Adelaide woman throws out rubbish for first time in two years after epic effort to reduce litter

An Adelaide woman has taken out her wheelie bin for the first time in two years, after taking concerted steps to reduce the amount of waste her family generates.

Alice Clanachan’s bin left her backyard for the first time in 26 months on Tuesday, still with a little room on top.

“I could have gone a little longer, but it’s getting hot,” he said.

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The philosophy of “reduce, reuse, recycle” has been a part of her life for more than a decade, but it was only after the pandemic that Clanachan made serious efforts to avoid the creation of waste in any form.

“It’s been a long time and a long journey,” he said.

“I think of all the shared houses I’ve lived in and the roommates I’ve had… this cohort of people who were like ‘you taught me how to do it, you were so strict’.

“Now I try not to accumulate anything.”

The small waste bin, which represented two years in Clanachan’s life, contained mostly traditional trash: old pipe repairs or drains.

Apart from that, there were some worn out gardening gloves, rapid antigen tests, thermal paper receipts, vacuum cleaner dust, dental floss and broken pottery.

Clanachan doesn’t drive a car and uses his bicycle and public transport, which makes it more difficult for the weekly large supermarkets. It buys most of its produce from farmers’ markets and wholesale, bringing its own grain and rice containers.

“I avoid prepackaged foods and save egg cartons for people with chickens,” she said. “The 2 kg carton of yoghurt I buy is a gift to a friend who grows mushrooms.

“I feel like I’m failing a bit when I put out the recycling bin. I wish they had more lives and uses before they end up in landfill.

According to Planet Ark, about 2.44 million tons of the 4.9 million tons of materials sent to landfill each year are recyclable or compostable.

Up to 18% of the material in council-supplied waste bins is recyclable, while just over half could be composted at home or in organic processing plants.

Adelaide resident Trudy Conroy thought she had broken a record after avoiding landfill trash for 78 weeks.

Now that Clanachan has surpassed her title, this time she is determined to make her bin last for 100.

“I’ve only really gotten into it in the last two or three years,” he said. “I bought a composter…she went on for a while and then I was like, ‘I wonder if I can make it to a year?’

“I got to a year and thought, ‘how much longer can I hold on?’ You start to get pretty stubborn.

She’s sure she would have made it another month if it weren’t for an old pillow that no one wanted to pay for groups.

“It was a little weird putting it out, it had cobwebs and duct tape on it,” she said. “But I’ve learned a lot about what can be recycled.”

The City of Adelaide is providing residents with a kitchen jar and compostable bags for organic items such as eggshells, food scraps, clippings and coffee grounds. Green organics are turned into mulch and compost for local gardens.

Reuse and Recycling Hubs also let you divert from the landfill and recycle or reuse your e-waste, including bread labels, batteries and globe lights.

Conroy has a box on his front porch that collects waste that can be transferred to processing facilities, from bubble wrap to toothbrush tubes.

“I take long walks where I pass the dump,” she said. “Some of the stuff I see through the fence… so much doesn’t need to be in the dump and it shocks me.

“Once you start looking, you think, ‘I’ve been throwing those things away for years.’ I make the red bin my last resort.

As for Clanachan’s advice?

“Whatever your living situation, there are ways to compost and cut back,” she said. “Ditch the supermarkets and find your local grocer. You can buy less packaging, but also have a conversation with the ones you’re buying from and that’s very powerful.”

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