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Recycling is not the solution, but we can't abandon it yet

Last Monday night Four Corners reported on Australia's supposedly unravelling recycling and waste sector in their episode aptly named 'Trashed.' It left many people wondering if we should bother recycling.

Recycling is not the solution, but we can't abandon it yet

This is last weeks recycling. I was inspired by fellow zero waste blogger Lindsay who back in April let us peek into her recycling. While she provided a month's worth, I thought it best to stick to a week. If I committed to a month, I'm not sure i'd remember to photograph it! I walked out of a cafe the other week without our babies pram, only the baby. Just an example of where my brain is at for you all. I had intended this post to follow the format of Lindsay's, but with the recent recycling industry scandals it's morphed into something different. But first, let's have a look at what I added to the yellow bin:

  • Two pizza boxes – We rarely ate takeaway before baby arrived. Oh how sleep deprivation changed that. They make the BEST vegan pizza. 
  • Postal satchel – I bought my son extra nappies from a Facebook Buy, Swap, Sell. I had asked for a paper satchel...
  • Foil – My mother-in-law dropped off cabbage rolls on a plate, wrapped in foil. 
  • Scraps of paper – I write shopping lists and dinner schedules on the back of envelopes my husband’s work receives. 
  • Toilet roll and packaging – WGAC and Pure Planet toilet paper.

The story ran by Four Corners has been one of many exposes into the recycling industry over the last few months. In July a fire broke out at a recycling facility in North Melbourne. Cardboard, paper, plastic, glass and aluminium that had been stockpiling went up in flames, sending debris from the fire across the metropolitan region. City residents, especially those with children, were advised to stay inside. Homes close to the fire were evacuated, with some residents ending up in hospital due to respiratory issues. My husband told me that it smelt horrible and could taste chemicals at the back of his throat. This was the fourth fire at the facility in the past year, with many questioning if the blaze was an accident or a way to deal with the stockpiled recycling. Prior to the fire I had heard rumours of companies stockpiling recycling here in Victoria, but not at the amount Four Corners uncovered.

The zero waste philosophy puts recycling as a last resort. It's not a system that works well enough for us to rely on it. It has become a bandaid, masking a rather horrible reality. It's also a business, the value of materials dropped into those yellow bins each fortnight is driven by market prices. If the value is low, it won't be recycled right away like most Australians think.

Let's take a look at the most common materials recycled. Recycling aluminium is 95% more efficient than using virgin aluminium. Metals have always had high market value. Recycling plastic is 85% more efficient, but China who have previously taken most of it, is no longer wanting to buy our plastic to recycle. This is mix of low oil prices and the plastic we recycle is not to a high enough standard or sorted properly. Paper is 50% more efficient, but can only be recycled up to seven-eight times. Lastly, recycling glass is 40% more efficient.

Four Corners obtained a report suggesting that in NSW glass recycling might need to stop. Too much of it is being stockpiled, obviously waiting for its market value to increase. This may have sounded alarming, but they did not explain how it could be fixed. The obvious would be to cut back on our glass consumption by encouraging reusing and refilling by businesses. Another option is changing how glass is collected for recycling. Preferably glass should be sorted by colour and intact. It's easier to recycle glass this way. Our glass is mostly commingled and broken. If done right, recycling can work well enough to recover resources. Due to the low prices for recycled materials vs raw materials, waste recovery businesses don't want to invest in the infrastructure to set these systems up. 

Recycling is not the solution, yet we can't abandon it. If we removed it or halted materials like glass from the recycling process, there would be HUGE leap in valuable resources dumped into landfill. I could only foresee a domino effect happening. Any confidence in waste recovery would be lost and people might stop trying to keep resources out of landfill by any means. Recycling is not perfect, but it's much smarter option than landfill.

So back to the issue; should we continue recycling if the industry is in such disarray? My answer is a loud YES! Please keep recycling, but continue to use it as a last resort. To me, I see recycling as a necessary bridge we have to use until a new direction is built. Learn the correct way to recycle in your council area. Each council and State deal with their recycling differently. Last nights episode only focused on a small part of the recycling industry. There are places in Australia that are doing it right. There are good people in the recycling industry. Truly!

