Thursday, 26 July 2018

I'm Feeling like a War on Waste Warrior

Photo taken at Radical Bay on Magnetic Island 
 Clean,  plastic free and rubbish free beaches and oceans like this one at Magnetic Island off the coast of  Townsville in North Queensland  are worth protecting. I have just watched the powerful and thought provoking second episode of the War on Waste series on the ABC and I am feeling quite disturbed by it.  I realise that I am also guilty of committing a few unintentional recycling sins this week, despite my best efforts at the supermarket and in my kitchen to follow the War on Waste rule book. There is a lot to think about, not made any easier by the confusion that still exists for the consumer with some areas of recycling.

When I started blogging, I never intended to use it as a social platform for environmental or political issues, but more  as a means of sharing my love and recipes for simple and healthy food with family and friends. During my daily activities I have been quietly working away in my kitchen and my home trying to reduce my use of plastic, and support the environment in lots of ways as many ordinary people have been. However this is a chance to add my humble voice to those of many who are trying to protect our beaches, waterways and marine life from the ravages of plastic and pollution.

I thought that buying The Odd Bunch of capsicums at Woolworths would be helping the farmers, and reducing food waste as we will use them all in various ways regardless of the size. However I have realised there is another layer to this. The packaging is outsourced by Woolworths to another company, the result being a plastic mesh bag so that the contents can be seen. Is this plastic bag destined for landfill or can it be recycled? There is nothing on it to indicate either way. The solution is probably to reuse it in my vegetable crisper to keep other loose vegetables together as much as that idea doesn't really appeal to me. A string or hemp bag sounds like a much better alternative.

My second mistake was buying a bottle of Mineral water so that I could enjoy a fruit shrub at home as a mixed drink on ice. What was I thinking, of course it is in a plastic bottle? I guess it can be recycled although I can't see any logo indicating that, except that in SA and the NT there is a 10c refund at collection depots in the state it was purchased. Come on Queensland, come on board with this too. In addition, Craig Reucassel, the host of the War on Waste series did some scientific analysis with an expert on tap water against various brands of bottled water and concluded that our clean tap water has as many minerals as most types of bottled water, and that tap water should actually be marketed as mineral water. Okay Craig, no more Bottled mineral water will be coming into my home. However the label on the Sparkling Mineral water bottle says it is is refreshingly bubbly, and hydrates my senses, yeah sure Woolworths. So will tap water.

Meat packaged in plastic trays are a dilemma for recycling, with a lack of consistent labelling laws contusing even the experts at Planet Ark. However whilst Planet Ark has been instrumental in introducing the Australasian Recycling Label, it needs to be compulsory for all products to bear this symbol. Woolworths was the first major supermarket company to adopt this label for it's own brand products however there are still discrepancies.

The following are some of the Australasian Recycling Labels to be found on supermarket products.
If you see this logo on your box of chocolates it can be recycled. Photo made available by Planet Ark.

Photo supplied by Planet Ark

The public including me is still confused at times. The  black plastic trays for some meat  products aren't recycled at the depots, as the recycling depots can't recognise them because they are black and confuse the recycling sorting equipment so they all end up in landfill. Some are labelled with very small labels which are difficult to read, confusing shoppers. These meat trays, often unwashed, were part of the Contaminated recycling issue which convinced China to stop taking our recycling. So now we need to step up. The War on Waste program quoted lots of impressive statistics which I won't try to repeat. However I was really impressed by the number of young people who are actively trying to protect our ocean life in various ways. Turtles, fish and various other sea creatures are suffering from their consumption of our plastic.

The Straw No More campaign is just the tip of the waste iceberg, but yielding results. The War on Waste program highlighted that Schools in Cairns in Far North Queensland are getting rid of straws and drawing attention to the problem. It is mostly straws from Macdonalds fast food chain that are being found in the waterways. It was heart rending to see footage of turtles with straws stuck in their nose, and plastic stuck under their shells which can't be removed as the turtle is encased by their shell. They will probably die from this. Young ambassadors in Cairns and elsewhere are trying to raise awareness of this problem, however the older generation also has the power to activate change.

I watched Q&A on Monday night on the ABC, and one of the points they  emphasised was the power we as the consumer has to force more change in supermarket practices. So I think the next stage for me is to find the Woolworths Facebook page and alert them at least to the meat packaging problem, and the packaging of the Odd Bunch in plastic bags.

