Australia is currently one of the biggest generators of single-use plastic waste worldwide – even ahead of the United States with around 281 million more people! Research shows that nearly 60kg of waste is produced per person in Australia every year, making it clearer than ever that we urgently need to reform our relationship with waste in this country.

If you would like to start your journey minimising the waste you accumulate each day, have a look at this helpful guide below. How does this help the animals you say? Each of these tips is a step towards plastic and waste-free living, which in return keeps plastic pollution out of our waters, saving millions of aquatic species from injury or death. Our waste habits won’t change overnight, so I recommend you use this list sparingly to begin with, be creative, and remember that you can customise each of these tips to suit your individual needs. Thank you for your interest in this guide and enjoy your adventure towards a waste-free lifestyle!


1: Shop plastic-free at local grocers and farmers markets

If you have the means and a way to access them, shopping plastic free at local produce grocers or farmers markets is an incredible way to reduce your plastic use. Farmers markets are the best way to support your local farmers and have access to a wide range of fresh, local and often organic produce. Buying local from farmers markets means you’ll likely be buying seasonal produce and enables you to maintain a direct relationship with the farmers who grow your food. This binds our community together which positivity affects human-kind and the animals to boot.

2:  Invest in reusable items

While this may seem an obvious step, there are many reusable products continuously being made to eradicate the need of single-use items in your household. Items include:

  • Reusable shopping bags and produce bags
  • Water bottles
  • Hard plastic/steel containers for takeaway or lunches
  • Reusable straws 
  • Reusable utensils
  • Reusable dish brush
  • Steel pegs
  • Toothpaste tablets
  • Shampoo bars
  • Menstrual cups and reusable period undies
  • Silicone baking mats
  • Soda streams

The possibilities of reusable items are endless and we recommend starting where you’re comfortable, and slowly moving along the list as you go. Before you know it you’ll wonder why you were never buying reusable items in the first place!

3: Extend the lifespan of your food

On average, Australians throw out 20% of all food that is brought into our home. That’s a whopping one in every five shopping bags! 

There are many kitchen hacks to prevent your fruit and vegetables from going bad before you intend to use them. To stop yourself from getting caught in the wave of waste, have a look at our handy tips below:

  • Freeze your food! Freeze your scraps to eventually make into a broth. The freezer works as a magic pause button for food decay, so if you know something won’t be eaten for a while, freeze it until you are prepared to eat it again. 
  • Use the whole product! Make a banana peel stir fry, or soak them in water to create a fertiliser for your plants. Use the tops of zucchini, save potato skins for hash browns, or plant the seeds of your tomatoes to grow fresh ones.
  • Compost! Invest in a food scrap bin and a compost bin. If you have any space to set up in your front or backyard, ideally out of sunlight and with a wire around the base, this should be manageable. This way you will be giving back to the earth by creating soil, instead of sending your food waste to landfill to produce frightening levels of methane gases. If you don’t have any garden to compost yourself, still maintain a compost bin and donate to your local community garden or a gardener who needs it. Or, start your own small veggie garden in your window sill!
  • Preserve your food! Fermenting or pickling your fruits and vegetables is an incredible way to tackle the war on waste while helping out your gut flora too. While we’re at it, try to preserve your produce right before they go out of season, to avoid spending ungodly amounts on out-of-season produce that has been imported from who knows where. 
  • Know where to store things! Onions, garlic, potatoes and all night-shade vegetables should be placed somewhere cool and dry. Put your spring onions in a jar of water and cover, then place in the fridge. Follow this list of tips to find more ways to correctly store your food.

4: Use what you have & be creative!

One magical tip I learnt from the book The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb is to get creative in the kitchen by omitting what you don’t need and using only what you have. Rather than going out to buy an ingredient needed for a recipe, first see if there is anything that needs using in your kitchen, and try to substitute it for that instead. 

In order to be creative, you have to be resilient and open to new ways of obtaining your food. If you are desperately after an item but don’t want it in plastic, ask the manufacturer if they can give you their products in bulk or plastic free. A lot of the time they will agree to this if they are a small business and you can start a demand for plastic free options yourself. For example, our local tofu supplier at Soyfoo in Melbourne’s West will give us tofu plastic-free if we bring in our own container!