When I'm invited to give talks on reducing waste, part of the discussion covers recycling. I encourage people to look at their recycling bin as much as I do for their landfill rubbish. Understanding how a system works, especially a flawed system, will give the extra boost to make changes. Part of recycling smarter is using less resources at the start that require recycling. Less new packaging, more reusing.

But until reusing is the social normal everywhere, there are other ways we can improve the recycling system. Below are a couple of ideas, but i'd love to hear yours too.

Write, email and call State and Federal Members of Parliament

The recycling industry clearly needs regulation. Tell them we want to make it mandatory that a certain percentage of our packaging requires Australian recycled materials. Businesses could be given financial incentives from the government for choosing recycled products over non recycled. If you have more ideas, tell them! Don't think your voice does not matter, it does.

Try to refuse, reduce and reuse

We are recycling more and more, yet our buying habits have not decreased. What we need is more focus on refusing, reducing and reusing. Less consumption = less recycling. Plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic cutlery, plastic takeaway containers can all be replaced with reusables.

As you can see from the contents of our recycling, we can improve on the refuse, reduce and reuse. We'll admit to buying items in glass as well, especially beer and the odd stir fry sauce (more so now with a baby...). The Builder is going to save up a keg of beer from Kegs on Legs and we'll make more of an effort to cook sauces from scratch and freeze. Instead of getting takeaway, we have decided to try planning dinner a little earlier, and walk to the pizza store on days that neither of us feel like cooking. The emphasis is on try. I'm well aware life happens, some choices are easier than others and everyones lives are different. Refuse plastic packaging, buy in bulk where you can and don't forget the reusables. We can all look in our recycling bins and see what we can all try to do differently.

Support companies that reuse and refill

There is a growing number of companies that champion the refill revolution! Responsible Cafes will help you find venues that encourage the reuse of coffee cups. TAP. Wines in Melbourne are installing wine on tap in restaurants, saving MANY glass bottles from going to recycling. St. David's Dairy is now offering drive through milk refills. The Vegan Dairy will take back glass jars for reuse. Zero Waste Beauty is also offering a glass return program.

Speak up

If you want more of these types of service, speak up. Plant a seed. Drop an email to a company that you think could offer a refill and reuse service. We need more places to offer refill and reuse options if we want to break free from our reliance on recycling.

Support bans on single use plastics (eg. bags, straws, single-use plastic takeaway) and cash for container schemes

Search for groups in your area that are working on these campaigns or start one up. Jump into a zero waste Facebook community to find one or ask your local council.


While the show did not offer any advice on what we can do as citizens, I did appreciate that it shifted responsibility to those at fault. Consumers shoulder too much responsibility when it comes to doing the right thing. We can't blame ourselves for this if we've been led to believe that everything going into our recycling bins is taken care of responsibly. We can control what goes into our bins, but we have no control once the contents is picked up by the trucks. But that doesn't mean we don't have a role to play. With knowledge comes caring, from caring comes change.

How did you feel after watching Four Corners 'Trashed' program? Were you angry? Disappointed? What other ways can we as citizens help create change? I'd love to know of other businesses that refill in your area too. Share away :)

Raising zero waste children

Raising zero waste children

To prepare for our role as parents, we decided to attend the hospital's parenting class. Before the lesson began our facilitator asked if anyone had experience looking after small children, infants or babies. Neither of us could raise our hands.

My experience with babies prior to the birth of my son was limited. Time spent with the offspring of family and friends mainly consisted of cuddles, usually under supervision of mum and dad. I knew next to nothing about what a baby needs. To say I felt unprepared going into parenthood would be a gross understatement. Turns out parenting didn't solely consist of changing nappies, washing clothes and cuddles...there was this whole development thing, making choices that will shape his whole life. And it starts from the beginning.

Within minutes of leaving the parenting class, we begun asking each other questions on how are we going to respond to certain scenarios when they arise. One particular area we circled back to a few times was our lifestyle; how would we deal with this as parents? How can we get prepared? Will living zero waste turn him into a barry no friends at school? What will other parents think of us?

