Welcome to Day 1 of little miss sorted’s 7 Day Sustainable Declutter Challenge
When it comes time to declutter, many people default to sorting items into 3 piles: Keep, Donate or Toss. Whilst it’s a starting point and a good way to conceptualise the task at hand (especially if already feeling overwhelmed by stuff) the majority of the time I personally don’t find 3 categories to be enough if you want to declutter sustainably.
One thing I know for sure is that if you put down a big tub lined with a garbage bag and start putting everything in it that isn’t being kept or donated, the contents will end up in landfill. No-one is going back and sorting that rubbish bag out. No-one. So the key for me when it comes to sustainable decluttering is to sort items properly in the first place.
Depending on the space you are decluttering, think about the following categories for more sustainable sorting (I find large open tubs of different colours or labelled boxes work great for this):
- Stay (in this room)
- Redistribute (to another family member/room/place)
- Recycle (kerbside)
So hopefully now you are starting to see why the simple “Keep, Donate & Toss” system isn’t that useful for sustainable decluttering.
If you’re interested to know more, go grab yourself a beverage of choice (this isn’t a brief post) and allow me to share a few of my sustainable “Donate & Toss” tips and resources.
Because if we get this right, we can have a really positive impact on our environment.
I personally love this option for unwanted goods that still have life left in them. It helps to ensure items get to the people who really need and want them whilst generating income for charities who support some of our most vulnerable citizens. It also means you don’t end up imposing your unwanted clutter on an often reluctant recipient (who probably doesn’t want it either but is too polite to say and who probably also struggles to find somewhere to stash it).
However, when it comes to donating, we have a responsibility to do so mindfully and respectfully or quite frankly, we don’t deserve the feel-good fuzzies that come from being charitable.
Charities spend millions of dollars every year disposing of unusable items that have been dumped on them. If you can’t use it, neither can a charity.
Top Tips for Sustainable Donating:
- Only donate during opening hours or into a designated collection bin. The little miss sorted Resource page also lists charities who offer a collection service
- Check the guidelines for what the charity will accept before you donate as the rules differ. Some don’t take electrical items, soft toys or certain baby items, for example.
- Only donate what you would be happy to use for your own family
- Some clothing, whilst not being suitable to be worn again, may be an acceptable donation for rags. Check out these general guidelines and ensure the charity you take them to accepts this type of donation as many don’t
This seems straight forward but apparently 11% of people think used disposable nappies are recyclable. I mean, really? And don’t imagine there’s some magical fairy fixing your recycling sins at the other end. There isn’t. Contaminated recycling goes to landfill.
The top 3 mistakes people make when recycling are:
- Putting plastic bags into recycling. 9 out of 10 councils reported this was the main problem. A good rule of thumb we use in our house is if the plastic changes shape when filled with water, it can’t go into council recycling
- Putting recyclable items into the normal bin. Nearly half the councils reported this problem which is a real missed opportunity and sees unnecessary space taken up in landfill
- Food contamination. Grease and oil affects the paper pulping process, a problem for a quarter of councils
It doesn’t help that every local council has their own rules on what you can put in your recycling bin but we can’t use that as an excuse. Take 10 minutes to look-up the waste services section on your local council’s website and familiarise yourself with the rules for where you live.
Top Tips for Sustainable Recycling:
- Know what goes in your bin – it’s different for different councils
- Make sure you follow the Golden Rules of Recycling
- Take a look at this interesting article that explains the recycling process and proves there are no magic fairies
- If you’re not sure if something can be recycled, try the RecyclingNearYou website where you can search by item type to find an answer
This is a game changer in my opinion. I can’t believe I hadn’t heard about this until recently. RED Group, a Melbourne-based consulting and recycling organisation, has developed and implemented the REDcycle Program; a recovery initiative for post-consumer soft plastic. RED Group has teamed up with Coles & Woolworths to make it easy for you to keep your plastic bags and soft plastic packaging out of landfill. Think plastic food wrapping, shopping bags, bread bags and cereal box liners.
One business doing this well is The Garden. Well worth checking out their system in the reception area if you live local to Frankston, Victoria.
