In Australia, our waste is out of sight and out of mind. Once we throw it away into the bin, it is magically whisked away for someone else to deal with. It’s time for us to understand two things: 1. there really is no such place as ‘away’, and 2. we need to take responsibility for our own waste.
But before we can deal with it, we need to understand what we’re dealing with.
So, kudos to Qantas who shared photos of the waste generated from the world’s first zero waste flight on their social media (top left photo). Extraordinary achievement!
Today, we’re showing you ours.
The little bag of rubbish on the right is the sum total of rubbish created by our Reverse Garbage stand at TEDx Sydney last week.
We’re happy to report 99% of the items on our display stand were reuse resources. That is, they weren’t new, only new to us.
How did we do it?
Setting the scene – For our backdrop we reused a plush red curtain that had previously performed at the major theatre. After being our backdrop at TedX, it went back on the floor at Reverse Garbage and was bought by a community theatre. The show must go on.
All of our posters were displayed in frames that have been donated by individuals who were tired of the art it held or framers who have excess stock and would otherwise have thrown them away.
Our signage is all printed on old political campaign corflute – funnily enough there’s a lot of that around right now.
The gimmick – Giveaways draw people to your stand. If someone is close enough to accept a ‘gift’ then they’re close enough to hear what you have to say. We get it.
What we don’t get is why so many companies revert to the same promotional items as everyone else. Nobody really needs all those drink bottles, laptop bags, pens, mugs that you’ve spent good money to put your logo on. We know – because they inevitably end up here looking for a new home.
If you MUST give something away, make it really useful in real life. Or try an activity where all they take away is a smile and a memory.
AT TedX Sydney, we invited people to get creative and make their own junk jewellery. While they were happily fossicking through our crafting reuse resources and learning new attachment methods, we had the chance to enlighten them on the power of reuse in the fight against our climate emergency.
Most people left their creations behind for us to use again in future education workshops. They left only with our message, nothing to be thrown away at a later stage.
Do we have an advantage?
Some of you may be thinking, “aaaah, but it’s easy for them, they have a warehouse full of goodies to choose from”. And it’s true, we do, but you do too. You can choose from exactly the same stuff seven days a week at our Marrickville warehouse.
Our only advantage is that we think reuse as our first choice – always. You can get there too. Just takes a few habit changes.
Where you have to use new, give it a second life
The only new items we used were the screws that held up the curtain and the frames. But we haven’t included them in our waste photo, because they have gone straight to the pool room … oops! I mean tool room. Yes, we have a room full of reuse tools, screws, nails, cords, etc that are available for purchase. Picture your grandfather’s garage and you’ll be close.
So, if you do buy new, and you know you won’t be able to use it again, do your best to find it a new life. Email a photo of what you have to us at email@example.com. If you give us notice, we may even be able to collect it from you.
Why is reuse important?
Reusing items saves valuable resources from being wasted. Not just the item itself, but the labour, energy and materials that went into producing it.
Reusing an existing item potentially prevents a new one from being purchased which in turn reduces the need to extract more resources from our planet and reduces emissions from transporting goods around the globe.
Reused goods are also an affordable alternative to buying new, and are often sold by non-profits and charities that give back to local communities by creating jobs and supporting disadvantaged people.
Would you show yours?
How would you feel about making your waste public? If you’re not jumping at the idea, then there’s probably room for improvement.
The first step is to identify what waste is being created, and then work backwards. Could you stop this by purchasing differently, using or reusing differently, or disposing more responsibly? Take a look at our Bye/Buy guide for some tips.
If you’d like some help, Reverse Garbage can help with a waste audit – or we can come and go through your clean commercial or industrial waste to identify whether there is anything there that could be reused through our warehouse.
It may take some time to change habits, but it is well worth it. Every little change is a victory!
Let’s start today – put it in writing and share with us the changes you will make in the comments below.