Food waste

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Food-related carbon emissions

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Week 1 of the Eco-friendly Food Challenge - sharing experiences

Posted on Apr 23rd, 201225 comments

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   Week 1 of the Challenge

Welcome to the first day of the Eco-friendly Food (Group) Challenge. We have around 160 people doing this challenge around Australia - and two from other countries.

Our hope is that we can share experiences (good, bad, funny), provide information and support each other on this journey.The only rule in participating in conversations is that people should respect all opinions.Your comments will appear soon after you lodge them (unless they are disrespectful or likely to offend). Participants of our first challenge found sharing their experiences and learning from others was the most useful part of the challenge, we hope you agree.

We are lucky to have a number of experts as participants, including Gabrielle O'Kane and Sandra Murray, university lecturers in this area, who will help to faciliate the blog conversations.

Week 1 is all about reducing your waste to land fill. We put this challenge first because this was the most successful challenge for past participants, with many seeing dramatic reductions. To look for strategies, go to our website's Reduce, reuse and recycle section.

Finding out about your city council's requirements for recycling will also be important. For example, the Brisbane City Council has detailed information on their website on what you can and can't recycle as well as a description of plastic types and what the codes mean.

Your comments

During Week 1, you might want to comment on:

  • How are you going to deal with your food waste?..... Worm farms, compost heaps, Bokashi bins? What is your preference and why?
  • Any tips on remembering the green bags BEFORE you go shopping
  • What are the challenges for people in units? What can you do?
  • Any other comments relevant to this challenge. 


Author: Barbara (Queensland Health)


Gabrielle O'Kane said...

Hi all. Well, while I am not a person who lives in a unit, we do live on a small farm, so we do not get our rubbish removed for us. So, for the purposes of measuring our landfill bin, I have measured our kitchen garbage bin. We already put our organic waste in our 'chook bucket' even though we no longer have chooks. Instead, it goes into my compost bins. I am not great at the compost bin, because I never seem to have enough dry matter like newspapers and lawn clippings, but I will have to concentrate on this.
As for remembering green bags before going shopping, my tip is to permanently have them in the car. I have quite a few of them now, but it has taken me years, probably, to be really good at this. Of course, being in the ACT, it is now legislated that you have to bring your own bags or buy the heavy duty plastic bags that are biodegradeable.
Anyway, good luck with the challenge

Apr 23rd, 2012 at 02:53:42 PM

Barbara said...

I find my Bokashi bin great because it can compost almost every kitchen food waste including ALL fruit and vegetables, dead left overs, cooked and uncooked meats and fish, cheese, egg shells, bread, coffee grinds, tea bags - really all my organic kitchen wastes. This means that I don't have to use bin liners for my kitchen bin. This wasn't a problem until I started using my green bags (rather than leaving them at home or in the car) and I quickly ran out of bags for my bin. Unfortunately my son hates the smell of the Bokashi but he just has to live with that unless anyone in this vast group has some advice?

Apr 23rd, 2012 at 02:01:57 PM

Katrina said...

We have a tumbler type compost bin and a worm farm. Both are great! With a 4 year old and 6 month old who has just started eating, there is a bit of food that needs to be 'recycled'. The tumbler is good for things that the worms don't like so much and the worm farm makes great liquid fertilizer. I too can struggle a bit with the carbon component of compost as we try not to buy newspapers. I use mulch ...straw but more recently I have been putting in nappies (just the wet ones).

We had a Bokashi bin at work. The smell was not great but can be less offensive if you use the sprinkle-stuff regularly and drain the water off regularly. Imagine that smell on a big scale in landfill.

As for the reusable shopping bags, I also have them in the car and one or two folded versions in my bag and in th e bottom basket of the stroller.....amazing how often I forget to take them out of the car and often I walk to the shop.

My biggest challenge is looking at packaging and how we can really reduce or eliminate the plastic that contains lentils, bread, cheese blocks etc. are there alternatives to these and what can we do with them afterwards?

Apr 24th, 2012 at 11:12:25 AM

Jenna said...