If you don’t have access to buying in bulk, buy the largest option of a product to minimise the plastic you contribute. Although this is not plastic free, it is still much better than buying a small product, just to be used up, waste discarded and then purchased again.

5: Grow and forage your own food!

On the topic of being creative, this is for those who are willing to learn some new plant species and practice foraging for your foods. Foraging for edible weeds and wild food sources is a practice that has been undertaken by humans since hunter-gatherer times. There is still a plethora of perfectly edible, delicious, and highly medicinal weeds out in your local area today that you can certainly add to your meals.

We urge you to not try this until having sufficient knowledge about plant species, areas near you that are likely to be sprayed with chemicals (or dog wee!), or before foraging with a practiced and well-informed mentor. We highly recommend reading The Weed Forager’s Handbook or Wild food plants of Australia, and consider this guide a must-read before you begin your foraging adventures.

Take a look at one of my first foraged salads with wild garlic, fennel, plantain, wild broccoli & mallow below!

6: Be self sufficient!

On the topic of being creative, one of the best things you can possibly learn when it comes to being less wasteful is self-sufficiency. Try to make your own condiments at home, such as your own mayo, butter, yoghurt, nut butters, jams, sauces, and the list goes on…

There are endless recipes online to assist you in this process, and the end result will leave you with much less plastic and more bulk, delicious, homemade goodies to share with your friends and family.

7: Avoid unnecessary purchases at all costs!

Assess what you buy before purchasing to see if it has a high potential to be wasted. This includes bottled water, disposable cutlery, single wrapped items and poorly made products. Think about whether you already have that black t-shirt before buying a similar one on sale, and organise what food you already have at home to avoid doubling up on the same item. Here in Australia, 75% of all food that is sent to landfill comes from our households (ref), so the least we can do is ensure that the food we buy is going to be used.

Finding an alternative for an item in plastic might be easier than you first thought. For example, if you don’t want to buy spinach in plastic, try another grocer nearby that serves them plastic free and do your shopping there instead. Or if you want to buy a certain cucumber that is wrapped in plastic, choose a new variety that isn’t unnecessarily wrapped up instead. The trick is to open up your mind to other alternatives and to not be too hung up on what you’re ‘used’ to. Changes can be as small as opting for a cone instead of a cup at an ice cream store, and slowly transforming the way you view the role of waste in this world.

8: Recycle your soft plastics (yes, it’s possible!)

This is your sign to start recycling your soft plastics. Unfortunately, most places in Australia are yet to have a kerbside recycling bin for our soft plastic waste. With soft plastics being the core contributor to harming our environment and animals, it is unfathomable that more hasn’t been done to eradicate this issue. The demand for soft plastics has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, so now is the time to start disposing of them responsibly.

There is thankfully still a way to keep soft plastics out of our oceans and landfill, although unfortunately not enough people are aware of it. First step is to get a soft plastic bin, box, bucket or whatever you can find to store all your scrunchable plastics. Once you are ready to dispose of your soft plastics, drop them off at your closest REDcycle location (mainly located at Woolworths or Coles) which you can find by clicking on the link.

Next step? Never throw your soft plastics in the general landfill again!

Again, it is necessary to stress that the above is only a guide and not a militant list. Everybody is doing their part in small or big ways, and any change you can offer is still a step in the right direction. Judgement of others actions is a step towards exclusion and hostility, and eventually leads to the zero waste movement being reserved only for the individuals who are all-in or nothing. If you have completed reading this guide, thank you for taking the time to learn some of the necessary steps towards treating our planet with kindness!

Caitie Wilson

Caitie Wilson (she/her) is the Communications Manager at Kindness Project and also works as the Administrative, Social Media & Fundraising Manager at Farm Transparency Project. She became vegan after her studies at university with lecturer Peter Singer, and writes on collective liberation with the intention of creating compassion towards each other, towards animals and to our planet. Caitie is passionate about zero waste practices, and likes to experiment with vegan cooking in her spare time. She is currently making efforts towards living in an off-grid tiny home with her partner and rescue pup to direct her interest of sustainable living into her personal life.

Leave a Reply