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Waste Warrior of Walkerville – Karen Murphy

Karen lives in Walkerville with her husband and two school aged children. In recent years her family have made a commitment to reducing their waste. Here’s how:

What inspired you to reduce your waste? How long have you been doing this?
  • I have always tried to do the right thing with regards to correct management and placement of waste.
  • Since starting a family of my own (over a decade ago), the idea of sending waste to landfill has continually played on my mind – it can’t be good for the environment or future generations and surely, we must be running out of room. Found the thought of garbage, especially food waste, being buried quite sickening.
  • Our first big change was diverting food waste via the green organics bin. I would guess we have been doing this for at least 5 years.
  • Last year, ABC’s ‘War on Waste’ series was a big motivation boost, this time our focus was directed at plastic.
  • Reading and understanding more about plastic – we currently have more plastic in the world than we know what to do with; for some plastic types we don’t have recycling solutions/uses; plastic degrades in each recycle loop; it takes hundreds of years to breakdown and our oceans are drowning in it – really made me see that we need to reduce our use, especially for single use items. Energy and valuable resources went into its production and to dispose of it after a single use is crazy.
  • We have all become too complacent with our use of plastic. Too many think, that because it can be recycled, that it’s ok to use as much as we want.
  • I have also followed and been inspired by others on social media who are blogging their waste reduction journey.
  • East Waste’s ‘Why Waste It?’ campaign has been a great parallel to all of my efforts, making me stop and think before sending something to landfill.
How do you avoid and reduce waste?
  • I think there is definitely a relationship between healthy eating habits and the amount of waste you produce. For us, eating lots of fresh fruit & veg, making most of our own meals/snacks/treats, minimising processed & takeaway foods and avoiding bottled drinks helps us keep our waste to a minimum.
  • I try to shop as close to the source of the food we eat; fruiterer, butcher, fishmonger, baker, pasta kitchen. In doing so, I can avoid pre-packed items, use my own bags/containers, or ask about different packaging options.  Love being more local!20180809_091900_resized
  • I use compostable bags for all of my fresh produce, fruit & veg, meat & fish and bread. In the case of fruit & veg, I keep the items in the bag for storage and once the bag is empty it goes into by kitchen caddy or in the reuse pile.  My collection of re-usable shopping bags includes compostable bags to use again plus the new roll so I’m never left without one. Also keep a few in my handbag for the unexpected.
  • I avoid all pre-packed fruit & veg, whether it be in soft or hard plastic. With the exception of strawberries and blueberries which are now more a ‘sometimes’ purchase.IMG_8370
  • For butcher meat, compostable bags are the go over BYO containers as I do a bulk shop at our family butcher that lasts us around 6 weeks, so it all goes in the freezer. There is no leakage or freezer burn and I feel much better putting a messy bag in the organics bin rather than sending a smelly plastic one to landfill.20180813_095431_resized
  • Use self-serve for nuts, seeds, grains, dried fruit and spices; using fabric or parchment paper bags to collect and store in glass jars. These items were previously purchased in either soft or hard plastic.  We now have over 25 pantry items that are purchased packaging free.
  • Where packaging can’t be avoided; I purchase the greatest amount that we know we will use before the best before/expiry date, look at a more concentrated version that will last longer or try using less.
  • In each area of the house, try to keep things as simple and to a minimum. In the kitchen for example, cut back on the number of sauces, dressings (I make my own), spices, herbs etc.
  • Try to avoid products containing individually packaged items.
  • Avoid all mainstream cleaning products; including laundry/dishwashing liquid & powder, surface/bathroom/toilet/window cleaners. We have now changed all of our products over to bulk or refill purchases.  So much happier with what we are now using as they are powered by natural ingredients so better for us and the environment.
  • Use a combination of sandwich wraps, compostable bags and containers for packed work and school food.
  • Use a water filter and soda stream.
  • Say no to plastic shopping bags, receipts, junk mail.
  • Choose e-gift over gift cards, email over postal, rechargeable over new batteries.
  • We pass on things to friends & family, school fairs and charity groups. Or use ‘Pay it Forward’ groups and driveway giveaways for items that are not suitable for resale but still have some life left in them.