Okay, I'm convinced I need to buy a Bukashi bucket. I live in a rented apartment with a small garden... I started keeping a tally of what I put in the bin - most of it is food scraps. In the lead otherwise are tofu packets, cheese packets and baby spinach bags - in agreeance with you Katrina! Anyway... just thanking my lucky stars that I've recently moved towns. The one before here had no kerbside recycling at all!

Apr 25th, 2012 at 08:04:11 AM

Barbara said...

If you are really lucky, you might find a used bokashi bin on Ebay. It is the sort of thing you could buy and then not use. Two sold for $3.25 somewhere in Victoria last week.

Apr 25th, 2012 at 08:04:36 AM

Will said...

(I'm in Brisbane) and I just visted the Brisbane City Council Website. I found out I can recycle my used pizza boxes. I thought they'd been too contaminated by food. I also found that I don't have to remove labels from cans before placing them in the recycling bin. All I need to do is wipe or rinse them out, and preferably crush them. This is easier than I thought!

Apr 26th, 2012 at 12:15:03 PM

Amanda said...

Hi all,
I am off to Japan in a couple of weeks- the home of the pre-packaged single apple and I am interested in discovering some strategies that will help me continue to minimise my waste in a foreign country; especially one like Japan where food hygiene is very important, i.e: every single item of food comes pre-packaged. At home we recycle everything we can and have our own worm farm for the organic waste (no compost as we live in a unit). Has anyone got any nifty ideas??

Apr 26th, 2012 at 10:16:48 PM

Student said...

Hi everyone,
Barbara has linked me to this website that has a menu planner/ shopping list
Planning your meals for each night(and using the leftovers for lunch the next day) is a great way to reduce waste, and better yet, save money!
This shopping list divides food items into: fruit and vegetables, breads and cereals, dairy and frozen items, meat and fish, non-perishables, drinks and others items. I think this will help purchase only what I really need and therefore, will decrease the total amount of waste I produce! I'm thinking this will also help me to remember all of my shopping items. I'm putting it to the test tonight when I do my grocery shopping, and I will see if it has any affect on the total volume of my waste this week. I will let you all know!

Apr 27th, 2012 at 08:13:33 AM

Carol said...

I live in a rented apartment and with purpose to reduce my house waste I decided to find the volume of my kitchen rubbish bin (it was not written on the label) so I can measure my rubbish in litres instead of just bags. But to be honest it is easier just to count the amount of bags you are throwing out during the week to find out if you are reducing your waste.
I live with my boyfriend and we have a flatmate. My boyfriend is involved in the challenge; but my flatmate is not. I had to educate my flatmate about recycling packages and bottles, etc. For this purpose I have located a box in my kitchen which has written RECYCLE. I hope that helps my flatmate to remember recycling instead of throwing everything to the rubbish bin. I still struggling a bit in understanding which materials or plastics can be recycled and which ones cannot be recycled. I have checked the BCC website and it has been very helpful, but I still need to learn lots about it.
I also have a small worm farm in our apartment. It is not big enough for all our food scraps so I am thinking to buy a bigger one or to maybe buy a bokashi bin. Thanks for the information about bokashi bins. I just need to do more research and maybe by the end of the week I will own one.
Now that I am looking to reduce my food waste, I found out that in my apartment complex there is a herb garden. I did not know about it at all. Now I don't buy herbs from the shops anymore. I used to buy herbs from the shops and use ½ of them and waste the other half. I am not sure who in my apartment complex started the initiative of having a communal herb garden, but I believe it is a really good one.
As for remembering my green bags before going shopping, I try to put the bags in my car, but that strategy does not always work for me. Maybe someone can share their strategies with me.

Apr 27th, 2012 at 09:34:49 PM

Jemma O'Hanlon APD said...

Hi all,

I'm an inner city Melbourne dietitian, living in a high rise apartment. My partner & I do our best to recycle (we have 2 bins, one for the regular waste and one for recyclable items). We have a rubbish shoot on our floor which is super convenient and the recycle bin on ground level (which means more effort to take the recycling bin down but good for our physical activity!). The smell of the rubbish room is a bit of a deterrent but we just hold our nose and bear with it.

We also have a very cute pet rabbit named Marsha and Marsha gets to eat a lot of the leftover fruit and veggie scraps from our cooking... so she is a happy bunny.

