Celebrating Australia Day can be Zero Waste and Eco-Friendly. There are plenty of ways to make your celebration fabulous without single-use plastics and disposables. Discover simple ways to make Australia Day 2019 even better (without the trash).
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Each year I see disturbing images of the trash caused by Australia Day celebrations on our beaches, in our parks and public spaces. There is a total overuse of disposable items like plastic plates and cups, balloons and novelty party gear that is often not disposed of mindfully as well as littered with what appears to be reckless abandon.
Here are ways to make this holiday more planet friendly and stop the trash taking over our homes and community spaces (and perhaps helping others do the same).
Swap to Eco-Friendly Party Ware
Single-use disposable party ware is obviously convenient, but just creates so much waste. Despite the ability to recycle much of it, it nearly always ends up in landfill.
For a zero waste option, use real cups, plates and cutlery rather than throwaway items. This works great when celebrating at home and extra supplies can be cheaply bought at op-shops and garage sales.
For picnics, parks and beaches, consider taking lightweight plastic reusables or finding compostable party ware.
Remember, compostable items will need to be brought home to dispose of in your green council bin where the items can be processed commercially, as most won't break down in home composting systems.
Eco-friendly partyware is now readily available and simple to swap to.
It can cost more than cheap throwaway plastic, so if cost is an issue stick to reusables you can wash and stack. (Zero Waste doesn't have to be expensive)
The disposable party set (pictured below) is made from corn starch, packaged in cardboard and is compostable. It contains cutlery, cups, plates (2 sizes) and bowls for 20 guests.
Once used, dispose of in your green bin OR, depending on your set-up, can be added into your home compost system.
Recycle As Much As You Can
It's incredible how many things CAN be recycled but aren't. Look for public recycle bins if out, but be prepared to take your trash home with you so you can sort it into the correct bins.
The top 3 items of trash found by Clean Up Australia Day in 2017 were food packets, drink containers and food containers. This shouldn't be happening, and has negative impacts on our parks and natural areas, plus most is easily recycled.
I know YOU wont be littering (we'll get to that next), but Australia Day is a great time to double check your council recycling guidelines or get familiar with disposal options in public spaces.
Remember, if your local options aren't ideal or could be improved, pass on your feedback and ask if it can be changed.
I've asked my council to consider providing extra bins along the Semaphore foreshore area which I really hope they do.
Put It In The Bin
Yes, I know YOU are already putting it in the bin, but is everyone else?
Keep an eye on kids, friends and family and make sure they don't leave their trash behind.
I see a lot of accidental litter and I'm sure you do to. It may be a trash bag left behind when packing the BBQ gear back into the car, or plastic cups getting blown away by the wind. Kids especially, with wrappers, cups and lightweight items will put them down and expect them to still be there 4 hours later regardless of weather conditions.
Don't be afraid to point out that trash will blow away, or remind adults that adding trash to overflowing public bins is really NOT a sensible idea.
If you expect to have rubbish, also have a plan on how to bring it home once it is covered in sauce, chop fat and who knows what else. Compostable bin bags are a brilliant option and easy to take with you. If you bring several, you could offer some up to others around you struggling with their trash and lack of bins.
Bring Your Own Water
Encourage everyone to skip bottled water and drink chilled tap water instead. Provide, or bring along large water containers and add plenty of ice to keep it cool.
If using transparent water dispensers, add a few slices of orange, lemon or lime to make it hard to resist. You'll have less trash and reduce your overall spending.
Ask Your Friends to go Eco Too
If you're getting together with others, be it family or friends, why not ask them to join your eco-friendly ways. It's a great conversation starter and most people are interested in taking part. Ask them to skip the gladwrap, or agree on something simple that they are happy to try.
Not everyone is going to be into it as much as you and me, but it will lead to thinking more about simple changes that can lessen the impact on landfill and cut single-use plastics.
Instead of disposable plastic flags, streamers, bunting and everything else, why not opt for reusables?
Fabric Australia day tablecloths, aussie flag towels for sitting on and how about this adorable aussie made oilcloth bunting.
You may need to think a little outside the box, but Spotlight usually have Australian Flag fabric that you can use year after year instead of throwing out. You can also opt for Blue & Red, or Green & Gold for great Aussie themed colours and use items you already have.
Adding native flowers like bottle brush, wattle or eucalyptus leaves to your table can be very effective for native Australian decor.
Consider using items that can be reused at other occasions throughout the year.
Australia Day Food (and Waste)
Food waste at any type of celebratory get together can be frustrating. Do think about how many pavlovas, sausages and lamingtons you can realistically eat.
If it's a bring-a-pate arrangement, make sure you have an idea on who is bringing what so there isn't an over supply. Remember to divide up the food afterwards to send home with guests to make sure it can be eaten rather than thrown away.
Choose local, seasonal produce when you can (and remember to take your reusable produce bags and containers to the shop).
If you are able to make a few of your favourite foods from scratch you can skip some of the packaging too.
Given is it usually hot, home made icey poles are one simple thing you can make with hardly any effort at all. (Here are my favourite icey pole moulds)
Forget The Fly Spray!
Consider what you are actually spraying around, fly spray, insect repellent, sunscreen and everything else. It absolutely freaks me out that people use fly spray over food tables and indoors when it is actually poison. Get yourself a fly swat or use a thong and look at eco-friendly options for bug repellents.
Old School and Plastic-free Games
I'm not entirely sure when inflatable novelty toys and beach items became such a BIG thing, but they aren't doing the environment any favours. I'm not saying you can't ever enjoy them, but head to old school games that are more fun and durable like a game of beach cricket or totem tennis.
Do a Beach Clean Up After Australia Day
The day after Australia Day is the perfect time to head to your beach, park or nature reserves for a litter clean up. If you've never done one before, they really can be a lot of fun, seriously!
Kids get really into picking up litter and are great at spotting things the grown-ups miss.
Take tongs, gloves and a bucket or bag for the trash.
If you enjoy it, think about adopting a local spot for regular clean-ups. Adopt-a-Spot is a fantastic organisation, and there are locations all over Australia.