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Practical, simple tips to avoid, reduce and reuse waste

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Plastic Free July is a great time to pledge your commitment to avoid, reduce and reuse waste. However, you can take the pledge to reduce single use, with simple actions in your everyday life, on any day of the year. 

Avoiding or reducing unnecessary packaging and single use plastic bags; plastic bottles, takeaway containers and utensils; takeaway coffee cups, plastic straws and food waste, all helps to reduce how much waste goes to landfill, litter in our streets and the amount of pollution that ends up in our rivers and oceans. 

We love these simple and practical tips, including those from our community to help us all join the crowd and commit to avoiding waste and going plastic free, starting today.

Use a ‘no junk mail’ sticker on your mail box
Avoid disposable products and cling wrap – use containers with lids instead
Bring your own bag or box when shopping and say ‘no’ to plastic bags
Avoid singe use items, like water bottles, coffee cups, straws and takeaway containers
Avoid excess packaging, like plastic packed fruit and vegetables or single serve food packs
Avoid personal care products containing plastic microbeads - these are unnecessary and hazardous to the environment
No need to use plastic bags for vegetables at the supermarket. Use reusable veggie bags that can be washed and will keep fruit and veggies fresh in the fridge.
- Cathy, Port Macquarie
I always have a shopping bag in my handbag. Fold and roll a shopping bag up tightly and hold it with recycled elastic bands. It can be material or heavy duty plastic, anything that rolls up tightly. You can do half a doz and keep them in the glove box of your car . Pop it into your handbag or pocket. Takes up so little room and you are always prepared for unexpected shopping.
- Val, Port Macquarie
We've changed over to beeswax wraps instead of cling wrap. Stainless steel straws, use our own water bottles & take our own snacks in containers when we are away from home.
- Amy, Toms Creek
We've just done a total overhaul and changed to cloth nappies, cloth baby wipes, facecloths to replace paper towel, homemade dishwashing tablets, reusable dishcloths, mesh produce bags and we've eliminated single serve snacks and made my own which has made a huge difference to our waste.
- Sarah, Bonny Hills
We take our reusable drink bottles to football training and games every week.
- Sebastian, Dunbogan
Use veggie bags at the shops instead of plastic bags to get your fruit and vegetables.
- Sally, Lake Cathie
Take pretty reusable bags on a key-ring tied to handbag. Take reusable grocery bags in the boot of your car. Use wax wraps instead of plastic wrap. Drop off soft plastics at the supermarket. Use stainless steel straws instead of plastic straws. Use reusable containers instead of plastic takeaway containers. Take a keep cup for hot drinks and water bottles for cold drinks.
- Fiona, Lake Cathie
Buy or make your own reusable organic beeswax food wraps! No more plastic wrap ending up in landfill or in our oceans, and you keep your food fresh and chemical-free! You'll be one step closer to helping our environment and future generations.
- Casey, Bonny Hills
Send the children to school with reusable containers, not plastic bags, use drink bottles instead of buying canteen drinks. Take a cup when you buy that coffee. Be like my parents write your shopping lists on used envelopes, scrap paper.
- Diana, Dunbogan
Recycle any paper or eco plastic bags when shopping for veges and fruit and try to avoid using many smaller bags.Place everything in a green bag, or box, as its easier transport . When buying food or coffee from cafes, use a reusable mug, works well for soup, in this winter weather.
- Cate, Port Macquarie
When we go on a picnic I make sure I take picnic cutlery, plates and cups that I can bring home, wash up and reuse rather than plastic disposable items which just add to land fill and don't break down.
- Narelle, Port Macquarie
Support local bakeries, wrap your bread in a cloth or place it in a bread bag, store in bread bin or better yet, freeze it. Stops the plastic bags and the little clips. Also freezing bread stops wasted food. Toasted frozen bread is no different to fresh. Any left over bread can be turned into bread crumbs.
- Connie, Lake Cathie
Leave a reusable cup and straw in the bottom of your handbag. Also leave a small foldable reusable shopping bag in your handbag so that you are never caught without one.