We don't have a garden, just a couple of nice pot plants and herbs in pots that sit on our balcony. I'm not too keen on a worm farm I must say!

Regarding the green bags, I agree that the best way is to keep them in the car. We love the Gasworks Farmers Market at Albert Park to buy fresh produce AND it's plastic bag free and if you forget your green bags then you're in trouble! It's great to see the farmers markets supporting the environment.

Looking forward to more discussions.


Apr 27th, 2012 at 08:53:57 PM

Barbara said...

Apart from being really jealous of Amanda's trip to Japan, I can see the plastic dilemma. The amount of packaging is obscene. I was over there about a year ago and I did notice at the airport that they had lots of different coloured recycling bins. It may be possible to find out what goes in what bin before you go (or maybe at the airport where they have signs in English) and hold on to your plastic until you find the nearest appropriate bin. I traveled with a cute little folding knife, fork and spoon set from Kathmandu and this meant I wasn't using lots of plastic ones. I made sure it didn't go in my cabin bagage so customs didn't confiscate it. Hope this helps.

Apr 27th, 2012 at 09:51:08 PM

Hannah said...

During week one I have found that while our household of three only 1/3 fills our 'landfill' bin over a week, the majority of this is food waste which would make great compost for our garden! I have been meaning to purchase a compost bin for a long time and this challenge has created the motivation to actually do it. So as of today I am the proud owner of a compost bin in the backyard! Now just lacking a container in the kitchen to collect the food waste, may be a good excuse to buy ice cream so that we can recycle the container for this use! Next challenge will be teaching my boyfriend and our flatmate how to chose which bin to put their rubbish in!
I have also learnt a lot about what can be recycled. I have always recycled cans, tins, bottles, paper and cardboard, but didnt realise the extent of the packaging that we can recycle including cling wrap, polystyrene and foam meat trays.
Feeling confident that next week we will have less in our landfill bin and more in our recycling and compost bins! As for green bags, we have not long moved from New Zealand to Perth so have started from scratch setting up our house and Im ashamed to say green bags havent been purchased yet! They will be next!

Apr 28th, 2012 at 05:14:23 PM

Elia Faa APD said...

I am a bit late starting the challenge but hope to catch up. My biggest problem is with packaging - is it really necessary to wrap everything in plastic AND cardboard - it seems so. Our food waste goes to chooks, guinea pigs or the dog leaving very little for the compost bin. We decided to feed our dog on table scraps from the begining to avoid commercial dog food which our kids now call doggie'donalds ie fast food. The scraps are supplemented with freash eat and bones. I also have trouble buying meat with out packaging - I'm in too much of a rush or forget to go to the butcher after the supermarket but would like to avoid the foam trays. Our recycle bin is collected fortnightly and is always full but I feel bad about this. Should I with a family of 6?
I went today to the local health food shop to investigate the opportunities of buying in bulk with limited packaging, seems OK but more expensive.

Apr 29th, 2012 at 09:55:55 AM

Will said...

My vet was keen to point out that he only feeds his dogs household scraps and bones when I bought our puppy to him. Since then I'm afraid she's been eating doggie donalds way too much. I generally get my meat at the local farmers' markets but I still managed to bring it home wrapped in plastic with some butcher's paper wrapped around it. Maybe this challenge is an opportunity for its organisers to provide feedback to the major supermarkets about their packaging, especially the foam meat trays?
Elia makes an important point for people who have already reduced their landfill bin's contents to very little ie recycling is great, but the environmental cost of producing stuff (e.g. water bottles) that just end up in the recycling bin is also worth thinking about.

Apr 29th, 2012 at 07:43:36 PM

Sandy Murray said...

I live in Tassie and recycle all of my plastics, have a worm farm, and compost but for the life of me I don't know what to do with all of my doggie 'doodoos'. Can I also put this on the compost? Also what do I do with all of the old dog bones that I find around the yard? Is there a way of breaking them down to bone meal and then sticking them in the compost as well?

Apr 30th, 2012 at 11:18:37 AM

Bo said...

