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Rumble in the trash jungle – adventures in suburban recycling

I absolutely love being a spend-thrift.

Far from the modern grind-til-you-die attitude, gotta-have-it, spend, spend, spend mentality, I believe that the easiest way to become your richest self is to live below your means – and to acquire less. After all, the greatest assets are time and opportunity, not material belongings.

On this parenthood journey, I want to provide, but also to raise a child who is resourceful, ethical, and an environmental steward.

Not an easy task, but parenthood isn’t.

In the spirit of consume-less, recycle-more, save-more-money, I want to share my experience with Containers for Change. Everyone seems to have an opinion on this newfangled scheme.

four assorted-color trash bins beside gray wall

Queensland recently launched Containers for Change to address the low recycling rate. Did you know that around 3 billion beverage containers are discarded every year and they are the second most littered item? Crazy! And kind of shit when you consider that we should theoretically know better in our age of information. 

The way it works is that you sign up online, receive a personal code, and take your empty beverage containers into a depot, preferably in a reusable bag to reduce waste. The depots are quick and effective and will put your empties into a box, count them, and deposit the money into your account.

In drop-off locations, it can take awhile to receive a refund due to differences in collection and sorting times. I find that the depots are the best and easiest. Feedback from others has revealed that some of the sites work differently and are nowhere near as effective. Hopefully, this will be addressed.

Funnily enough, I don’t drink many bottled beverages. I believe that helping the environment is best achieved by reducing one’s consumption (e.g buying better/less.) So how do I generate recycling, to earn the refunds? And what am I spending it on? 

Glad you asked. Since giving birth nearly a month ago, I have started to walk around the neighbourhood again. I start my morning by expressing milk and then setting out for my walk while Natalie and The Boy are still snoozing.

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Aw, yes. 10c! Come to Mama! Note – it did not ‘come to Mama.’ I had to get my socks and shoes wet. Whatever!

I take an enviro-bag and keep my eyes peeled for discarded empties. My route covers a walking path behind The Gap High School, and sometimes if there are empties close to the fence line, I can poke a stick through and retrieve them.

On the way, there is a creek that collects the occasional empty can. I have no issue with getting my feet wet to swipe them – the obvious benefit is that this is removing trash from a natural habitat.

On my way back, I go past the shopping centre. There are spots where employees sit for their smoko. One guy has the same iced coffee every day and leaves it on top of the bin. I swipe it (and then use hand sanitiser.) Occasionally, he’ll still be drinking it when I walk past. I lay low and resist the urge to say, ‘You done, or…’

His trash is my treasure. 10c, ka-ching! Waste not, want not.

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This is just one morning – 7.5km route, The Gap, Brisbane. You kind of wish that people would be less disgusting, but that will never happen.

Then, there is bin diving. I don’t feel comfortable digging through bins at random homes, but given that I live in an apartment block, I can often collect other people’s empties if I ask.

As for the money? We deposit the refunds into an account we started before our son was born. The magical trash collections will go towards what we already put aside to allow him to be debt-free and educated in the future.

Obviously, the scheme isn’t perfect and it is far from a catch-all solution for waste, but if it encourages people to recycle and pick up litter, then it is a step in the right direction.

And it’s putting The Boy through college. Win-win.