I decided to dedicate a blog post on the subject of raising waste wise children. I need a year of being a parent before I'll feel close to confident writing on the subject myself. So I invited three mothers living zero waste, Lauren, Tammy and Meredith, to share how they do it and pass on advice. Grab a biscuit and a cup of tea, it's a good long post packed with sageness.


Lauren - Hobart, Australia. Mum to three; primary school and high school age.
Blogs at Owlet.com, runs online store Spiral Garden, co-founder Zero Waste Tasmania

Our children have been totally on board from the very start of our move towards zero waste living. We’ve always been honest with them about the state of our environment, and human impact on it, but we balance this with a good dose of nature appreciation. We feel that encouraging a love of the natural environment can result in a passion for protecting it, and so far this has worked well. They’ve gone on to become advocates in their own right, approaching businesses and community groups to ask them to reduce their waste output, and engaging their peers and family members in discussions around waste and environmental concepts. They’re informed and, for them, zero waste living has become normalised.

A post shared by owletmama (@owletmama) on

A key for us in finding a good balance for our family is discussing issues in partnership and giving our children the space to voice their opinions, and make their own decisions. We take them shopping with us and involve them in the process. We encourage them to explore and find out more about things are produced and transported, to ask questions and learn more before making a decision. This means our children are responsible for the choices they make, rather than feeling like we won’t allow them to do or have something they want. We also encourage them to find other ways to make, replace or acquire the things they want. They’re amazing second hand shoppers! And they make their own toys, or we find compostable versions of the things they really want. We’ve learnt alongside them much of the time, and engaged them in processes around the home, like composting, animal care, cooking and preserving. Our children have found our solutions-based approach to living without waste to be encouraging. Often children (and adults, too), can feel the problems of the world are just too overwhelming, but by encouraging our children to become change-makers in their own right, they’ve found strength and positivity and an enthusiasm for zero waste living.


Tammy - Gippsland, Australia. Mother to two, both in primary school.
Writer, speaker and sustainability consultant at Gippslandunwrapped.com

What I’ve learnt along the way, about parenting, is that children will do what you do, not do what you say to do. Any parenting expert will tell you that and I see it happen in my family, sometimes in positive ways and sometimes in ways I don’t want to admit too (anyone else notice their children acting like mini-mes?). Research also shows that leading by example is an important part of creating change because it establishes new social norms, that is, it helps make desired practices commonplace. So, to raise mindful and intentional consumers, I concentrate on being a mindful and intentional consumer myself. Obviously, I also guide my children by discussing my values with them as opportunities arise and this is how long term values are developed in children.


It’s long term, sustainable results that I am after, so I don’t get caught up in achieving some idea of perfection for every situation we encounter. Perfection isn’t sustainable and such expectations create a lot of anxiety and often a sense of failure. Anxiety is crippling many children today so another value that I try to model and instil in my children is that we can strive for awesomeness but still be imperfect. The focus becomes more about the journey rather than the destination and we celebrate achievements. Besides this, kids go through different stages as they develop into adults and that involves testing boundaries, taking risks, understanding the consequences of their own decisions, finding their own path and working out what is meaningful to them. I give my children some space to do this. It will make them more independent, resilient, confident and wise in the long term.

When it comes to influencing others, who can influence my children, I do much of the same. For example, I volunteer at kindergarten, school, and extracurricular activities so that I can have natural conversations, lead by example, and help implement changes. Again, my kids see me take action on things I believe in and sometimes have the opportunity to join in.

Adjusting my mindset to be about the bigger picture of zero waste and plastic free living, rather than the everyday detail is working for us. Prior to this it was becoming clear that I was turning my family off environmentalism. Obviously, there can be more household waste than I would prefer but there is less stress and arguments and I do see my kids developing skills and making decisions that show they are becoming more and more mindful consumers.