Top Tips for Sustainable REDcycling:
- Check out what can be REDcycled – do the scrunch test!
- Set-up a permanent box or bag for your REDcycling at home and print off this list so you know what goes in
- Set it up at work, your local kinder, childcare centres, schools and universities and spread the word!
This is so easy, we should all be doing it. Even if you live in an apartment you can invest in a composting system that works under the bench. It doesn’t smell… promise!
So why isn’t this more widely practiced? I think people either don’t know how to do it or get complacent about it because they think food and other things you can compost is organic/living matter and therefore it breaks down easily so what does it matter if it goes to landfill? But that is the very issue. When food scraps are sent to landfill, they decompose without oxygen (anaerobically) to produce methane, a greenhouse gas with
over 20 times the global warming capacity of carbon dioxide. Decomposing food scraps are also a potential source of leachates (liquid that drains from landfills) that can contaminate surface and ground water.
If food scraps are composted, the organic matter and nutrients they contain can be reused as fertiliser. Properly composted food scraps are a valuable resource. In some commercial composters, methane and other biogases can also be captured and used to generate electricity. Read more about the impact of methane released into the atmosphere from food scraps here.
Top Tips for Sustainable Composting:
- Make sure you have your own compost bin, compost heap, worm farm or Bokashi bucket to do your bit at home
- Composting is not just for food scraps. In fact it requires a combination of wet and dry material to really thrive. Take your open mind over to this article and educate yourself!
- Even if you don’t have a garden, your local community garden is unlikely to turn your delicious compost away if you do it right. Alternatively you could raise it as an item for your body corporate to consider providing for your block of residents
Anything you wouldn’t want printed on the internet should probably be shredded and not just recycled. However, if you think your life’s too boring for anyone to bother stealing your paperwork, or you like living on the edge, at the very least shred personal and financial information that is tempting to thieves. If you have a large backlog of paper to shred or you seem to generate a lot, it’s worth having a secure document company come and shred it for you. This can be done on site in front of you, at their location with a certificate of destruction issued at the end or a bin (much like your recycling bin) can be delivered to your door for later collection. This can be lockable – just make sure you request it, if that’s what you want.
Top Tips for Sustainable Shredding:
- Invest in a shredder. One that cross-cuts is ideal
- Ideally shred as you go – don’t make a huge job for yourself by saving it all up to do “one day”
- Put your shredded paper into your compost bin or worm farm. The worms will love it and potential identity thieves will give up and go next door
Okay, so hopefully now we have very little left in our “Toss” pile because we’re utilising all the other options first. There’s really not much more you can do to avoid some items going into landfill if you’re utilising the other options mentioned above first, except for being more mindful during the acquiring process and ensuring you aren’t disposing of harmful items in your rubbish. A big culprit here is household batteries. These should never be put into the rubbish bin as they leach dangerous metals into the ground. Battery World Stores accept all types of batteries for safe disposal and ALDI supermarkets accept household batteries.
Top Tips for Rubbish Disposal:
- Keep a small child-proof container somewhere safe from little people and store up your used batteries. Then simply take them with you when you know you’ll be nearby to a drop-off point. I find writing a little reminder on my shopping list to be a great way to systemise this when the container is ready to be emptied.
- Dispose of harmful items in the appropriate way. See this great website for more information
- Wherever possible, avoid buying items with lots of plastic/excess packaging that you can see will end up at the tip
- Utilise your council’s resources such as recycling centres and hard rubbish collections. Most offer at least one free collection each year. Some are on set dates, others you need to call and request a pick-up.
All these resources and more can be found on the little miss sorted Resources page on the website. We are constantly updating our Resources Lists so check back regularly.
Tomorrow we tackle the kitchen so look out for lots of hints, tips and resources and remember you can drop your unwanted items from the list mentioned in my post on Sunday to me any day during National Organising Week. Tomorrow you will find me here:
|Pinewood Nursery (Carpark)|
|478 Blackburn Rd, Glen Waverley|
I’d love to know if you’d heard of REDcycling before now and if you participate or if we’ve been living under the same rock! Leave me a comment.
Happy Sustainable Decluttering! The planet thanks you.