Just a small change in our habits can make a big impact to cut waste. Angelique Ruzicka has great tips to help steer you in the right direction.
Where To Start
To wage war on your waste, you must know your enemy. Over a week, keep a pen and paper by the bin and record what you’re throwing out.
With this information, what can you tackle first and easily? If you’re constantly throwing out the same food items, consider packaging it up and giving it away to the local night shelter for the homeless. Could you adjust shopping habits, perhaps? Is there anything so heavily packaged that it’s worth thinking of alternatives?
When it comes to recyclables, you can check the packaging for the recycling-friendly label. But if you’re still unsure about what can and cannot be recycled in general, read more here. Do still check to see what your local depots accept and do not accept as well.
Knowing local resources is key – does your municipality offer a recycling station, or is there a recyclable waste company that operates in your area? Also check out these handy sites:
- mywaste.co.za allows you to input the type of material you want to toss out (from a list including energy-saving globes to glass and milk cartons), choose how far you’re prepared to travel, and enter your suburb for a quick search. The site will offer up a few recommendations about where you can recycle based on this info.
- plasticsinfo.co.za is similar to MyWaste. Click the ‘where to recycle’ tab, and input your recycling needs.
- theglassrecyclingcompany.co.za finds a glass recycling bank (those large green containers) in your area.
- collectacan.co.za can tell you what types of cans can be recycled. Call their head office on 011 466 2939 to find your nearest recycling depot.
In The Kitchen
Fridge check: It should be between 0 and 5°C to preserve food for longer.
Systemise shelves: Do you have freshly bought food in front and less enticing stuff festering in far corners? Start a ‘First In, First Out’ system: older products in front and new at the back.
Storage savvy: Keep stems of veg like broccoli and celery in water to stay fresh. Keep leaves lovely by popping them into an airtight container with a bit of paper towel, then refrigerate. Store bread, potatoes and onions in a cool, dark place. Decant cereal and biscuits out of packaging into airtight containers.
Shop smart: Note upcoming expiry dates on foods you have when making a shopping list and plan meals around these items. Remember, you can freeze food right up to the ‘Use By’ date.
Have one ‘use-it-up’ meal a week: Make a habit of concocting something from any of your leftovers.
Buy In Bulk
Buy liquid soaps for washing -up and laundry – in larger containers of concentrate and decant into squeezy bottles when in use.
Catering sacks of flour, pasta, sugar and cereal can be decanted into airtight containers.
A sack of potatoes from a farm shop will keep for a couple of months – you’ll save cash and use no plastic at all.
Use Your Ice Trays!
Leftover red wine can add depth to a bolognaise. That last scrape of pesto might be good in a pasta lunch. Squeeze the last of a lemon into a cube for future use (most recipes only call for a drop). If you have herbs on their last legs, chop them small, pop in an ice tray and pour in olive oil. Ideal for stews and soups.
In The Garden
Don’t only compost your fruit and veg peelings. Also include eggshells and teabags. If you have oil left on a pan, wipe it with a paper towel and add to compost. Ditto with shredded egg boxes, loo-roll core, and vacuum-cleaner lint.
Invest in a dehydrator – anything on the verge of going off can be dehydrated to retain its flavour. Use it for fruit and vegetable chips, or enhance stews with mushrooms and tomatoes. Dehydrate and blend into a powder for a seasoning. Find dehydrators on yuppiechef.com
It takes time to alter your habits, so focus on changing just one habit a month. Start off by taking your own travel mug to the coffee shop; some will even offer a small discount if you use your own cup.
5 Foods We Waste Most
1 Bread can be used for croutons; bread-and-butter pudding; or frozen into crumbs to top pasta bakes.
2 Cheese rinds are excellent flavour intensifiers for soups and stews – add to the pot to release their flavours.
3 Blackened bananas can be used for banana bread, but all old root vegetables like carrots, pumpkin and squash can be added to make a sweet, moist sponge.
4 Fruit and veg is our biggest food wastage – we throw out more than half – but most of it is good to eat. Use cauliflower leaves in salads; beet leaves as a roll/wrap for a rice salad; and broccoli stems in a stir fry.
5 Yoghurt nearing its use-by date can be mixed with overripe fruit, honey and lemon juice in a food processor. Process it until it’s creamy and then pop it into a tub and freeze it to make instant frozen yoghurt.
Words: Anna Moore; Helen White; Rachel Strauss