Blog: Avoiding waste – How is it different?

Published on 04 November 2020

A person self-serving nuts at a supermarket

There are a number of variations on the waste pyramid but ultimately they are very similar to the simple pyramid shown below, and avoidance (sometimes described as source minimisation or prevention), is always at the top.

 Recycling pyramid


In writing this blog I had a number of conversations with people about waste. It struck me how people struggle to think beyond the level of recycling on the waste pyramid. The reason could be that broad public education programs have tended to focus on recycling, as well as litter. Also, we’re bombarded every day with advertising which tells us, subtly and sometimes not so subtly, to buy more and have more.  Our economic system is based on the premise of everyone wanting more and having more. When it comes to avoidance we’re really making quite a jump in our thinking and questioning what advertising doesn’t want us to question. Hence the concept of ‘Buy Nothing’ is contentious. 

The other thing I have been struck by is how common it is for people to have a sense of unease about the accumulation of ‘stuff’ in their lives. Many people realise it doesn’t, and may never, make them happy but feel powerless to change. It’s a particularly palpable feeling with Corona virus which has made many of us examine what’s really important in life. 

The main difference between waste avoidance and waste re-use and recycling is the questions we ask ourselves and when we ask the questions.

With recycling the questions are fairly simple. Is this item recyclable or not? (Check out the Australasian Recycling Label).

We ask this question after we’ve purchased or have an item. Sometimes well after the time of purchase.  When looking at re-use, the questions are still made after purchase, but the options are much greater. For instance, in looking at a plastic takeaway container, you may look to re-use it as a kids lunchbox when the sturdier one goes missing (which in my house happens far too often), or as a container to store used batteries prior to dropping them to the library for recycling. Alternatively, you might look to fill it with potting mix and raise some sprouts. The options are endless!

With waste avoidance and waste reduction the questions come prior to purchasing.  This makes it more challenging because we start to examine what we buy, how we buy it and what we use in our everyday lives.  It’s a whole new ball game! 

 I won’t pretend it’s easy but it’s rewarding and can also save lots of money.  Our blog is here to help. We hope it will be a source of helpful tips and ideas that will see you make the jump from recycling to avoidance in no time at all.

So jump in and get involved. You’ll find many benefits – personal and financial and you might just make a few new friends along the way! 


Join the discussion

Where are you on the waste journey? Have you started to think about waste avoidance or is it a new way of thinking for youJoin the conversation here.