One set of bins for the entire year - can it be done?

Principle 6: Produce no waste

An unusual sight, as we are planning on putting the bins out again only once for the whole of 2011.
Typical of many houses in Australia we have two bins, a 120lt rubbish bin that is collected weekly and a 240lt recycle bin that is collected fortnightly. We can produce 6,240lt (or 3,120kg) of waste and 6,240lt (or 2,840kg) of recycling for a cost of $270 for the year. This cost is a compulsory part of our rates, so in order to get good value for money we should fill up our bins at every opportunity, right?

Many people in our neighbourhood manage to fill them up, but we don't produce anywhere near that amount of waste / recycling. I suggested to Kunie that we should keep track of how much rubbish and recycling we collect by only putting the bins out when they are full. Kunie's response was to suggest that we only put the bins out once for the whole year! I was a bit taken aback, but thought that we might just be able to do it - if we really put our minds to it.

Our 'binimum' approach has been:
  • growing our own fruit, veg and herbs
  • buying fresh produce (not canned) locally where possible
  • buying dried goods in bulk about once every three months from Melbourne
  • feeding food scraps to our wormfarm or compost bin
  • making our own bread, flour, mayonaise, yogurt, nut butter, laundry liquid, beer, cordial etc
  • using cloth nappies
  • using the library and toy library to borrow books, movies and toys rather than buying them
  • buying and donating 2nd hand goods at the local Op-Shops
  • giving and receiving food / clothes / and other stuff to local friends 
  • loaning and borrowing tools / books / videos etc to friends
  • visiting and being visitied by friends with kids to use toys we / they don't have 
  • maintaining and fixing things rather than throwing them out
  • taking apart broken gadgets and saving useful materials from them before disposal 
In addition to this we are going to:
  • carefully choose products with minimal packaging or in useful containers
  • buy more products that we really 'need' and less that we 'want'
  • reusue, compost or burn all paper and cardboard
  • creatively use 'waste' for art projects or storage systems
  • find alternatives for packaged products like dish washing liquid and toothpaste
  • grow more of our own food and preserve it in recycled containers
  • get chickens to eat premium food scraps and produce eggs for us
  • wash and reuse plastic bags 
  • find a local fresh milk source 
  • not buy the weekend 'mega' newspaper
Our small kitchen rubbish bin is about 15lt and our recycle bin is about 30lt. Based on filling a 120lt rubbish bin and 240lt recycle bin over a year we can only fill these kitchen bins once every 45 days (320ml / 640ml per day) for a family of four. This is not just from domestic kitchen use, but from the entire household. Quite a challenge.

While disposing of unwanted material is going to be an issue for us we are going to miss out on some of the great resources that you get when you buy stuff from the supermarket regularly, like newspaper (for cleaning and starting the fire), jars (for preserving) and plastic bags (for putting stuff in). Fortunately our neighbours still throw out plenty of this sort of thing, so we will be asking them to put some aside for us as we need it.

While the temptation is there, we wont be putting our rubbish into our neighbours bins just so we can reach our goal (we'd only be cheating ourselves anyway). But I think that it's okay for us to use bins elsewhere as we normally would. One of the big issues that we will be facing is when guest bring food to share, especially wine or beer, as bottles take up a huge amout of space. I think that we should deal with the waste they bring into the house, as they would deal with ours. Part of this whole process will be sharing our story to educate people along the way. We feel confident that we can do it.

We will be setting a new website up soon called that will discuss how to reduce waste / recycling and how to reuse materials creatively.
    A gasp in horror as a large piece of plastic falls out of the recycle bin during collection. Fortunately the driver got out and picked it up.


    Unknown said…
    Hey Guys,
    Admire your goals and encourage you to strive to achieve them!
    What are your thoughts on disposing of meat waste though - chiken bones, meat fat trimmings, etc - any ideas on the safest approach to this? I understand that some people are vegetarians, and so this wont apply to them, but I'm not, and yet still want to minimmise wastage going to the council bin.
    Richard said…
    We also eat meat, but only once a week or so. We will often cook up any bones that we have for use as stock for soup, so including these in our wormfarm is no problem (not much left over meat for pests).
    Some other ways that you could dispose of meat waste are:
    - Feed it to your, or a neighbours, pet dog or cat
    - Bury them in your compost bin (provided there is not too much)
    - Bury them in the garden, in a differnet spot each time
    - Try making soap out of animal fat trimmings if you are really keen
    Nick Ritar said…
    Awesome... great idea guys. "Produce no waste" really can be one of the biggest challenges (and hence biggest challenge to) the conventional western lifestyle. Good on you for showing us all one way forward.
    I'm so inspired by this. What a great challenge. I don't think we could manage it, but you've made me want to attempt heading in the same direction, and perhaps lobbying the council for a different system of rates for bin collection.

    Re bottles: my sidekick makes his own beer, so we reuse and reuse and reuse beer bottles and when we come across one lying in the park we often bring it home, wash it out, and put it to good use: we're happy to increase our supply because sometimes we give beer away and don't get the bottles back from the recipients.

    This is what we're doing with wine bottles. They make handsome garden edging, if that's your thing. I'd want to investigate the potential bushfire risk of having glass in the garden before trying them in a foresty area, though. (We're in concrete clad suburbia, so I don't worry about fire.)

    Good luck with your bin thrift!

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