One of the main reasons we struggle to be environmentally friendly in our day-to-day executions comes down to one very often naughty word – convenience! My conscience goes into convulsions whenever I scrape the last bit of peanut butter from the plastic container, or I am rushing to clean out the fridge before a dinner party… Yes, I am guilty of throwing the said peanut butter jar, or the half-empty mouldy tomato paste tin, directly in the bin! It takes a mountain of resistance to put aside ‘convenience’. Take a look at these stats to motivate yourself to get out the scrubbing brush from under the kitchen sink!
Time taken to Decompose:
The facts vary from source to source, but even so…each statistic is shocking…
Glass Bottles and Jars – never. Well, practically never. Some scientists say a million years… Egyptian Glass has been found that is over 2000 years old, so we can safely say it is best to recycle glass. Not everyone knows, however, that not all glass can be recycled. Did you know that bottles and jars are cool to send off to your recycling station but not your favourite wine glass! Most drinking glasses are made to melt at much higher melting points than your local glass recycling plant. This means you should repurpose your drinking vessels or purchase recyclable drinking glasses.
Paper – up to 3 months. Although alkaline paper, in optimal conditions can last up to 1000 years, as soon as it hits the dirt, is exposed to heat or mould, it breaks down rapidly. Paper made with metals however cannot be recycled – for example, foil gift wrap. Note to self when choosing whether a paper can be recycled… it crumples that’s a yes, if it does not crumple, no!
Citrus Peel – 6 months. Chook owners will tell you straight out that citrus peel can not be tossed to the hens. However as well as being a notable ingredient in improving soil nutrients, the humble orange peel is being studied as a possible source of biofuel and for helping scientists filter out heavy metals from groundwater. But watch this space… citrus peels are also being utilized in creating fabrics and vegan leather. Ferragamo scarves anyone?
Food Cartons – 5 years. What most people don’t know is that not all recycling stations recycle food cartons. If you can though, leave the little plastic lids screwed on, they will be removed and recycled too. Check out your local recycling station to make sure you can toss those food cartons in the recycling bin.
Cigarette Butt – 10 years, the cellulose acetate inside them – never. In addition, the toxic composition of a cigarette butt (for example arsenic and lead) leaches out, which can kill marine life and other animals. The cigarette butt is the most littered item in the world – up to 5 trillion of them are tossed into the environment every year, by thoughtless individuals.
Plastic Bags and Styrofoam – 500+ years. Of course, this relies on guestimation and the type of plastic bag and styrofoam, as now there are recyclable and biodegradable versions in the marketplace. Most supermarkets in Australia offer a soft plastic recycling service for your shopping bags, although the process of recycling them is as bad as making them. Basically, just stop using soft plastics and styrofoam wherever possible – and reuse anything that you have already. Although this is easier said than done when more and more food sellers are packaging up even a naturally packaged item like the humble banana in plastic wrap and styrofoam! Where are the pickets on plastic wrap peoples?
Disposable Nappy – it is estimated up to 150 years – although it is obviously untested seeing as we’ve only been using disposable nappies since the 1930s. Biodegradable disposable nappies break down not much faster and both standard and biodegradable disposable nappies release methane into the environment when buried in landfill. The jury’s out that cloth nappies are the least environmentally impactful way to manage your baby’s poo poos! However, if you must use disposable nappies, experts suggest you can speed up the composition process by shredding the nappy and placing them in a wormery …hmm…yes…maybe just grin and bear it with the cloth nappies!
Australia is one of the highest producers of waste per head of population in the world.
We throw out an average of $1036 of food every year per household
Thirty-eight percent of Australian rubbish bins are full of food waste – think of all the wasted energy and resources that have gone into producing that food! (Food Waste Avoidance Bench Mark Study-NSW). Plan your weekly groceries to save time, money, and waste. Download this Meal Planner to put your fridge. Write in your favorite meals and grocery list and watch your money grow!
World Waste Facts
It is estimated that currently 13,000 pieces of plastic litter are floating on every square kilometer of ocean surface and that number will grow exponentially if we don’t better manage our plastic production and end-of-life process.
This about this horrific cycle of violence…when an animal dies from plastic ingestion, the animal decomposes and the plastic reenters the environment ready to kill again.