Zero Waste Living

For some unknown reason #zerowaste started appearing on my timeline in social media.

So i decided to look into it further. Newspapers, youtube etc. Sounds good in theory, but it’s not really zero waste.

All these women are holding little glass jars and stating that that’s the only waste they’ve accumulated in x number of years, but it’s the only rubbish that they cannot recycle.

Food waste goes to compost, still waste. Recyclable waste, gets to go to recycle bin… sorry it’s still waste.

They are promoting bamboo toothbrushes, kitchen scrubbers that don’t get thrown out but go into the washing machine. Disposable nappies and sanitary products and the list goes on.

They bring glass jars to stores and buy their shampoo, conditioner, body wash etc that way… same as Olive Oil. Make their own deodorant, soap…

Wouldn’t mind buying few dry ingredients like that but my shopping bill will go up by 50% on those trips if not more.

I moved away from plastic to glass. Now woudln’t mind knowing if any of the products are irradiated & if yes then get them Australian Organic, then there is the tiny issue regarding GMO I’d like to avoid. Need a well paying job and to win lotto. Comparing the cost of spices and legumes from Supermarkets to Organic by weight,price difference is staggering.

Thoughts? Are we ready for this style of living or not?


If one lives in a modern, developed country like Australia, it is not possible to become zero waste. It is a false hope, unless one completely removes oneself from this modern, developed society and does not consume anything produced or available in such societies/ecomonies.

Principally this would mean living in one birthday suit, and becoming a hunter gatherer.

It is possible to minimise ones waste, but impossible to achieve zero waste unless the whole of the global modern society and economies also go zero waste. Something these waste warriors fail to recognise, as their very existance causes others to produce waste to allow them to exist.

To me it is a gimic and greenwashing.


With stores removing plastic carry bags zero waste people will start coming out more. Everything else comes in plastic bags.

Food waste, even if it goes into compost bin is still waste. The story I saw was from NY and not sure where this young female would find a compost bin. she buys all her clothes 2nd hand.

NY is much more expensive then Sydney.

As soon as we have a bit more cash coming in wouldn’t mind getting some spices and legumes from bulk buy shops. Things that say ‘from Australian and Imported Ingredients’, trying to get away from GMO and produce that has been irradiated.

Minimizing i can appreciate, but they are not zero percent waste free…


Zero Waste is not zero environmental impact! I have tried breathing out as little as possible. It makes you dizzy.

So the notion is a little ill conceived especially if you consider the alternative of “sustainable living”.

The losses in our wastage considered alone are significant.
These losses however are minuscule and insignificant compared to the losses in the inputs used in creating and bringing us the products we use and consume every day.

I agree totally - “green washing” you life to assume a guilt free existance is for many products just another clever marketing ploy.

So don’t renovate, repaint to preserve and rejuvenate.
And don’t update, fashion is fickle, recycle, reuse and make do.
Junk Yard Challenge comes to mind as a close reality TV match.


Not using plastic I’m fine with, but removing plastic carry bags and using plastic through out the store is hypocritical.

Some of their advice is downright dangerous. If that’s what makes them happy, good for them.

Since it’s coming at me from all directions I thought I would throw it out there and see what others feel/think about the idea.


I don’t know why there must be reaching for extremes. There is too much unnecessary packaging and far too many household items (appliances, utensils, furniture etc) that are made so they cannot be easily repaired to encourage you to throw them out and buy new. On the other hand there are plenty of things that cannot be usefully repaired or recycled, or that end up costing more in resources to deal with. Wouldn’t it be an idea to be selective and re-use, recycle as much as is sensible?


Yes and no. Excess unused food may be seen as a waste if it is thrown out. If it is composted it is being utilised hopefully to grow more food. In our case we use it to feed the chooks as well as compost. The chooks give us eggs & poo. We use their diluted poo as fertiliser. They also help with some of the garden bugs … So even on a small scale you can build more into your recycling if you choose!!

I agree with the sentiments that some take their greening to ridiculous levels without checking what the environmental footprint is of their actions. As with so many other things, people don’t think critically, and don’t look at the whole picture. They do it because some guru says to, it’s trendy, or perhaps it just feels good for them.

The bottom line is if it doesn’t fit with your beliefs, and it’s not practical and sustainable for you it won’t work.


Yes possibly, but maybe edible food which is not eaten and is composted is also a wast. This is possible as the uneaten foods are not the highest and best use…and all the inputs used to create the food (either on a farm or from food manufacturing) have been wasted.

The zero wasters also seem not to realise that the human body also converts inputs (food, water, air) into waste…which is in turn removed discretely from ones house if one is connected to the municipal waster water system. Maybe these zero wasters also have composting toilets in the caves they live in?

I believe that the zero waste champions are confused in relation to the meaning of zero waste (see link in my first post). What they are is possibly zero household rubbish bin waste generators, but not zero wasters. Using the term zero waste is incorrect and possibly only makes them feel good (as the rest of the community has to deal with all the other waste that they generate through living their own lives).


You would have to be really dedicated to have a composter near the coast, in high rainfall, high humidity areas. Aside from the smell in operation they do need to be dug out from time to time. Not this little black duck!

My AWTS needs to be given a little encouragement sometimes. I have a stick on site for the purpose but you need to recall which end you used last. Gives new meaning to ‘grabbing the wrong end of the stick’.

In a desert composters make much more sense as they save flushing water and dry out naturally and so become much less offensive.

