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My Plastic Plan

WELCOME and THANK YOU for joining the Plastic Collective Crew. Your daily behaviour and actions can make a huge difference. By adopting some simple steps that become everyday habits you can minimize your plastic footprint and prevent tonnes of waste going into landfill or entering waterways and oceans.
1. IT ALL STARTS IN THE MIND

When you care enough about reducing your waste and eliminating plastic pollution it can be extremely frustrating and annoying when you meet others who simply don’t care.

After years of working in this field and seeing some of the most polluted places imaginable, there is one thing that keeps me going – The Law of Least Effort.

Although it sounds a bit ‘weak’, if you follow the three simple principles it is one of the most powerful tools you will ever come across. The Law of Least Effort will empower you and provide a strong platform for your values, it will inspire others around you and most importantly it will save you from giving up with frustration.

Sounds too good to be true? Give it a go and see how it makes you and others around you feel… I promise you won’t regret it.

Louise
(CEO/Founder, Plastic Collective)

The Law of Least Effort consists of 3 affirmations: Acceptance, Responsibility and Defencelessness.

  1. Acceptance: I will accept things as they are right now, including attitudes, situations and events, however I can hope for change in the future.
  1. Responsibility: I will take responsibility only for myself, to change my habits and actions. This will empower me and inspire those around me.
  1. Defencelessness: I will not defend my actions or choices, and I will not try and convince others to think like me.

Below is a PDF for you to download and spread the word about the Law of Least Effort. The print ready page has the Law of Least Effort affirmations on it. You can print this page and make wallet sized cards, stickers or posters to remind you and others who might also benefit from the Law of Least Effort.

#1_PP_LAW OF LEAST EFFORT CARDS (Pdf)

Instructions:  Print these cards, cut them out and carry them with you.
When you no longer need them, pass them to someone who does.

2. CHANGE STARTS AT HOME
Waste is a growing global epidemic which is causing environmental damage.

We all have waste in our homes. Waste or trash is either collected by a waste service, dumped in landfill or burnt – all of which we want to avoid or minimise.

The My Plastic Plan is designed to help you and the best place to start is in your home. At home you have control – you control of what comes into your home and what goes out.

Over the next few weeks we want you to assess your household waste volume as a starting point. To do this simply print the ‘Waste Audit’ sheets (PDFs) below and record your audit notes.

To make the assessment process easy we will use a 3 Bin System – The Red, Green and Yellow Bin System.

Start by separating your waste into 3 groups:

  1. Organics (food scraps and garden waste) in the Green Bin.
  2. Recyclables (glass, paper, metal and hard plastics) in the Yellow Bin.
  3. Other General Waste (not included in the above categories) in the Red Bin.

When you fill in your first ‘Waste Audit’ for your household, you have two options:

  1. Estimate how full each bin is when the Waste Service providers (if you’re lucky enough to have them) come and take it away each week or fortnight.
  2. Record the number and size of rubbish bags which leave your household weekly – if these are mixed waste. 

From this ‘Waste Audit’, we can establish your ‘volume’ of waste produced yearly, using the table below.

At this point we are only recording volume, not weight, as different waste streams will vary a great deal in weight. When we have separation of different materials we can then examine weight, but for now the ‘volume’ relates different to how much material will enter landfill, environment and hopefully resource recovery. 

Don’t get disheartened when you see the volume. This is what we are going to work on to reduce, to bring you as close as possible to zero-waste.

Download resources [pdf]

#2A_PP_ HOUSEHOLD WASTE AUDIT FOR HOUSES

#2B_PP_HOUSEHOLD WASTE AUDIT FOR APARTMENTS BINS

#2C_PP_DIAGRAMS FOR WASTE BINS AND BAGS VOLUMES

3. SOURCE SEPARATION

Separating waste materials at home is how we avoid cross contamination. Cross contamination is what happens to when waste is all mixed together. This forces the waste to be dumped into landfill and not recycled.

Now you have had a glimpse into the waste volumes you and your family are generating,
we want to start to learn about how to separate the materials into ‘resources’.

From here on, we will no longer refer to discarded materials as ‘waste’, we will refer to it as ‘resources’. This is an important concept, as now we will start appreciating the value in the discarded materials which can be recovered as a resource.

WET RESOURCES

Organics are in the ‘Green’ group: This is the first and most important resource for separation. Also called ‘wet’ material – organics / food will contaminate the ‘dry’ recyclables making it hard to recycle them. The largest volume of resources sent to landfill is organic material and food, often up to 70% of all waste.

DRY RESOURCES

Recyclables are the ‘Yellow’ group: Glass, paper, metal and hard plastics. When wet food and dry materials are separated, it is much easier to quickly rinse recyclables and allow them to dry with lids off. We need them to stay dry, as this will reduce contamination and bacterial growth, keeping people safe. The materials also have more value as a resource.