Discarded clothing for recycling

I have written enough on this for now, and I am feeling quietly confident that change is on the way and that each individual by changing a few longstanding habits can bring about a reduction in the community's use of plastic. If you have read this but didn't see Tuesday night's program on the War on Waste I hope you do and find it as interesting as I did.

Best wishes



  1. There is now a 10 cent deposit scheme in NSW as well as SA and NT. :)

    Our local council regularly runs tours of both the waste depots and the waste water plants. Might be worth seeing if yours does the same. I'm planning to go to mine when I get a chance as I think I would learn a lot.

    We are very good on recycling here in this house. I always wash everything before putting it in the recycling but a lot of plastic containers actually get reused several times here in our house before they even go to recycling - I use them to put wet food that cannot go directly on the ground (like lactose free yoghurt or wet mash) on for the chooks and then they get rinsed off and reused again a couple more times that fortnight. Usually once I get new containers the next shopping fortnight, I will give the used ones a very good rinse with hot water and away they go to the recycling bin.

    I also reuse egg cartons not only for our girls eggs but also once they get a bit ratty, I rip off the top half and they get used for the chooks mostly dry treats once, then to recycling. The bottom halves go to the local kindy for "art" purposes.

    I have a Sodastream and a filter tap. I have two Sodastream plastic bottles which are used to keep cold water in the fridge, then I make my own "refreshingly bubbly" mineral water via the Sodastream unit which has a CO2 cartridge. These go back to the retail store when empty for recycling and they are recycled over and over again.

    We only ever have one small bag of landfill rubbish each fortnight. Our recycling bin is always completely full of *actual* recycling. :)

    I think many of us are trying to do these things in our own small ways. I'm concerned now that it is a wasted effort, does my recycling actually get recycled? And why on earth don't we have the ability to do that here in our own country? We need that here as a matter of urgency. :)

    1. We need to get this 10 cent deposit scheme started in Qld. Can't be outdone by the other states:) Thanks for your interesting comments, and a Sodastream sounds a must. I think we owned one many moons ago.Sounds like you are setting a fine example with recycling practices. Thanks, Pauline

  2. I also watched Q &A and The War on Waste, Pauline. I learned quite a few things too. We do need consistency as regards the recycling labels on products. It is great to see school children starting to become aware of how they can reduce the waste their school is throwing out and also at home as well. There were a lot of uneaten lunches in the rubbish bins at the school which featured on Tuesday night. I am sure the parents would have been thrilled.

    1. Yes Chel I was amazed by the amount of school lunches not eaten as well. I'm sure a lot of parents were horrified to see that. Still all the discussions are positive. Thanks, Pauline

  3. Some It's really difficult to figure out which plastic can be recycled. Our city recycling center says 'toss it out when in doubt' but I wish that all manufacturers mentioned whether containers, trays are recyclable.

    'Hydrate your senses' made me laugh. 😀

    1. Nil I'm still waiting for my senses to be hydrated LOL. Thanks Pauline

  4. Hi Pauline, one of the best investments I made was a soda stream to make my own soda water. Its cheaper per bottle, you don't lug home heavy bottles and the bottles that come with the soda stream although plastic last for years. The banning of supermarket bags is an important first step, not just to change the habits but it raises awareness, as we are noticing plastic in other areas. Butchers used paper once as did delis, maybe we need to go back in time to deal with the future!

    1. Julie I love it when I buy ham and bacon etc at independent delis and shops and they sometimes wrap it in paper. I still remember buying meat from the butcher back in the 60s and 70s with Mum and how they wrapped it. Yes a soda stream sounds like a good investment. Catch up soon. Thanks, Pauline.

  5. I really feel that with waste and recycling every little bit counts. I think back to the number of straws that I used to use and it adds up. It also starts to become quite addictive which is good.

    1. Yes more and more people are thinking and talking about it which is a good thing. Removing plastic straws from pubs would be a great start.Thanks Lorraine


Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really enjoy hearing from you.
If you would like to receive follow up comments, simply click the "Notify me" link to the right of the "Publish" and "preview" buttons.
Comments containing personal or commercial links will not be published.
(c)2014-2022 Copyright on articles and photographs by Hope Pauline McNee