War On Waste: winning hearts + minds

The ABC TV’s recent three-part series, War On Waste, has been phenomenally successful in penetrating the mainstream consciousness. It’s a part of conversations in the schoolyard, at my local shops (Wasteless Pantry) in community groups (Hills Food Share, Mundaring in Transition), BBQ and dinner talk with friends, media articles and coverage on Gen Y-focused programs like The Project and, of course, chatter plastered ALL OVER Facebook. This is one seriously hot button issue!

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such an incredible buzz from the mainstream population in the wake of an environmental documentary. Obviously, screening it on ABC gives it a certain clout and wide exposure, but it feels like more than that. An issue like this would typically elicit a response largely from fringe and activist groups. But perhaps we’ve reached that magical tipping point where it gains traction and real progress can be made, for example on legislation to #banthebag. I’m so disappointed that Western Australia still lags on this issue. Oh Premier, just do it!

Every Australian household is comprised differently with a variety of incomes, interests and available time. What some can/want to do, others can’t/won’t. That much was made very clear to me watching the documentary. However, as with most things, it’s about education and questioning the status quo, which is exactly what the War On Waste did for everyone who watched it. There’s no point preaching to people, you have to motivate and educate so they WANT to change.

Waste @ Edgefield

I like to think I was already a conscious consumer and a “waste reductionist”, but I found the War on Waste documentary life-changing. I, like so many other Australians, was shocked and appalled at the waste this country generates and was subsequently inspired to redouble my efforts on reducing my personal and household waste. And I’ve been delighted by the response of so many like-minded people around me.

These are some of the actions I’ve taken to further reduce waste in my household. I write this in the hope that perhaps it might inspire others with new ideas, NOT (I hope) to appear sanctimonious or self-indulgent.

  • All food scraps are given to our flock of 13 chickens.
  • Coffee grinds are thrown into the garden to add organic matter and/or used to deter snails around vulnerable seedlings.
  • All green waste is either given to the chickens, composted or mulched.
  • I’ve set up a shredding and composting bin station centrally in my home. All paper is shredded for chicken bedding and anything else (tissues, serviettes etc) is composted directly.
  • The Paper Trail: office/work use (one-sided) > kids’ artwork (the other side) > shredder > bedding in the chook yard > (fouled paper) compost pile > garden.
  • Newspapers and cardboard is stored for sheet-mulching new beds in the garden.
  • I wash and reuse all glass jars and some plastic containers too and have a dedicated storage cupboard.
  • Recycling bin (whatever is left)
  • Pantry set up using mostly glass jars and bottles (Vacola bottling equipment) to enable me to take them in cloth bags to my local bulk food store, Wasteless Pantry, for refilling.
  • Cloth bags, produce bags and plastic containers live permanently in my car ready for shopping trips.

Hasn’t Coles heard of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSA)?

I recently took my own containers to Coles deli section to have them filled, sans plastic, and was met with a very grumpy response. At first, the customer service rep told me she couldn’t do it. When I politely insisted and told her how to weigh the container on the scales, she promptly used a plastic bag to pick up the ham anyway, so it completely defeated the purpose!

I decided to speak with the Store Manager later and was unceremoniously shut down. He told me “don’t be ridiculous” when I suggested they use tongs for each product. I would have thought there was a better way to handle the situation. I didn’t expect this particular store manager to promise me on the spot that they would change their policy. But I did expect him to listen to my concerns as a community member, take on board my comments/suggestions and perhaps offer even a placation that he would do something with my feedback.

“Company policy” will have to change, like it or not, when single-use plastic is banned. Get ready Coles, it’s only a matter of time.