The week I received the first correspondence from Eco Food Challenge (the magnet and ruler sticker for the landfill bin outside and 'waste to landfill' sign for the landfill bin inside), I was in the local suburban IGA and bought 4 passionfruits - ON A FOAM TRAY COVERED IN PLASTIC!! (only 4 passionfruits!!) But there was no other way to buy them - there were no loose ones, that I could just grab a couple of.... I think that does tend to happen more in smaller shops, where they're maybe not selling as great a volume of produce as larger supermarkets, e.g. you often find green beans and even herbs like basil and parsley in small polystyrene trays. Then when I went to put the passionfruit in the fruit bowl, and turned to the bin to put the tray and plastic in the bin... and now there was a sign that said "WASTE TO LANDFILL" and I had this immediate "sigh" reaction (kinda like, "gee, why did they have to wrap this in foam and plastic, now I have to put it in landfill!"). A few visitor's to our house have also commented on the 'waste to landfill' sign - I think it is a great idea.
Also agree with above comments about recycling bins, and trying to reduce even recyclable and re-usable packaging.
I think this ecofood challenge is a great idea ... Onto the Week 2 challenge!

Apr 30th, 2012 at 11:19:23 AM

Frances said...

I live in a rented house, so while this means I can control my waste fairly easily, it is much more difficult to get my roommates to take the environment into consideration. We have green bags in our car at all times, but living near the city, it's the times when we quickly duck into the grocery store without our car (and therefore green bags). To fix this I am going to buy one of those fold up bags for my handbag. I don't buy much pre-packaged food, however as you all said before, things like cheese, cacao, and rocket all come in plastic and I am so struggling to find ways to eliminate this. Does anyone have any ideas?

Apr 30th, 2012 at 11:19:56 AM

Nicole said...

As someone who lives alone, my 'landfill waste' usually isn't too bad (less than 1 small kerbside bin every month). However, week one of the challenge coincided with a visit from relatives and 6 people in the house produced a large amount of waste! A good 'eye-opener for me'. Thank goodness for the compost bin which is now full to overflowing. My tip for the week - watch where your family members put their food scraps (and make sure they don't leave the prawn shells in the fridge for 4 days!).

Apr 30th, 2012 at 11:20:22 AM

Kym said...

I've enjoyed this week's challenge. I feel I'm pretty good at recycling (have a compost bin, recycle all glass, cardboard etc & have a small 'landfill' bin) however, the challenge for me is changing my fiance's habits. He isn't as eco-friendly as myself, so I've decided to get a bit savvy with our rubbish habits. In the kitchen we now only have a tiny general waste bin (approx 2 litre size), 2 large recycling bins and the compost bin, all within easy to reach places. He now feels obliged to recycle, as he doesn't want to have to take the rubbish out as often as he used to. Our landfill waste was definitely smaller this week.

May 1st, 2012 at 08:10:51 AM

Tash said...

I have really enjoyed participating in the challenge so far and as someone else mentioned, I too, have had comments about the Waste to Landfill sign on the bin which has initiated discussion on the subject. It's great to hear everyone's ideas on reducing packaging and hence the landfill. I thought I would mention that the Brisbane City Council has on offer an extra large recycle bin for a small one-off fee that they will deliver to you and pick up your other one if you want. We decided to keep both and surprisingly, we often need both of them. The neighbours also benefit if they have excess recycling and can pop it into our larger bin for collection. Very handy! With our scraps, we give most of them to our chickens and what they don't eat, goes into the compost bins or worm farm. We also get the grass clippings from our neighbours for the chooks and compost which saves them from going into the bin otherwise.
I am getting better at remembering my green bags when shopping, and as many of you have said, keep some in the car or in the basket of the pram if you walk with kids. But if you do forget, make sure you tell the check out person not to have a separate bag for each item! They are very bag happy when packing so either make it clear to use as few as possible or go through the self check out section!
Best of luck with the next weeks challenge!

May 1st, 2012 at 02:25:25 PM

Barbara said...

I was just talking to my friend Kym about what to do with all those pesky plastic bags you 'have to use' when you end up shopping for fruit and veggies at a supermarket. She just laughed and told me she only uses them for little things like grapes. Her broccoli and almost everything else just goes straight in the trolley NAKED and there's no problem. She then just washes them well when she prepares them. Sounds like a good system to me. I might even use the mushroom bags for my grapes and other small items!

May 3rd, 2012 at 07:46:52 PM

Sallyanne said...

