The energy cost of waste is another factor of modern life which is subsidised by cheap fossil fuels. Goods have to be manufactured, transported and disposed of. Closing the loop to cut out the transport is the resilient way forward. Ultimately, we need to buy local and recycle locally.
Much of the waste generated by a household is packaging. You are in control of this. Consider that glass, cardboard and metal could be reprocessed in a small factory nearby. Plastic requires more specialised equipment and generates harsher pollutants, so still needs to be transported to a larger, more expensive facility.
Keeping this in mind, take steps to reduce the amount of potential waste coming into your house. Find out if you can get milk delivered in glass bottles. I buy my fruit juice from the tractor shop now, as they sell locally made apple juice in glass, not imported juice in tetrapax. Where there’s no alternative, rinse out plastic bottles before recycling. Removing organic waste helps the process and cuts costs.
During your shopping trips, study the recycling symbols on packaging and learn what they mean. If the manufacturer claims something is recyclable, is this really practical? Will your doorstep collection accept it? Where else could you take it? Can you recycle things that aren’t collected? Do some research. If the label is just ‘greenwash’, buy something else. Write to the manufacturer and tell them why you’re doing this.
Another area of everyday life where you can change your habits is the use of disposable products. Buy refillables instead. They often start more expensive, so you have to look after them to reap the cost benefits. Cultivate a new habit, that of buying quality goods and taking care of them so they last. Pens, razors, lighters, batteries – change them all over! Look for ease of repair in larger purchases. Are they fixable? Or just another disposable product at the end of the day.
Now consider the actual need for packaging. Is there anything you can buy in bulk and transfer to your own containers? Some shops allow you to refill bottles, mainly for their own eco-friendly cleaning products. Others sell dry goods in large bins, from which you weigh what you need into a paper bag and transfer it to a more robust container at home. Cut out the middle-man entirely and organise a local buying group.
Once a few people are involved in waste control, it’s worth considering local reprocessing. How could that work? Could enough people commit to buying locally made preserving jars, or animal bedding made from shredded cardboard, to provide a stable customer base? What are the barriers here?
Adapt to working from home by using those precious hours, previously wasted in a senseless commute, for community building. Organise a tour of a modern recycling plant, or other such facility, to understand the waste stream better. Form a research group, consider a business plan, talk to entrepreneurs. Recyclate is a valuable resource, especially if the supply and demand are stabilised in a circular, locally based, system.
Learn more about taking control of your environment in easy but relentless stages with The Handbook of Practical Resilience!
Don’t forget food security, for which you’ll need Recipes for Resilience.