12 December 2018

Joining the Zero-Waste Revolution this Christmas

| Rebecca Vassarotti MLA
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Tis the season to go zero-waste.

Christmas is a timing of giving. It is a time where we come together with family and friends to reflect on the people that are important in our lives. It is a time where many of us show our love and affection through gifts, food and celebration.

There are a few downsides though. Christmas can be expensive. It can also be wasteful. We are living in an age of consumerism and where our appetite to buy more things has become almost insatiable. There are many people wondering if we can do things better. Of course, it is not just Christmas where we face this dilemma. There are many dedicated people working on ways to motivate and assist people to reduce their waste.

The immensely popular War on Waste program on the ABC tapped into a general unease about the level of waste our current lifestyles are creating. It was significant in raising our awareness of some of the key issues. It also aimed to provide ideas of things we could all do to reduce our waste. It has had an impact. It was really interesting going to coffee shops after the takeaway cup episode in the first series and seeing the number of people with KeepCups. A similar change in behaviour was witnessed after the plastic straws episode aired.

We now have our own local group who is aiming to help us reduce our waste. A group of local women recently established the ‘Zero Waste Revolution’. This is a new community organisation aimed at inspiring households to reduce their waste stream. They have started with a bang – with a showcase at the Legislative Assembly attracting 80 people and a Zero Waste Christmas workshop last week selling out.

The recent zero waste Christmas workshop held in Canberra: Photo: Supplied.

The recent zero waste Christmas workshop held in Canberra: Photo: Supplied.

Local women Mia Swanson, Jennifer Tonna, Melody Simenic and Amardeep Wander have set up this organisation because they’re passionate about inspiring people to reduce their waste. “We’re encouraging people to take the next step towards zero waste, the step that’s most appropriate for them. For some people, it’s about collecting and dropping off their soft plastics for recycling. For others, it’s about taking up a ‘buy nothing new challenge’,” Says Mia Swainson, Zero Waste Revolution’s Chair.

A key learning from the work to date is we all need to get on board. People create waste and we all need to work to reduce our consumption and the waste it creates. We need to make considered choices such as creating our own products, buying local and participating in groups that are looking at sharing resources, such as the local ‘buy nothing groups’ that are now popping up in local neighbourhoods.

It’s also clear that business has a role. Business needs to look at the wastage created through the production cycle, including the packaging phase. This isn’t just the big multinational companies. We do have power as consumers and can encourage our local businesses to reduce waste. We need to reinforce the notion that ‘If we can’t reuse, recycle it, compost it, industry shouldn’t be making it’.

Governments are also key to making this happen. Their contribution is in making sure we have the tools and access to switch to a zero-waste lifestyle. We already have some great programs to this end. The ACT was one of the early jurisdictions to ban plastic bags. We have always been good recyclers and now we have the container collection program. The glaring omission is kerbside organic waste collection (food waste). There is still silence on such a program here in the ACT, despite the fact that 40 per cent of Australia’s landfill is made of food waste. Here we can use our power as citizens and voters to ask Governments to do better.

I think we all should get on board with the zero waste revolution. What are your tips to reduce waste this festive season?

Find out more about Zero Waste Revolution by visiting their Facebook page. Sign up to the mailing list or volunteer to get involved by emailing zerowasterevolution@gmail.com.

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While I agree we certainly need to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill I think we need to think about what can be done on a neighbourhood scale first, before putting out another bin to be collected by yet another truck. For example, how feasible is it to set up a composting system in those local bits of degraded spare land that some people call parks and others call overflow car and trailer parking? The output could the be used to improve soil quality, or even be made available for locals to use on their gardens.

If you do buy Christmas Paper (and other wrapping paper) try and avoid paper with plastic. Only get paper which can be recycled and is biodegradable.
Also avoid glitter. Micro plastic.

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