Meredith - Vermont, USA. Mother to two; toddler and baby. 
Writer and speaker at meredithtested.com

Hi! I’m Meredith from www.MeredithTested.com, mom of two little girls. We currently live in Vermont, USA. I’ll give away the ending right away: Being a parent presents some of my biggest zero waste challenges, but also my greatest inspiration and motivation. I considered myself eco-friendly and a mindful person before my oldest daughter was born, but she turned my earth-loving world upside-down. My motivation was locked in more intensely than it ever had before. I needed to provide a healthy, safe and non-toxic environment for her both within my home and out in the world. We used cloth diapers from the day she was born and were frankly shocked at how easy they were to use and maintain. We realized that diverting that much waste from landfills was awesome, and having a significant impact on our home environment too.

We didn’t have to take out the trash as much. We weren’t required to buy a special plastic contraption to hide the smells of dirty diapers. And we never had to take an emergency trip to the store at 11pm to buy a new box of paper disposable diapers when we ran out.

Similarly, I find that for a lot of things from diaper balm to crackers, once you have a simple recipe down pat and the basic ingredients on hand, making things from scratch can be easier than having to run out to the store or worry about finding the right brand. I can and do make a lot of things from scratch, but to avoid burn out I purchase certain items (hopefully in plastic-free packaging) if needed.

Reducing waste while caring for babies and kids is different than when you’re a single person or couple. It’s true that we all have busier seasons and days or weeks that are more stressful than others, but kids add an additional layer of the unknown. Whether its medical needs or schooling, trash-filled situations are sometimes harder to avoid and daily control can go out the window fast.


While I’ve been quite vocal on my blog and social media about how you can stick with your zero waste goals even while doing tricky things like traveling with kids, the truth is that they seem to positively attract trash. From plastic packaging on well-meaning gifts from family and friends to stickers and balloons foisted on them by strangers at the market. We appreciate the generosity and while we definitely prefer plastic-free, secondhand presents or experiential gifts (or, frankly, none at all!) we haven’t turned anything down. Except that pack of stickers from the grocery store that I was able to quickly say “no” to before my daughter noticed they were on offer.

My top 3 tips for living zero waste with kids are:

  • Bring wipes everywhere. A pile of cloth wipes and a little spray bottle with water or a mix of water with a touch of Castile soap is a must. Avoid disposable paper napkins and tissues (that don’t really work that well anyway), and packs upon packs of disposable wet wipes.
  • Live by quiet example. This advice is really a reminder for myself. I love chatting but I can sometimes go overboard sharing why I love having a plastic free and low-waste home. Family, friends, and acquaintances you meet through your kid’s school, playgroups and other activities might not be familiar or understand your lifestyle. Lead by quiet example instead of giving a mini-presentation when someone asks about your stainless steel bento box. And of course do your best to answer questions or share your experiences and reasoning if asked.
  • Go with the flow and let some things go. Having kids is taxing enough without putting extra unrealistic expectations on ourselves. I challenge myself and I try hard to stick to my zero waste goals, but at a certain point it’s okay to throw in the towel. Your mental and physical health and the health of your family comes first. Staying up until all hours of the night making DIY diaper balm or bread or … whatever when you really need sleep isn’t going to help your family in the end. If you’re a new mom who needs to give your baby formula, don’t let the packaging or any part of it make you feel guilty. Just feed your baby. If your child needs medicine but the packaging is plastic, definitely go for it anyway. If you need to buy certain foods for your family in packaging on occasion, that’s fine. In the end “going zero waste” is about an overall commitment and mindfulness, and I truly don’t believe there are “fails.” If you’re trying to make this lifestyle work in the long term, you’ll have to compromise a little. Or sometimes, a lot. Forgive yourself, re-focus and move on.


When I read each of their responses, I immediately saw the theme of leading by example. From day one, children are watching, processing what they have seen and wanting to mimic in their own way. From bringing this post together I learnt many helpful hints on raising zero waste children and I hope you have too, parent or not. What tips would you share to a new parent?