Hard and Soft plastics have different recycling processes, as soft plastics are harder to recycle. We will go into this in more detail later, but for now, hard plastics can be squeezed and they return to their original shape, whereas soft plastics do not ‘bounce back’. 

Clean dry soft plastics are the ‘Grey’ group: We call this the ‘grey’ group because they are difficult to recycle and few companies have the facilities to do so. Our goal is to reduce this group as much as we can. We will cover this in more detail later.

Soft plastics can be saved together in a bag as soft plastics are very lightweight and can be compressed. It is essential to keep them clean and dry. A quick rinse will remove most food and potential bacteria.

General waste is the ‘Red’ group: Once you have the first three resource recovery spots working, this ‘Red’ section should be very minimal. This red group will consist of the un-recyclables and hazardous materials. If you have collection points for items such as batteries, oils and other toxic materials, please follow your local guidelines and do not send these to landfill.

To further refine your ‘resource collection’ system add the Soft plastics group:

  1. Organics (food scraps and garden waste) The GREEN Bin.
  2. Recyclables (glass, paper, metal and hard plastics) The YELLOW Bin.
  3. Other General Waste (not included in the above categories) The RED Bin.
  4. Clean Soft Plastics The GREY Bin.

Download resources [pdf]

#3_PP_4 BIN SYSTEM FOR HOUSEHOLDS

4. ORGANIC MATERIAL

The environmental cost of sending Organics to landfill is huge as it produces methane and other harmful greenhouse gases, can support harmful bacteria and cause disease.

It is essential to separate ‘Wet’ organics from the ‘Dry’ materials. By separating organic material from your waste stream it can save you up to 55% of your entire volume of waste. 

By capturing the rich and valuable nutrients that are found in Organics at home you can greatly improve the plants, gardens and soils where you live.

Below are some tips to help you setup your own organics resource recovery system: 

Inside the home:

In your kitchen place a small bench top bin so all your food scraps can be collected. This Organics kitchen bench bin is then emptied daily or when full into your garden Compost, Worm Farm or Black Soldier Fly BIn outside in the garden.

The kitchen bench bin can be lined with sheets of recycled newspaper to absorb any moisture from the ‘wet’ food scraps. The sheets of paper also help make cleaning easier.

Compostable green bin liners can also be used. True compostable and biodegradable bags must be made from renewable plant material, as oil-based plastics such as polyethylene are resistant to microorganism activity as they do not have an enzyme capable of degrading artificial plastics, plus the additives in oil-based plastics inhibit microbial growth as they are hydrophobic (repels water).

The logos below certify products, particularly ‘green’ plastic bags as compostable, either industrial and home. The difference between industrial and home composting is the ability of the biodegradable plastic to completely break down at low temperatures (home composting mostly through microbes) or higher temperatures (industrial) typically 60 degrees for 4 hours. 

Do not put plastic in this bin, paper tea bags are ok but not the ‘fake-silk’ plastic ones.

Outside the home:

Organic resource recovery outside the house is where the options get interesting.

You will need to decide if you want to start a Compost, Worm Farm or Black Soldier Fly system. These three forms of organic recycling can deliver great results for your garden.

Compost: Home compost systems aerate food scraps slowly turning them into organic material which provides rich in nutrients and is perfect for all gardens, pot plants and herbs. Avoid putting meat scraps in this compost as it will attract maggots, which will putrefy the entire bin. If you want a system that can process meat scraps, take a look at the Black Soldier Fly system.

Worm Farm: These are wonderful systems ideal for all household types, including apartments. A good worm farm system will have a container with garden worms which quickly convert food scraps into high quality ‘castings’ which works like a super fertilizer. Avoid garlic, onions and meat, as they do not like these and can harm the worms.

A concentrated liquid can be tapped from the worm farm, that can be used on your plants- they will love it!

Black Soldier Fly (BSF): Although Black Soldier Flies have been around for a while, this is a relatively new form of organic food processing, and they eat everything (including meat) very fast. The amazing thing about BSF’s is they are found all around the world, they are harmless and they can convert 1 tonne of organic material into 200 kg of pure protein and fat. This is perfect if you have animals, such as pigs, chickens or fish, as the BSF larvae will eat the organic material then climb out of the container and can be collected as an additional food source. No doubt this will be an innovative solution for organic contamination and waste recovery.

Costa from Gardening Australia outlines how to setup a compost or worm farm system, check it out here, or here for the Black Soldier Fly system.

Download resources [pdf]

#4_Certified Standard Logos for Biodegradable Plastics

5. DRY MATERIAL

Sorting Recyclables and Non-recyclables

Plastic, paper, glass, textiles and metal make up between 40-70% of the waste stream.

