We need you! Are you ready to become a hometown hero?

Here’s something to chew: there’s a Japanese town called Kamikatsu and they have over 45 recycling bin categories for their residents to sort their waste into. They’re on a mission to create a waste-free town, radically rethinking how they dispose of their rubbish. As a result of the whole town getting on board, they’re already recycling 80% of their waste!

Most Australians currently only have one to two recycling bins, let alone four to five. Let alone forty five?! Yikes.

We’re in the middle of a recycling crisis in this country and I think our suffering is, to an extent, quite needless. If we had better recycling schemes, we wouldn’t be at the mercy of foreign contamination thresholds for imported recyclable waste. So is it politics? Or are we just being lazy with waste?

It certainly feels that way sometimes. Spend too much time thinking about it and suddenly every recycling bin seems full of plastic bags, every gutter full of cigarette butts. Apathy of the everyman can be disturbingly infectious. In fact, the enormity of climate change sometimes seems to distort my remembrance of the certain fact that we can create solutions.

Because here’s the thing we’re all good at forgetting – there’s a whole other side from which we can approach sustainability, and that is cutting down our waste to begin with!

What does that actually mean?

Buying things and realising we’re not just buying the things we want, but also the stuff it’s contained in. Plastic pouches of lunchbox snacks, tins of pet food, cardboard boxes large and small: all that stuff comes from somewhere, all of it uses raw material which varies enormously in environmental intensity. But rather than stress out about it, let’s remember how much easier the problem becomes when there’s less waste created in the first place!

Cutting down waste is much easier than you might think, but cutting it out altogether is pretty hard

In a world full of warehouse-sized shops called supermarkets, it’s important not to use the seeming impossibility of zero-waste as an excuse not to try. If you bought as much as you could in bulk and with your own containers where possible, but your shopping still has some packaging in it – that’s ok! The important thing is acknowledging it and doing what you know you can do to address waste in your own life.

Here are some places where you might have overlooked your capacity to make a difference

  • Buying clothes/food/furniture/everything as locally as possible
  • Choosing natural fabrics (like hemp and bamboo) over synthetics (like nylon and polyester).
  • Returning containers to retailers
  • Using beeswax wraps instead of cling film
  • Having less milk in your coffee
  • Using wooden toothbrushes instead of plastic
  • etc
  • …etc
  • (HINT: the list is endless)

Come on, let’s take a big slow breath and think about this. Changing the climate has taken us a long time and won’t be solved overnight with a snap of Poseidon’s fingers. Instead, it’s going to require a little bit of help from everybody to undo the ropes we have coiled around the Earth as fast as we possibly can.

So be honest with yourself about whether you’re really doing your best to reduce your impact, or whether you’re simply suffering from apathetic infection. The world needs everyday local leaders to live by example and speak confidently about what we can do to tackle our waste problem.

Hometown heroes can be anyone, including you. Wait, especially you!

Because that’s the point… we can!

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Roland Davies

Roland Davies (a.k.a. "Lucky Roland") is the voice and author behind the Lucky Roland blog and podcast, a curation of eco stories and inspiration that digests the ABC's Environment News in a listenable way to encourage us humans to green up our lives. Roland is also the founder of Emu Parade, a beach clean movement that's working to remove tonnes of rubbish from Australia's most remote beach systems.

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