- Amy, Wauchope
Keep the reusable bags in the car so I don't forget them when shopping.
- Natalie, Port Macquarie
When I poured a glass of red wine on Friday night I got a bit excited and didn't finish it, so I covered it with a wax wrap for the next night!
- Lisa, Bonny Hills
Avoid buying pre-packed fruit & vegetables. Reusable produce bags are readily available online and are inexpensive, no plastic at all!
- Christine, Port Macquarie
Key to avoidance is preparation. Keep a bag of re-usable bags in your car. Throw in a keep cup and a lunch box for your take away coffee and left overs. There's no excuse if it travels with you.
- Caren, Port Macquarie
Buy fresh produce to eliminate the extra packaging and wrappings that contribute to landfill.
- Kathleen, Port Macquarie
Do a soft plastics audit in your home. Collect all soft plastics for 2 weeks in your home to see what habits you can change. A REDUCE iniative!! Find an alternative solution to toilet paper wrapped in plastic - buy from 'who gives a crap'; make muesli bars at home; buy bread from the bakery with no plastic packaging, buy pasta in cardboard boxes; buy cheese from the deli without plastic; buy cereal, flour, spices, rice, almonds etc in bulk e.g. from 'honest to goodness' co-op; avoid half vegetables with glad wrap instead buy Kennie Littles and put in boxes or paper bags.
- Matt, Port Macquarie
Instead of using cling wrap and foil,I make beeswax food wraps.I use these to cover our foods and also pack my daughters preschool lunch.
- Chanelle, Port Macquarie
Only buy what you need, and not so much of what you want. If you have a coffee while you are out do your body and the environment a favour nad sit down, relax and drink it from a real cup. Stop buying bottled water, the plastic bottle is a waste and the water is too expensive. Take water in a reusable container from home. Save money and the environment at the same time.
- Christine, Port Macquarie
Try to avoid using glad wrap by usingallyour tupperware containers and chinese takeaway containers, solid yoghurt and dip containers (washed and sanitised) to store left over or opened tinned/container foods in my fridge. I'm using freezer containers instead of glad wrap to store foods that I normally wrap and freeze (eg bacon, chicken wings and bones for the dog). Small plastic yoghurt and dip containers (with lids) make great containers for smaller food items to take to work (e.g. berries).
- Danielle, Port Macquarie
Use a reuseable wet bag for wet clothes and swimmers when exploring the beach or school kids pool trips, daycare, clothes changes etc! Use mesh washing bags or green bags to buy your fruit and veg they are reusable and washable and don’t weigh much!
- Lisa, Bonny Hills
Aside from a stack of reusable bags inmy car, I keep a reusable shopping bag in my handbag so I never get caught out when doing the shopping.
- Kirsten, Dunbogan
Start using modern cloth nappies for your babies! Our red bin waste has halved since making the change. It's really not that hard once you start! It's also a great way of saving money.
- Bethany, Port Macquarie
Here's a tip to remember your reuseable bags, bottles, cutlery and straws! Set yourself electronic reminders on your phone, or give your self visual reminders like leaving your reuseable bag at the front door so you'll definitely see it before you leave the house! Better yet, leave a keep cup, bag, and a container with cutlery in your car for those times when you're out and about but have a craving! Fact: the average plastic bag is only used for 12 minutes before it's thrown out and takes years to break down. Do a good deed for the planet, take a reuseable bag out shopping!
- Sil, Port Macquarie
Try to get as much of your mail sent online to an email address, this will reduce a massive amount of paper being used but also reduce the amount of plastic that covers your booklets that are sent to you through the mail.
- Tracey, Port Macquarie
Choose products with the least packaging
Choose recyclable products
Buy in bulk or concentrated form
Buy products that are durable
Plan your food menus and use your leftovers – there are many internet sites that can show you how, for example
My brother and I used to take one single use yogurt pouch to school everyday, resulting in ten a week! To save waste we now buy a big yogurt tub and spoon some into little reusable containers . This saves ten pouches of waste a week!
