• Waste Free NT

How we cut down our waste with the 5 R's of zero waste

Updated: Jun 24, 2018

In Darwin we all have a 240L rubbish and recycling bins available, in Palmerston it's a 120L rubbish bin. In my house, we estimate we would need a 10-20L bin for the entire year. It’s a work in progress that we hope to improve on.



What’s in our bin that we can improve on? Synthetic clothes, bandaids, sticker labels.


In my house, we estimate we would need a 10-20L bin for the entire year.

We’ve reduced our recycling too.

Most of the cardboard and paper is composted. Glass jars are reused as storage containers or cups. We have the odd can of tomatoes, beans or coconut milk. Though generally you can get by without these. We occasionally have beer cans or bottles that we take to NTRS. Our only really unresolved plastic items are milk, toothpaste and the bags of salt we need for the pool. All can be recycled, though we have kept the milk lids for years in the hope of a better option (and maybe this will come with the Precious Plastic facility, or refillable glass bottles coming back on the market, or we get a dairy cow or give up milk altogether ;-)

One tip – Slow Down. Slow down the consumption of course, but slow down the decision-making. Take time to research, find the best products, and look for product stewardship. Look for products with a long life, durable, reusable, repairable. You can make do. This was at times challenging once I had children, you feel tired and time poor – there are great products out there but they are not at the supermarket or Casuarina! I.e., baby bottles, reusable nappies and wooden cutlery.


Our approach is this, in this order:

Refuse For every single use disposable item there will be a reusable alternative. We have tried to refuse plastic at every level as much as we can. Say no – to a bag, a straw, a take-away, a freebie. Say no to yourself – re-evaluate the necessary items and rethink your consumption – It is estimated that people only wear 20% of their wardrobe.


The majority of our food is bought in bulk with our own bags. If we can’t find it without plastic, we don’t buy it. There is Greenies in Rapid Creek and the city (Love Thy Juice) and there are a few things in the supermarket. There is of course a trail of plastic, because a lot of the bulk dry goods come in large plastic bags. We choose this option knowing that the weight to packaging ratio is much better when dealing with bulk. Greenies are now recycling their soft plastics too.

The easiest way to assure a plastic free house it to eat fresh, local foods – make this the majority of your diet. And opt for natural materials only – clothing, cleaning sponges/brushes, furniture, hand tools etc. This way when they’ve travelled through this cycle of ‘Rs’ their end life can truly be compost (or rust away).

Reduce - This has been particularly true with cleaning. We use bicarb, soap and ACVinegar on everything, from us to the house cleaning. We buy bulk dishwasher powder and use ‘Aware’ laundry powder (it’s the only one without a plastic scoop and is palm oil free. We also use sard wonder soap on stains. Toothpaste. Hair shampoo bar. Toothbrushes + hairbrushes are wooden with boar hair or bamboo bristles. We make our own dishcloths from old towels.

Globally we use 2 millions plastic bags a minute, for 12 minutes per bag.

Reuse Good old trusty reusable. Water bottles, bags. Reuse or repurpose what ever you can. Opshop for clothes. (clothing industry).


Repair Get handy and/or creative. Look up repair tutorials on the internet; connect with local repair events (look out for Lakeside Drive community garden). Utilise the Pensioners workshop. Find a friend and swap a skill or job. Learn to sew – by hand at least.


Rot or Recycle What can’t be composted send to the recycling. There are many options outside of curbside collections. Terracycle – look for the free ‘hard to recycle’ boxes – oral care, contact lenses, beauty products, coffee pods. Introduce the paid boxed into your workplaces – For example it’s $160 for a ‘stationary’ recycling box no matter where you are in Australia, there are many options including music/data recording – records, cd/DVDs, videos etc. You can send x-rays to Adelaide where they’ll extract the silver....The list goes on.


Once you take compost out of your bin, do a bin audit. You’ll find here that you are able to identify your habits and start to look for solutions.

  • Compost – Where? Types of composting

  • What we compost – including clothes.

Think of ‘rubbish’ as going into our environment. There is no other place. There is no ‘away’ in throw away. It all lands back into our environment, in big holes in the ground (tips), waterways, oceans, atmosphere and into our own gardens.


Words by: Michelle Harle


Waste Free NT - a community of Environment Centre NT