why go zero waste

As I introduced last post, I've gone zero waste. It means I do my very best to avoid unnecessary packaging - catch up on that here.

Why have I gone 'zero waste'? Well it's pretty simple:

1. Because modern lifestyles produce an extreme amount of waste 
and this waste is polluting our environment and negatively impacting on the lives of everything on it - birds, fish... even us.

2. Because recycling isn't the answer.
There's a particular issue with plastics recycling. PET plastics in particular - the kind of plastic that water, milk and juice bottles are made of - can't actually be re-cycled, rather it is down-cycled. By that I mean that it's never recycled into a product of equal quality. That plastic soft drink bottle can never be another drink bottle again. 

Instead, much of the PET bottles we place in our kerbside recycling bins are sent overseas (mostly China and Vietnam) for processing into flakes that are then used to manufacture items such as wood-like plastic decking, park benches and other such 'recycled plastic' products.

You don't think that's a problem?

The next layer of the story is this: the processing of our old plastic bottle waste into flakes for re-use occurs, as I mentioned above, mostly in China and Vietnam. Here, much of the processing is undertaken by impoverished communities as a way of bringing in income. 

Sadly, the process requires the use of toxic chemicals and a lack of safety protocols means that workers are exposed. Often, entire families are involved in the processing, meaning children can regularly be exposed to these toxins too.

You can hear the full story on this issue via this RN radio segment.

3. Because I've allowed myself to feel deeply enough (please watch):

MIDWAY a Message from the Gyre : a short film by Chris Jordan from Midway on Vimeo.

I PROMISE, next post will be uplifting! I'll talk you through a starter kit for transitioning into zero waste living and it'll make you feel REEEEAAAAAL GOOOOOD!



  1. Just heart breaking. How can people still choose to use things like disposable water bottles when it's such an easy swap to carry a stainless stell reusable bottle....

    I didn't realise that PET plastic can only be down cycled, thanks for sharing. I'm interested to hear how you navigate through avoiding some everyday items like milk bottles (move to Germany where they use glass everything? Haha).

    1. Hi Niki, milk bottles have been an issue for me. I'm lactose intolerant and the only lactose-free milk brands I can find come in plastic bottles. I've been procrastinating on making the tough decision that I need to make... which is to stop drinking milk! I will be making my own nut milk from now on. If you drink regular milk, there are a few brands that come in glass bottles:

      Elgaar Farm
      Miranda Dale
      Red Cow Dairies
      Udder Farm

      Hope that helps!

  2. Well done Maria. Thank you so much for giving this issue more exposure. Educating ourselves about what recycling actually means will give us perspective on the fact that it is still waste. All the best and I am inspired by your journey to ensure I continue to improve my ways too!

  3. Hi Maria, I've been reading your blog for many years now.

    I work as a residential disability support worker with an organisation that has about a dozen or so houses, with varying numbers of residents - generally about 6.

    I've often contemplated the possibility of these being waste free, but the challenges, as you may well image, are quite large. Everything seems, for the most part to be geared around making things/processes as quick, hygienic, cheap and as efficient as possible, regardless of the waste generated, let alone giving thought to such issues as, the nutritional value of the food, food miles, seasonality and the ethics of how the food is produced or whether or not certain chemicals are necessary or have better substitutes.

    But regardless of the challenges, I'm still considering how I may be able to come up with a proposal I can give to the senior managers and team leaders about how a transition to zero waste (or far less waste) might be possible. Sincerely i don't think zero waste, or even little waste, is possible, in this context: the waste is enormous; I suspect many workers’ attitudes to the status quo are deeply entrenched; cost/time is everything; most of the residents LOVE and have rights to their processed/packaged foods, it's all they've known and makes the job far easier for workers not to change that or be hassled - on top of all the other demands - by anything more time consuming (that said there is an emphasis made on healthy food choices).

    But despite what i believe is not possible or, at least, very hard work, perhaps its worth trying and little changes are better than none at all. Well your last few posts have, at least, reignited this concern in me.

    Do you purchase items (food or cleaning) from plastic bulk containers to put in your own reusable ones? I've considered my work place setting aside a room at its main office which can be used for bulk items, which then can be distributed to the houses. But what happens to the bulk plastic buckets and tubs I wonder. Are they recycled or reused? Is it a case of outsourcing one’s waste? Are there better alternatives?

    Anyway I hope your strategies, efforts and solutions might inspire me in some way to take some active steps in this regard, and push me past my own tendency to doubt myself and not want to rock the boat.

    Thank you


    1. Hi Esther, how wonderful that you are wanting to make changes in your workplace like this. I can imagine what it's like.

      I think that in order to really 'sell' the idea to your managers, you'd need to show them that reducing waste, purchasing fresh food unpackaged and in bulk might actually reduce costs.

      I try to take my own containers to fill up on those sort of goods from bulk stores, however I believe that even if you purchase large bulk containers yourself, that still saves quite a bit of plastic. Those bulk containers can often be recycled - you'd just need to check with the supplier.

      You know, one interesting way of creeping these concepts in to the organisation may just be to advocate for a kitchen garden that residents are able to be part of and maintain. That sort of thing really sparks something in people, it's a small first step towards wanting fresher food, cleaner products, less waste etc. Have you seen this Gardening Australia clip on a similar initiative in an injury rehab hospital? Check it out, it's very interesting. http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s4210409.htm

      Good luck with it all Esther, hope you can create some action there! It is definitely very difficult to change organisational culture, but not impossible if you get the right allies on board!

      Also, if you're located in or near Melbourne, do check out the South East Food Hub for sourcing fresh locally grown produce affordably://www.southeastfoodhub.org/

  4. Thanks Maria!

    I missed that episode of Gardening Australia. What a fantastic guy and initiative. The disabled persons where I work are generally quite different, but that's not to say it couldn't work or offer benefits. Some long term staff in some of the houses here (Geelong and the surf coast) have established some excellent gardens, mainly ornamental. Kitchen gardens are a great idea, and can potentially solve a lot of issues.

    I'll start looking into costs, alternatives, suppliers etc and see what I can up with to present at the next team meeting, or one after. If I start small, say with the house I'm contracted to, then maybe word will spread and/or it can potentially be modelled over the whole organisation, which is still a very personable one...



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