We have spent decades successfully recycling, but there are some even better ways to further reduce our overall waste. The best first steps should be avoiding, reducing and reusing waste. After these, recycling is the next best option. 

By avoiding, reducing, reusing and recycling our waste, we can reduce our environmental impact, keep valuable materials out of landfill, recover materials to support the economy and protect natural resources. As well as the environmental benefits, this can also help you save money.

This waste hierarchy outlines the above steps and lists them in a preferred order, with 'avoid' at the top as the best action to take.

The waste choice hierarchy details waste options in order of best to worst choice: avoid, reduce, reuse, recycle and compost, recovery, waste.

Avoid

The ultimate goal is to avoid producing waste in the first place. As consumers, we must always consider the environmental, social and financial costs of the things we buy, before we buy them.  

Here are our top tips for waste avoidance:

  • Shop smart. Before buying something, consider whether you really need it. Plan your meals, make a shopping list, and stick to it - this helps avoids unnecessary purchases and waste.
  • Avoid unnecessary packaged items. Actively choose alternatives that are packaging free or have less packaging. For example, choose a loose cake of soap instead of a bottle of body wash.
  • Avoid single-use plastics. Get yourself a reusable coffee cup and water bottle, say no to plastic straws and cutlery, and always take your own bags with you.
  • Buy bulk, loose food and cleaning products. Only buy what you need and use your own bags or containers.
  • Shop at your local farmers market. Get fresh, seasonal, loose and organic produce, which also supports farmers directly. Or if you have space, Gardening Australia has a great guide to growing your own fresh produce.

Reduce

We can actively make choices that result in less waste being produced. Every time we shop, socialise, travel, go on holidays, etc. we make choices about what we buy and what we do. Reducing is about being mindful and making better choices. 

Here are our top tips for reducing your waste:

  • Understand the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates. Food past its ‘best before’ date should be fine, but food must be eaten prior to its ‘use by’ date for safety reasons.
  • Buy longer-lasting, harder-wearing, quality items such as TVs, mobile phones and clothes, and only replace them at the item’s end of life. Visit Choice for great reviews.
  • Use real nappies. These are modern, easy to wash and use cloth nappies. Disposable nappies can each take 500 years or more to break down in landfill.
  • Buy products that are concentrated, reusable, refillable or rechargeable rather than disposable (e.g. nappies, razors, lighters, batteries).
  • Buy recycled. This helps ‘close the loop’ by creating markets for items made from recycled content, such as toilet paper or paper towel.

Reuse

Reusing existing products reduces the need to extract more materials from the earth and prevents large amounts of potentially toxic, man-made materials from entering the environment as landfill. Repurposing your items can be a fun and creative activity for the whole family.

Here are our top tips for reusing your waste:

  • Be creative! Sew old blankets or jumpers into cushion covers, convert old tea pots into plant pots, reuse yoghurt pots for growing seedlings. If you can’t reuse these types of items, check if your local primary school would like them.
  • Hold a car boot or garage sale, donate to your local charity shop, sell or swap online or host a clothes swap with friends.  
  • Fix broken items such as clothes or electrical items rather than disposing of them. If you need help with this, take your items to the Repair Café at the Greythorn Community Hub in North Balwyn.
  • Buy used or second hand items. You can often find great, near-new bargains on sites such as Gumtree or eBay. See our list of useful websites below to help you on your way.
  • Buy products that have refill options so that they can be reused. A common example is hand wash.

Recycle and compost

Recycling is a very hot topic. With many countries closing their doors to accepting Australia’s recyclable material for reprocessing due to contamination levels, it is more important than ever that we continue to recycle right. This means putting the right things in the right bins and avoiding contamination.

Here are our top tips for recycling and composting your waste:

      Useful websites

      Sell, share, swap, donate, give away unwanted items or get items fixed with these useful websites:

      • Gumtree: Sell or give away items here.
      • eBay: Auction or fixed-price site for selling items.
      • Ziilch: Simple online recycling of unwanted goods.
      • Reverse Art Truck Inc.: A non-profit organisation that offers free pick up for seconds and factory off-cuts for use as art materials.
      • Freecycle: A non-profit portal for exchanging unwanted goods for free.
      • OzRecycle: Another way to give and get things for free instead of sending them to landfill.
      • FreeTreasure: Free Treasure is becoming one of Australia’s most active communities for finding free stuff.
      • Charity shops: St Vincent de Paul, The Smith Family, The Salvation Army and others accept a range of household items.
      • Trading Post: Sell items here.
      • My Stuff = Your Stuff: Sell or give away your items here.
      • Facebook Marketplace: Sell or give away your items here.
      • Repair Café - North Balwyn (Greythorn Community Hub): Get your household items fixed for free here.
      • Richmond Repair Corner: Get your household items fixed for free here.

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