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  • When I have time, get crafty or sew. I have made gift wraps & bags, fabric tissue holders for on the go, Father’s Day treats in jars.
  • Try to be more like my grandparent’s generation; pop a hanky in the pocket, get out the mending kit or tools, store food in jars, make and bake food, go back to basics!
  • Striving towards zero waste to landfill as an individual household can be time consuming and somewhat obsessive – I have certainly found myself guilty of this! I have to keep reminding myself that it’s more important to help with the bigger picture than achieving zero waste at my house.  I’m aware of households in my street where food waste is still going to landfill – trying to influence this would result in a much bigger impact overall.
What items do you reuse?
  • Water bottles; we also have a large carrier that goes on longer outings in case we need to refill.
  • Lunch wraps, coffee cups, Boost Juice cups and metal straws.
  • Jars; to store items from bulk stores or freshly ground peanut butter.
  • Wash and store jars for others – there are lots of individuals and groups around town who want jars. Also doing this for various plastic containers that I think others might have a use for.  Offer on Facebook group ‘Container Swap Adelaide’.
  • Take away containers; great for sending leftovers home with guests.
  • Plastic produce bags (when I can’t avoid); this is the bin liner for all of our landfill rubbish.
  • Paper from school work or received in the post; print on the other side or cut up for notes.
  • Plastic zip packaging from retail purchases; great for storing things in or when packing for holidays.
  • Old clothing; cut up and use for cleaning or spills.
  • Gift bags, birthday cards, envelopes.
  • Pump sprays and refill bottles; we are now at the stage where we ‘refill the refill’ from bulk supply stores.
  • Keep hard to recycle items for school projects and activities.
  • Indirectly, we have switched to buying paper towel & toilet paper that contain recycled paper and look for products containing recycled plastic.
What items do you recycle?
  • We try to send all items that have a recycle path in that direction.
  • This means we have many collection points throughout our house, including soft plastics, light globes, batteries, dental products, metals and more.
  • Some require ‘dropping off’ if they are not accepted curb side.
  • If time permits, we’ll separate packaging components or parts of a landfill item to see if at least some of it can be recycled or composted, e.g. pull a plastic layer away from paper wrapping, remove plastic seal from aluminium lid, or find a coil of metal in a pen.
  • We have also been trying to reduce what we send to recycling by avoiding and reducing, particularly plastic.
 What items do you compost?
  • For us, composting is making full use of the accepted items in the green organics bin, if it’s on the list, it goes in.
  • Jeffries make composting for all households achievable – keeping food waste separate is the easy part.
  • Our kitchen caddy lives on the counter and each bathroom has a container for tissues, compostable cotton buds, hair and nail clippings.
  • Now using ‘Full Circle’ all cotton dish cloths that are compostable at the end of their life, but don’t think they will go to the green bin for a while yet.
  • We have two green curb side bins and at this time of the year, both are full each fortnight.
Have you inspired others to avoid, reduce, reuse, recycle or compost their waste?
  • I’ve had quite a few people ask about my use of the compostable bags (their bright green colour helps), who have then visited their council to collect a caddy and bags so they can start composting.
  • More so through social media, it’s a lot easier to encourage change online than through face to face contact.
  • At the moment, people like me are more the minority, so it can be hard to talk to others about it (strangers are easier than friends). But hopefully as more people jump onboard this will shift.
  • Also, there is a fine line between getting someone to jump onboard and putting them off entirely!
  • Working with my son’s junior school who are wanting to reduce their landfill waste.
  • Currently visiting neighbours in our street, asking them if they read my article in About Town and if they are aware that all food organics go in the green bin. Adding if needed, that the cost of sending food to landfill is twice as much as to the green organics bin.  Also encouraging them to pick up a caddy from the council.
  • Contacting supermarkets, businesses, manufacturers about packaging, offering suggestions and encouraging them to look towards solutions supporting the circular economy.
 Are there any tips you would like to share on how to make it easier for people to avoid, reduce, reuse, recycle or compost their waste?
  • I think the first step is awareness – wake up to waste – start taking more notice of what you are buying, how you are buying it, what’s going into your curb side bins, how full they are, are things in the right bin etc.
  • Start with the easiest changes or the things that will have the biggest impact.
  • Make full use of the kitchen caddy and green organics bin – I believe this is one of the easiest changes to make and has a big impact on landfill waste.
  • Motivate and educate yourself so you understand what/why we need all need to avoid, reduce and reuse –
  • follow East Waste (on social media, via email, read their blogs online)
  • use their ‘whichbin’ search tool if you’re unsure what do to with an item
  • take one of the Wingfield tours offered by KESAB – the mountains of landfill waste are eye opening!
  • watch ABC’s ‘War on Waste’
  • join social media groups (e.g. Zero Waste Adelaide; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in Radelaide, Container Swap Adelaide)
  • follow someone blogging their waste journey
  • Make use of the resources (many are free) in your community rather than purchasing new items yourself – library for books, CDs, DVDs; toy library for quality toys, games, puzzles; repair cafés etc
  • Remember that what works for one household may not work for another, we all have different budgets, time constraints, resources available, understanding, levels of energy etc. So, don’t look down on others or feel like you’re not doing enough.
Why do you think it is important to reduce our waste?
  • Love the following saying; There is NO Planet ‘B’.
  • Unfortunately, our actions over the last 50+ years have caused far too much destruction, overuse of the world’s resources, overconsumption and as a result more waste that can be dealt with.
  • We are all responsible for turning this around and need to stop the ‘it’s not my mess, so I won’t clean it up’ mentality.
  • For me it’s also about a personal desire to leave the smallest footprint and hopefully inspire others to do the same.