I am very happy to say that I set up my new Bokashi bin today - I am still excited even after reading the comments about the smell! Most of our food related waste is suitable for composting, so I expect a huge reduction in landfill this week. Last week I was staying with my mum; she has the luxury of a worm farm and has very waste.

May 10th, 2012 at 08:45:12 PM

Will said...

I hope you like the Bokashi bin, Sallyanne. I saw an article in the Huffington post on them. See for more.

May 10th, 2012 at 10:03:37 PM

Nsah said...

I'll weigh in with some comments about some rnceet postings on the blog, in an effort to clear up some misconceptions and to make some suggestions on how to proceed.Elisha: absolutely show your support to the municipalities and the county for funding the subsidies that will be essential to any government run recycling program. The time to do so is getting severely limited, however, as annual budgets are nearing completion. The budgets must be finalized by the end of the year, and most jurisdictions (I believe, knowing that Granby does) try to get that work done sooner. I know that Granby's board is very aware of the community's support for improving the recycling situation, but all budgeting entities need to know how much money is needed and how the program will be administered. Without that knowledge, we (as local governments) can't budget. We can put aside some funding, but it would be a shot in the dark as to whether it would be enough to get the job done. That's why the RFP process is a critical step.I suspect that if the private sector can develop a better system (e.g. curbside pick up), there will costs to the refuse producers (us) in the form of fees or fee increases for the service. We have to be willing to pay the price for the service no matter what system evolves out of this dialog.Kevin: The Town of Granby also ponied up money when Valley Recycling came to us for a subsidy, but the more important thing to realize about how we got to where we are today is this: Grand County and Grand Recycles ran the old system, combining extensive volunteer time commitments, funding from the county and the towns, money from the sale of the recycled materials (always a volatile item), and massive in-kind services (hauling to Denver) also donated by the county. Valley Recycling came to the county and represented that VR could take over the program and be able to make a profit. The County Commissioners jumped at the chance to reduce their expenditures of funds and in-kind contributions; and here we are. Whether or not the VR proposal was realistic can be questioned, but I have no doubt that it was presented in good faith. My sense is that the towns and county will contribute money, but there needs to be a plan and one that is truly realistic.The hard/cold facts are that recycled materials are not stable markets, and some sort of funding will be needed to keep a comprehensive program operating. VR did receive some support from local governments to subsidize the operation, but it obviously has not been enough. Kevin makes some excellent suggestions, and I particularly like the building materials re-use idea. BUT (there's always a but ), it takes resources ($$$, time, etc.) to make a center like that work. The materials don't sort themselves. Through a process of discussion and planning, reasonable people should be able to develop a workable plan. So, Kevin, stay engaged and keep those ideas coming.Gretchen: I've been to the Summit County Landfill and have had a number of conversations with local government officials about their operation. The last time I checked the recycling of wood fiber consists of grinding it into chips and piling up massive heaps of the material, with no clear idea of what to do next. The proposal to heat the Summit Cty. Commons with that biomass proved to be economically unfeasible, so the piles continue to grow. I hope your research will turn up some better news! There is some hope that the 2 pellet plants approved for Kremmling might help in disposing of the wood fiber, but in some meetings I've attended I've heard that the construction waste may not be suitable. Contamination with metals (nails, etc.) may be the problem there.An update on the RFP working group would be helpful at this juncture. See ya'll at the landfill (for the time being),Ted Wang

Jul 11th, 2012 at 09:08:57 AM

Mary said...

Hi, I Saw someone at my local fruit shop with calico bags to put their apples etc in.They had sewn these themselves so that's what i'm doing. What a brilliant idea to save on plastic bags. Also a friendly reminder for me to bring my green bags with me when i go shopping is to write them at the top of your grocery list. I also have a mini bag in my handbag too and find it is absolutely fantastic. I started to grow lettuces, tomatoes and some herbs in pots at home as I too would like to reduce wastage of food, have vegies that have not been treated with pesticides and taste awesome. I have started to use our compost bin again. It will be interesting to see how much i can reduce my carbon footprint too. I recycle those small plastic bags instead of buying sandwich bags at the shops. They're still clean enough to use again.

Oct 15th, 2012 at 02:50:27 PM

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