastics is a dirty business with some nasty bi-products.

Practical Steps
These practical steps will not achieve zero waste on their own but small steps taken consistently cover a lot of distance in time.

1. Waterbottle. Using a metal waterbottle (metal avoids the issue of BPA leaching from plastic waterbottles) which can be refilled at the tap, avoids the disposal of single use plastic beverage containers. This has also saved me a heap of money so far!

2. No Straws. Straws are single use plastic that often turns up on the coastline and now come with "hygienic" packaging to add insult to injury. Given that I am not one of the small percentage of the population that use  lipstick there is no need for me to use straws. Not so easy is getting barmen to stop popping them into drinks.

3. Porcelain over Paper Cups. Opting for porcelain cups for coffee in cafes has avoided the use of single use disposable coffee cups. It also means that I take the time to enjoy the coffee rather than downing it "on the go". Win-win

4. No Sippa Lids. Sippa Lids are a single use plastic product. Drinking from proper cups has avoided the use of these. Who enjoys sucking coffee through these cheap plastic "sippa" caps anyway? Incidently these sippa caps are often polystyrene (denoted by a 6 in the recycling triangle) which is a known neurotoxin and suspected carcinogen.

5. No Plastic Shopping Bags. This was an easy one and while there is still some use of disposable plastic bags I get the feeling they are phasing out, at least in my corner of the world.

6. Compost By composting I have removed biodegradable matter from the waste stream and made the garbage bin a lot cleaner in the process. Maybe I do not need plastic garbage bags anymore?

7. Milk Bottles. Milk is available in many places in refundable and reusable glass bottles thus avoiding the ever increasing pile of plastic bottles that used to come from my milk consumption. The milk in these bottles is usually organic top quality milk which is delicious.
8. Carry Cutlery. By carrying a set of cutlery in my bag I have avoided the plastic cutlery at fast food outlets. Who wants to eat with plastic cutlery anyway?

9. Pencils over Pens.  A fully used pencil leaves a trail of mostly biodegradable shavings where as the pen leaves an empty plastic carcass.

10. Bread in Paper. Freshly baked bread generally comes with minimal packaging and hopefully just wrapped in a piece of paper. Recently I have found Lawson's Traditional Bread sold in paper bags in almost all the shops about town avoiding both the polyethylene bread bag and the plastic clip that keeps it closed. (

11. Ice Cream in Cones over Cups. Selecting ice cream in cones avoids the single use cup and plastic spoon. At the end of the job there is nothing left. Perfect!

12. Soapshakers. The use of a wire cage soapshaker that holds cakes of soap avoids the use of detergent in plastic bottles. They are hard to come by but the kiwis make and sell them at

13. Bamboo Toothbrushes. A great little innovation that stops us building a pile of spent plastic toothbrushes in our local waste facility. They are completely biodegradable, the bamboo handle and the nylon 4 bristles. Find them at and toss them in the compost bin when you are finished.

14. Sprout your own sprouts. Instructions are on the paper packet and can be found in health food stores. This avoids the plastic clam shell packets that sprouts are sold in, saves money and means that the sprouts are fresher too. All good!

15. Tell me more. What's the next step?