The baby room

The baby room zero waste mum

Today, I thought i'd tour our baby's bedroom. Truth is, the whole house is his bedroom, happily falling asleep anywhere. Please don't assume he's a perfect sleeper. During the day he has cat napping down to a fine art, and midnight through to dawn, I'm up every two hours. Luckily, I get one solid four hour block from him in the evening...at the moment. I say at the moment, because last month the four hour block of sleep started around three in the afternoon.

Anyway, I'm not here to talk about his sleep patterns. I'm here to explore the baby room with you, sharing how and where we sourced everything. Before you begin scrolling, I want to put out a disclaimer about the tidiness of his room. The space rarely looks this ordered. Maybe once a fortnight I'll clean it, fold clothes, put items away. This was one of those rare events.

Borrowing, sharing and choosing secondhand are three easy to action steps of the zero waste lifestyle and will help anyone avoid needing to buy new plastic too. It's easy to source most items for a baby this way. Why? Because baby stuff is not bought for long term use. Babies grow fast and their needs change month to month.

Had we not lived this lifestyle, I would have made the choice to 'shop' for our baby room by borrowing, sharing and choosing secondhand. It makes financial sense to borrow, share and shop secondhand for items that will only be used for a short period of time. Thousands of parents seem to agree, and that's why secondhand baby items are abundant. The world truly does not need more new baby things made.

Of course, there are many more benefits and reasons to borrow, share and choose secondhand, beyond saving money. These are some:
  • Keeping items out of landfill
  • Putting value on the resources needed to make each item
  • Recognising the effort that went into making the item
  • Investing in a circular economy

It was not hard to find all we needed. The moment I alerted the world to my pregnancy, there was a flux of communication from parents happy to pass on, lend and sell their used baby goods without me even having to ask.

What was not borrowed or shared, was found on Facebook Buy Swap Sell, Ebay and Gumtree. Out of all three, I'd say Facebook Buy Swap Sell groups to be the most efficient place to gather baby goods. There were niche groups for most items on Facebook. I found sellers provided more information, were easier to communicate with, offering more room to negotiate a fair price. Op Shops were the hardest place to find anything other than clothes, blankets and toys.

The cot and bookcase were bought from our local Facebook Buy Swap Sell.

The baby room zero waste mum

He's not sleeping in the cot full time, yet. The day time naps and evening sleep are in the cot. For the rest of the night, he's in this bassinet next to our bed. My siblings and I, all slept in this bassinet as babies. I'm in negotiations on when the cot will come into the bedroom...I get this strong feeling the Builder is hoping the cot will relocate to the spare room with me. I don't know if it's because of the baby waking him up or my snoring. 

The baby room zero waste mum

Some of my old teddy bears, lined up waiting to be played with, sit upon the bookshelf. Old books, sitting alongside new books. A mix of old and new toys, plus a secondhand lamp.

I chose not to style the room. Since most of what makes up the room would be passed on eventually, I didn't see the point. Having said that, if creating a special theme is something you'd love to do, it can be achieved just as easily buying secondhand. 

The baby room zero waste mum
The baby room zero waste mum

The chair was bought in haste, by my mum and sister from the local secondhand charity store. I had not planned on having a breastfeeding chair. But it was the best $25 spent and i'm glad they talked me into it. It's in really great condition too. We think the chair spent a majority of it's life wrapped in a plastic cover, reserved for special visitors only. I keep meaning to have a closer look at the chair for money hidden inside. You hear these stories of buyers finding cash in old furniture. You never know! Until then, an old bed sheet will stay draped on top, catching any vomit/spit from bub.

The baby room zero waste mum

Our change table came from one of my readers. Hi Lori! She had no need of it, so passed it on. Like the bookcase and cot, there were marks on it. They are used items. The chances of wear on secondhand items is a high possibility. That's something to get comfortable with if new to buying goods secondhand. The Builder offered to paint it, and i'm still waiting.  

The baby room zero waste mum
The baby room zero waste mum

Sheets, wraps, muslins, clothes, shoes, socks, bibs, blankets were all donated by family and friends. Nappies sourced from a Facebook group and Gumtree. Baby carrier (behind the door) found for a bargain on Gumtree. We bought a bundle of towels from the same local secondhand charity for nappy free time.

