Monday, 14 March 2016

The challenges of zero waste

The transition to zero waste has had its fair share of challenges. Zero waste is not a wide spread passion of the majority of the community, therefore it can feel a bit isolating and restrictive. The idea of whether I am actually making a difference plays in my mind all the time. Are the changes I am making around my home really enough?

After reading the book Zero Waste Home, and going back the "first R" of REFUSE, it is very true that zero waste starts from outside the home.


Social situations


I'm blessed to have a big family and too many friends to count on my fingers and toes but that does equate to a busy social calendar, where food is normally involved. To be honest I have felt a little apprehensive to pull out my own plates, cutlery and napkin which I brought from home, at a social gathering. I sometimes feel my actions come across as a judgment on other peoples actions. Friends and family have apologised to me when handing me leftovers covered in cling wrap or as they offer me a plastic bag, which I actually makes me feel super uncomfortable, as though people feel accountable to me.

With any new habit, the more I quietly pull out my own plates at a social gathering the easier it gets.

 

Grocery shopping

The biggest challenge has been finding deli counters/butchers that will consistently allow me to bring my own containers. It's been a hit and miss for me so far. Having worked in a big chain supermarket before, I know how easy it is the tare a container before filling it up. I understand that there could be some hygiene or food safety concerns, so I've decided to make a stand and if the person on the other side of the counter does not accept my container I just go without. Let my dollars do the talking.

We've cut down greatly on how much meat, chicken and animal products we eat but not completely. My containers and I have gotten lots of odd looks, lots of staff trying to shove my purchases in a plastic bag before cramming it into my container. I've even had a cashier put a single, new plastic bag into my tote bag for no reason, so I politely removed it and said "I really don't need this thank you."

As much as I try to avoid supermarkets, sometimes I can't. I shop at the Asian store a lot for sauces, snacks, pastes and coconut milk, but I've come to realise that there is not many zero waste options in there. Noodles and snacks are normally HEAVILY or INDIVIDUALLY packaged in plastic. One of our favourite snacks from the Asian store is dried seaweed and the amount of packaging that comes with it is literally disgusting. The kids and I really miss eating it, but the solution lies in getting the kids excited about picking snacks from the bulk section and letting them try a new snack each time we go.


Eating out

Similar to grocery shopping I'm confused when disposables and single use items and almost forced on me after I have said I don't need them. I have gotten a bit of an attitude at some smaller cafes when asking them to use my own coffee cup. I will never understand cafes and restaurants who use disposables for patrons who are dining in. We don't eat out very frequently for this and many other reasons but I didn't want zero waste to become overly restrictive. Eating out zero waste, like anything else, just requires a bit of planning and being proactive.

Non-recyclables already in my home

As I declutter the way through our belongings, I'm currently in a situation where I have things to get rid of that, but I have no idea where they should go. These items have already been knocked back by the Salvos/op shops. I've tried cash converters for goods that I thought were worth something but it turns out they were worth peanuts. I've offered goods up for FREE on local trading pages and nothing. I've asked friends and family if they needed them, whilst feeling guilty that I was shoving my crap onto others.

So what do I do? This begs the question of why, as a developed country, we don't have sustainable waste management for lots of items, such as worn out shoes and electronics that work but may be out of date. For now these items are sitting in a box in the laundry but I hope this box is somehow  removed from my home by the end of the year in a sustainable manner.


This post is not meant to discourage anyone from going Zero Waste. I want others who may be going through the same adjustments and predicaments as me, to know that you aren't the only one and that there is no such thing as a perfect "zero waster."

My intention is also to show that there will be obstacles and moments where you have to take a step back and see where your values lie. Zero waste forces you off auto pilot and gives you the chance to say "Now, wait, hang on. There has to be a better way to do this."

I hope this post triggers a "Now wait, hang on." moment in your everyday life. Even beyond zero waste, to how you are in your everyday interactions and where you are investing your time and energy. Take a moment and see if you could do something better. Anything. I'm sure, like me, dealing with waste and rubbish was never on your radar, because as long as the garbage person came to empty the bins when they were full, well then we didn't have a problem. I think it's safe to say that we may just have a bigger problem than we think.

Step 96,


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