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I have a composting toilet, mainly for its water-saving properties - why waste perfectly good drinking water by mixing it with poo?!
There is a bit of sh1t stirring involved every few weeks, and distributing compost around the fruit trees once or twice per year, but really, it isn’t that hard to do. It has avoided many tens of thousands of litres of water wastage over the past 10 years or so. Much of our kitchen scrap material goes into it as well, but the chooks get any leafy greens- outside cabbage leaves etc.
None of it is waste, it all gets used eventually!


if you throw the food out and not many compost in Sydney, there are composting centers I checked. It’s a waste of money. bin or compost, money has been wasted.

Wonder why they all still use washing machines and not just do it all by hand like parents and grandparents used to .

We do produce a lot of waste, Everything is wrapped in plastic and most appliances break around the end of warranty date. Most aren’t fixable or it’s cheaper to get something new.

The more it’s in the media and the deeper I look into it, they take it to extremes. Our lives are busy, life is sort and i’d rather be doing something other then making my own bathroom/cleaning products.

Sydney had a pop up restaurant a few years ago. Nothing was wasted. The washing basin was above the cistern, so when you washed your hands the next person used to to flush to loo.

I think he still runs in Melbourne. I asked him last year if he will reopen in Sydney, he said not while kids are still little. As he wants more time with the family.


With an AWTS all your water can be re-used so it isn’t wasted by my definition. Another benefit of AWTS is you don’t need the cost of a separate grey water system, both grey and black water are processed. Besides if you use the IIYLIMIIBFID philosophy not very much water is used flushing.

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That assumes you have the water to use in the first place! Right now we are having to cart water 1000l at a time until we get some decent rain. Showers are short and only once or twice per week.
AWTS use a fair bit of electricity to run pumps, our composting toilet just has a 4W solar powered fan.


I think that a movement that encourages reduced-waste living is a good movement; whether it’s 100% zero-waste or only 95%. Pedants are quick to point out the popular ‘zero-waste lifestyle’ isn’t 100% zero-waste - thank you captains of the Obvious Express :stuck_out_tongue:


What area are you in? In May went for a drive through the Central West and Riverina of NSW and the north of Vic. All very sad, thousands of skinny sheep trying to lick bare dirt, hundreds of fodder trucks heading north from southern Vic, for those who could afford it. No relief in sight yet.


A bit south of Tamworth. Rainfall this year is only about half my previous driest year to date, records since 1992, and this is the first time we’ve run out of water- rainwater from shed and house rooves is usually easily enough for us.


As Gordon has said this assumes you have the water in the first place. These systems also consume electrical power 24x7, and require a certified specialist to carry out maintenance every 3 months. All at the users expense! The waste water is treated using chlorination to secondary standard only. There are limitations on how and where you can use this waste water. It will still contain high risk bacteria.

There are a lot of extra inputs needed in recovering this water. We may be wasting more resources recovering this water than the savings?


Well of course you need water! As I said before a composter may do better in a desert. But if you have had your socks knocked off by the smell as the hatch opens as you dispose of the doin’s you would go for a water flush toilet instead if you had some water.

It’s a matter of horses for courses. The recurring expense is less than you would pay for being on a sewer line but that is irrelevant if there isn’t one. We need to compare the choices for that situation. I haven’t looked it up but are there no inspection fees or other overheads for a composter? Technically speaking are you permitted to clean it out yourself? Don’t they have fans? I am not suggesting an AWTS for a 1/4 acre block in the burbs. You probably wouldn’t have room for the disposal field and the Council wouldn’t approve it. But you wouldn’t have a composter there either.

The reference to ‘only’ secondary treatment is misleading, tertiary treatment is expensive and very rare except in places like Europe where millions have to share the same river. I think you will find that your municipal sewer plant only does secondary treatment.

The whole environment contains high risk bacteria. Technically speaking the water that comes out of an AWTS is not suitable for drinking nor for directly applying to food crops but nor is that from your traditional septic. Aside from that it grows grass, trees and shrubs just fine. I think the water quality would be no worse than the river that I use to water the fruit and veges but I don’t use the AWTS water for that to avoid arguments and there isn’t enough anyway.

You don’t do it to get the water back or to save money, you do it because you need your own plant and the AWTS is better than a composter in a moist environment. As a side benefit you can re-use the water.

Really? Maybe you are talking about a bucket with a seat slapped over it in the bathroom? Decent composting toilets dont smell at the doing the business end at all, as I mentioned previously there is a small fan to remove any smells. After using one for many years I can assure you that they don’t smell at all, unlike the nasty smells sometimes left in bathrooms with flushing toilets!
With as AWTS the recurring expense of ~$100/ compulsory site inspection is a significant expense, as is the electricity use. I have no inspection fees for my Clivus Multrum system, and I empty it myself.

If you lived in a wet enough location that you didn’t need the water from the AWTS, why have the expense and running costs? You are still taking perfectly good drinking water and making it undrinkable, and unusable for many typical uses in a domestic situation. A composting toilet is ahead on all counts IMO.

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True some of us have limited choices.

If you need to use resources and energy to not waste something how do you decide which is better? Perhaps it depends on each circumstance and a proper understanding of relative merit vs wholesale impact on our environment?

Separating out the more odorous - efficiency of household effluent management.
If there is any value from the discussion so far is it in starting a discussion on waste and water treatment options for non serviced consumers? Preferably as a new topic? There are many of us in that situation.

The demands on Choice are many. How projects are prioritised is up to the Choice staff. There are other options to AWTS and composting setups depending on your locality, site and council. We have a traditional septic/grease trap dual absorption trench system.

Our assessment from recent quotes to change to an AWTS, with consideration of payback plus operating costs, when added to our existing roof water tertiary treatment system costs suggests it does not make economic sense. It’s cheaper to have sewerage and town water for treated domestic needs. Even at current high city water prices! It’s the cost of the pirates that provide the 3 monthly servicing plus chemicals etc at their prices that destroys the value proposition.

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