The baby room zero waste mum

My tips for borrowing, sharing and buying secondhand baby items:
  • Ask for the serial number or product name to check safety standards and product recalls at www.productsafety.gov.au before buying or borrowing furniture, prams and car seats. 
  • Don't be afraid to ask ALOT questions about the items before committing.
  • If you can, view the item first before purchasing. I'd advise this for furniture, prams, highchair, change tables, to make sure they are sturdy and stable. Look for missing or broken parts.
  • Buddy up with a friend or family member when going to view or pick up items from strangers, just to be safe.
  • I would suggest asking family and friends that are offering to pass on free stuff, to detail what they are intending to give. It might be free, but make sure it's useful too. 
  • Look out for second hand baby markets or swap parties in your area. 

When it comes to rehoming the items, they will either be sold or given back to the person we borrowed it from. Another option is donating to charity organisations like St. Kilda Mums. They take items for families suffering hardship. If you would like to find something similar, contact the local council, ask a maternal health nurse or child health services in your area.

And here is the newish Mum. Dressed in pyjamas. Needing a shower. Thanks for letting me show off the baby room. Enjoy your weekend.


Why hankies make a handy gift for a new mum

Why hankies make a handy gift for a new mum
This is my collection of handkerchiefs.

I never used to love hankies or have a collection of them. Prior to going plastic-free, my purse always contained the tissue pocket pack. You know the ones I mean; the small collection of disposable tissues, wrapped up in plastic, that too would be disposed of in a bin.

When I decided to swap my throw away plastic packaged tissues in favour of hankies, I was a little lost as to where I'd purchase them from. Did people still use hankies? The last time I used a hanky, wold have been in primary school.
Yes, that's a hanky tucked into my school uniform. Most of my classmates had the plastic packaged tissue packets. I was jealous. Not many of the other kids had hankies. After a time, I wore my Mum down, swapping the hanky for disposable tissues.

When I confessed to my Mum that I did not know where to buy hankies, she disclosed to having held onto the handkerchiefs her children rebelled against, and sent them my way. Plastic-free of course.

Using hankies over tissues saves on not only plastic packaging, but also landfill waste. The thought of disposable tissues, full of illness laden bacteria hanging out in landfill makes me nervous. At least with hankies, the bacteria is killed when washed in hot water. It sometimes makes me wonder if there are superbugs, growing in our landfill...after all, nothing truly breaks down in landfill, especially when wrapped in plastic rubbish bags.

Conspiracy theories aside, tissue boxes and plastic packaged tissue packets comprise of waste beyond just the tissue. The paper tissues are shipped to stores in boxes, with plastic tape, unloaded from pallets that were wrapped in plastic. For how many tissue boxes we go through, our stores would be disposing of bundles of plastic that we don't even see.

Hankies are designed to be used over and over. Any holes can be repaired. At the end of their life, a hanky can be disposed of in a compost, breaking down between 3-6 months. A packet of hankies is a one time purchase, unlike tissues.

As a new mum, I have found hankies to be one of the handiest and most versatile items to have on hand. If you are thinking of something useful for a parent to be, whether they are plastic-free, zero waste or neither of the two, put hankies on the gift idea list.

5 ways I found hankies to be handy as a new mum


1. For tears


I have yet to meet a parent that has not cried a tear, here and there. There are tears that come with a change of hormones following the birth. The tears from exhaustion. Happy tears. My baby is crying and it makes me cry, tears. My baby is growing too quickly tears. Having a hanky close by to mop up those tears is essential.

2. A temporary breast pad


Ah, leaking breasts. It could be a light leak or a heavy surge, either way most breastfeeding mums will need breast pads. On the odd occasion I've found myself out of my reusable cloth breast pads. They might be damp on the clothes line. I might find them unexpectedly soaked through, because Bub slept a little longer and I forgot to express. Rather than wear damp breast pads or risk going without, the humble hanky serves well as a functional temporary breast pad.

3. Moping up dribbles and posits


We have cloths for our baby's dribbles and posits. Sometimes they are not always within reach. You can never predict when a baby is going to do a sneaky posit. It could be directly after a feed or thirty minutes later. With a hanky in my pocket, I can clean up the dribble and posits quickly.

