How we’re recycling ourselves to death

It’s time to stop making excuses!

I felt compelled to write this after some comments on my Instagram page about how a particular company are eco friendly because their packaging is recyclable. They commented multiple times and their arrogance at pushing their agenda, even though I’d stated I was changing away from their product (fully informed, mind you) they proceeded to blast their message onto my comments thread.

This is part of the problem my friends. Companies unwilling to listen to their customers and in this case losing a customer, instead of adapting to what the world needs right now. 

Let’s dig a bit deeper…

One of the things that would drive me a little bit crazy when I lived in Cambodia was the cognitive dissonance that foreigners displayed when they came to visit. We’d be chatting, they’d ask what I do, I’d tell them… and invariably the reply was ‘Well, it sure is needed! There’s rubbish everywhere. I went to <insert touristic location> and people were just throwing rubbish on the ground. It’s disgusting.’ .

Now, I don’t blame these people for their reaction, it’s exactly the visibility of the rubbish that got me started with this very business – because I thought, a visible problem is much easier to resolve. So far, I’ve been right.

On average, in Australia, we create around 4 times as much waste as in Cambodia! 4 times! I bloody know it too! My consumption of plastics in one year of returning to Australia exceeds what I used in Cambodia over 5 years – I’d hazard a guess at 10-times as much. Try as I do, I have to be budget conscious and sometimes bulk rice in a 2kg packet from the supermarket is substantially cheaper than what I can get at the package-free stores.

BUT, we HIDE it so much better here. We have colour coded rubbish bins (which people still don’t use properly, if we could do this one small thing better we’d be making a huge difference), street sweepers and RECYCLING!

The recycling myth

I recall in primary school learning about Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – well, we just jumped on ahead to recycling didn’t we?!

Whilst in Malaysia for the Zero Waste Malaysia Festival, I had the honour of meeting with Greenpeace Malaysia representatives and we talked about their publication – The Recycling Myth. In the west, we’ve been shipping our ‘recyclables’ to China for decades, when China stopped accepting foreign waste, illegal recycling factories popped up all over Malaysia – it’s been a nightmare for them. If you think about the size of China and the size of Malaysia (hint: China is huge, Malaysia is tiny)…. there is just no way they can manage the waste at the rate we’ve been sending it. Not to mention that if the recyclables are contaminated, they go straight to landfill, making our waste their problem. It’s just not right.

Earth overshoot day

Consistently we’ve reached Earth Overshoot Day around August each year. This day represents the day we’ve used all of the resources available for the year. We’re making it to 8 months, that’s 4 months of excess. And it’s largely due to countries like the US and Australia.

Even this year, during the pandemic, we reached overshoot day even earlier than last year.

Our consumption habits need to change

We need to push back. We need to tell companies like the one who ambushed my Instagram post that recycling isn’t the answer.

Just do your best – I buy a mix of supermarket items and package-free store items, I buy only unpackaged fresh produce as much as possible. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than giving in and buying all packaged food and products.

and this is why…

I’m so fired up about the Instagram comments. And it’s why I won’t buy from them again. I’ll be modifying my original blog praising their plastic-free packaging and organic product to include the excess packaging and no-budge line of ‘but we’re recycable’.

Recyclable is not the only solution. It’s not even the best solution. It’s a cop out a lot of the time. Do I recycle? Of course, it’s better than nothing, but that’s a low bar. And I’m always looking for better options; when it’s accessible and when it’s budget-friendly. By the way, I’ll be composting their dumb tea packets.

If you want to read the Instagram post – it’s here.

What are your thoughts on recycling? Let’s chat in the comments.


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