Below are a few of our favourite tips for dealing with the Dry Recyclable materials at home:

  1. Wash all recyclables and remove caps, lids and tops it reduces bacteria and potential diseases
  2. Plastic PET drink bottles can be safely reused many times over.
  3. Recycling food and drink containers is an excellent way of reducing more packaging
  4. Hard plastics #1 PET, #2 HDPE and #5 PP can all be recycled in most regions if they are cleaned, sorted, tops, caps and lids removed.
  5. Newspaper make an excellent weed matt when starting a new garden
  6. Glass bottles and jars can be used in many ways to keep food and liquids safe
  7. Clothes and Textiles can be reused through ‘swap shops’  
  8. Try to avoid Soft Plastics they are often the hardest to recycle. Shopping at farmers markets and taking your own recycled containers with you will greatly reduce this.

PROBLEM PLASTICS – Soft Plastics and Polystyrene Foam:

There are two major issues with soft plastics and polystyrenes. They are hard to recycle and they are the most damaging of all plastics types in the environment, killing wildlife like turtles, birds and even cattle. These plastics are destroying habitats such as coral reefs and seagrass beds and choke waterways.

Soft plastics and expanded polystyrene or ‘packing foam’ are generally not welcome in the recycling bins. The reason for this is they are harder to recycle, can jam up shredding machines and generally make a mess of a good batch of recyclable materials. We strongly suggest you avoid and reduce these plastics as much as you possibly can. 

If you are lucky enough to have a council or system where these are collected and recycled – awesome! Send it there. For example, in Australia there are an increasing number of companies who process soft plastics (which is mostly polyethylene) in to other products, however they can’t process it all- hence the need to avoid and reduce the soft plastics. 

There is a growing movement towards eliminating, reducing and recycling harmful soft plastics, as such ask around at your local shops to see if they support a soft plastic recycling scheme.  

If so, use a recycled bag to collect all your clean soft plastics, hang it somewhere in your kitchen (as it can come in handy when looking for a spare bag and only put in soft clean plastics,  When it is full – return it to your drop off point, but do not put it in your yellow recyclable bin. 

Download resources [pdf]

#5_PP_8 Tips for Recycling ‘Dry’ materials at home

6. THE RED BIN CHALLENGE

Now you have a well-organised resource recovery system within your home and you are recording the amount of Bin material you and your family are generating, we want to present you with a challenge!

Yes, that’s right, we challenge you…. ‘NOT TO PUT YOUR RED BIN OUT UNTIL IT IS FULL’.

You maybe thinking: But if I don’t empty the red bin it will start to smell? Right?

Wrong, if you have separated your wet and dry materials the Red Bin will have very little material going into it. 

After you have separated the Organic resource the food material into the Green Bin compost sections. The glass, metal, paper and hard plastics into the Yellow Bin and the soft plastics polystyrenes into the Grey Bin. Sent any clothes or textiles to swap, thrift or Op shops  – then theoretically, you will not have much material to put into the Red Bin.

I love this challenge as it aligns with the Law of Least Resistance – a challenge that asks you not to do something!!

When you start this challenge, record Start Date, and the End Date, which will be when you DO finally put the Red Bin out for collection.

Download resources [pdf]

#6A_PP_THE-REDBIN-CHALLENGE

PLASTIC NEUTRAL OR PLASTIC POSITIVE?

Now that we have worked out an estimate of your waste to landfill through the Red Bin Challenge, we need to find out how well you went and if there is any room for improvement.  Below is a colour-coded table that will help you assess how your waste to landfill rates from excellent (blue zone) to excessive /very concerning (red zone), and everything in between.

Currently, the Global average of plastic produced per year per person is 53kg, this represents the amount we need to be below to be Plastic Neutral, but why not try for even less.

As Red Bins are normally collected every fortnight, we have assessed a maximum of 26 Red Bins collected over the year. These Bins are measured in Volume as weight can vary a great deal from 5 – 20+kg depending on waste material, so we will use an average of 10kg/ Red Bin. Please note this is an estimation, not an exact quantification.

In addition, assuming all organics and food scraps are removed from the Red Bins, the percentage of plastic waste remaining in the ‘Dry’ materials is on average 23% (this figure was taken from Module #6), so we will use this to determine a ‘plastic waste consumption’.  We have also inserted various plastic consumption rates for different countries, as an interesting comparison. (For the full report see plasticwaste-generation-across-the-world. 

To find your value, simple look up the second column – TOTAL VOLUME TO LANDFILL and this will give you an annual plastic waste to landfill value.

Colour Code:

The countries included in the table for comparisons include the G20 countries, which are a collection of the world’s largest economies’, as well as the five countries considered to have the highest plastic problems (China, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam). Interesting to see where the largest consumption per person comes from.

 

 

SIGN OFF: SMALL STEPS

It is about enabling people to change their world through achievable tasks, creating practical reduction strategies to minimize your plastic footprint and do your part for precious oceans and environment. Discarded household plastic has real value and we owe it to the health of the planet to realise that value.

As a valued member of the Plastic Neutral Collective Crew you will receive more Tips, Tricks and Information to help make a difference and change your world.

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