4. Wrapping up food


I ventured to a cafe on my own with Tifl for the first time. We settled in. I ordered a cup of herbal tea and my fave vegan donut. Just as I was half way through my sweet donut, ole' mate decided that the cafe was not his vibe, showing it loudly. I wrapped up my half eaten donut in a clean hanky and we headed home. Who knew hankies would be handy for food transportation and saving food from going to waste. Win!

5. Playing peek a boo with baby


Interacting with my baby is important for his growth and development. Plus, it's fun for me. I like to grab a hanky, especially one with shapes, and play peak-a-boo or let him stare at the patterns. Who needs fancy black and white books. My old mickey mouse hankies keep him amused.

I'm imagine there are many other ways hankies are useful to new parents, beyond their intended use. If you know of any more, I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.

A reply from Elevit


I forgot to mention in my last blog post, the reply received from Elevit.

Er, whose Elevit? Isn't that a pregnancy multivitamin?

Remember last year when I questioned who was responsible for making and reducing rubbish? Here is the blog post. For those who don't want to click through, in a nutshell, I was challenging why zero wasters kept all their rubbish in a jar, when instead we should push the responsibility back onto the businesses making the packaging, we spend so much of our time avoiding. Basically, I felt like so much obligation for avoiding waste fell onto the consumers shoulders, when really it should be both.

Consumers can only avoid so much, and if we are not speaking up, how can these big corporations know that we want change? So I decided to start speaking up, sending back rubbish that I can't avoid and ask for smarter decisions on product design. Tagging these companies in a hashtag won't always work. In the blog post, Rubbish - Who Is Responsible For Making It And Reducing It? I took aim at Elevit and their packaging. During my pregnancy, I chose to take a multivitamin that came with extra packaging. Packaging that I know could be smarter. So I sent it back, with a letter and a suggestion.

Here is what I wrote to Elevit (it was a hand written letter):

Dear product managers at Elevit,
I am sending part of your packaging back, as I could not find a way to dispose of it, other than to landfill. As a consumer, this should not be my full responsibility to figure out if packaging like your blister packs can be recycled. I believe you could do better with your packaging. It is a tad ironic that your product is to help mothers grow a healthy baby, yet your packaging is not healthy for the planet. I have included a sample of how you could make a simple swap from the plastic and aluminium blister pack to full aluminium. This would make your pill packets 100% recyclable. The swap would keep all the blister packs out of landfill, reduce resources, ensuring the next generation you are helping grow will not have to deal with our rubbish. Plastic production and its use can be harmful, not to mention landfills are expanding across the world due to poor packaging designs like this. I hope you will consider switching to full aluminium blister packs.

Sincerely,
Erin Rhoads


The below is the reply that came from Bayer, Elevits' parent company:

Dear Erin,
Thank you for taking the time to contact Bayer regarding Elevit. Your feedback is important to us and this has been forwarded to the Elevit team. Should you like to discuss this further, please call 1800 023 884 (Mon-Fri: 9am-4pm. Sydney time. Please choose option 1, then option 2). Please quote reference #AU170021xx. Alternatively, we are able to contact you if you could provide us with your telephone number. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely,
Bayer Australia Limited


Shortly after my original letter was sent, I found myself in a conversation with a someone who used to be involved with large corporations like Bayer. Not knowing my life, that I wrote a blog on reducing waste or had sent my rubbish with a letter back to a multinational company, did he tell me that if a handful of written letters are sent on a particular issue, that they have to be presented at the board of director meetings. So who knows, my letter could have made it to a director. Either way, the effort was not done in vain. A seed has been planted somewhere at Bayer.

I'm planning to delve into the subject of speaking up and activism this year, so look out for more on this subject. It seems to be a subject largely ignored. And I plan to research the legitimacy on consumer based issues making it to board of director meetings.

In the meantime, I'd would be interested to hear of stories on when you have spoken up about an issue. Was it met with any reply? How did it make you feel?
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