- Tiana, Port Macquarie
Print out Council's Bin Guide and stick on wall above each bin inside the house. Assists to educate Parents and Kids which rubbish goes into which bin and avoids recyclables and green waste being incorrectly placed in the red bin, reducing landfill. Take this a step further, grab some paint and colour code each bin! Turn this into a fun activity with the kids!
- Michael, Lake Cathie
My best waste avoidance tip is for pets. Pets love playing and toys are a great way to keep your furry friends mentally and physically fit. Unfortunately, many pet toys are made with plastic which, in addition to being bad for the planet, can also be unhealthy for pets because of the toxins and BPA they can contain. What cat wouldn’t love a toy hand made exclusively and lovingly for them by their favorite owner? Having a four-legged family member in a world where plastic is pretty much everywhere is no reason to let this pollution win. It may require some thought and flexibility, but you can achieve a more plastic-free status as a pet parent. It’s a great way to show your love not just to the environment, but also to your beloved dog and kitty friends as well.
- Shalise and Shannon, Lake Cathie
Buy food items in bulk. Purchase staple ingredients such as flour, sugar, rice, cereals etc. wholesale and fill your own containers and jars in store. By doing this, you will significantly reduce how much packaging waste you send to landfill and help save the environment from plastic pollution. Added bonuses to bulk purchasing, are overall cost savings to thepurchaser and subsequent fuel savings, by making fewer trips to the supermarket. Buy bulk and help make a big change.
- Alan, King Creek
Take and weigh your containers to the bulk grocery refill in shops. Should be hardly anything in your bin now!
- Fiona, Lake Cathie
Whenever I'm out shopping , I avoid plastic bags and grab a box or two off the shelf and fill it with groceries. Then recycle the cardboard at home.
- Julie, Cooperabung
Get in to the habit of collecting all of your soft plastics and take them back to the supermarket where they came from, you will find a redcycle bin out the front of the checkouts at most Coles, Woolworths and Iga stores.
- Lynda, Wauchope
Use empty bread bags and other packaging as a rubbish bin instead of buying plastic bin liners.
- Natalie, Port Macquarie
Use a lunchbox or containers, and don't buy snack packs of chips and biscuits, just buy the bigger box and portion it out. This saves all the little packaging, and is cheaper to buy. Better yet, make your own biscuits.
- Kerrie, Frazers Creek
If your product comes in plastic and you can't avoid buying it then wash your used plastic out in your dish water and use it again if feasible or bag itup and deliver to Coles for recycling. Have different bins for different items. Reward the kids for putting the items in the correct bins.
- Lisa, Pappinbarra
Introduce sustainability in fun ways from as young an age as possible. Talk about the different bins, why we recycle and encourage ownership of this responsibilty in young children. Visit council websites for fun activities, ask preschools to extend children's learning and keep an eye out for community events.
- Kristy, Wauchope
I absolutely love that Coles have a place to put any recyclable plastic in a bin where is it is all made into garden furniture. Having that option encourages me to have a range of bins under my sink, green bag for composting things, yellow bin recyclables, my very small red bin stuff, and the recycled plastic. I FEEL GOOD DOING THIS!!
- Lyn, Port Macquarie
I save all my soft plastic bags and they go in the recycle bin at Coles or Woolworths. I find now that I do not have any waste that goes in the red bin. I use my red bin for collecting bottles for 'Return and Earn' so I am making money on waste now!
- Deborah, Port Macquarie
School lunch snacks of processed food are purchased in large packs with individual packs inside. Too many wrappers. Purchase one large pack, if you want to include processed foods. Portion into smaller reusable containers and get kids to bring these home for next portion. You can do this with potato crisps, nuts, sultanas etc. It works out much cheaperor portion into small paper bags or reusable zip lock bags.
- Jan, Lake Cathie
Shake loose crumbs out of bread bags, turn the bag inside out, allow to completely dry and shake off any remaining crumbs , and use bags instead of cling wrap in fridge and asfreezer bags. Theycan be taken to Green Grocer or supermarket and used to put loose fruit , mushrooms, vegetables in and they can be reusedmany times.
- Colleen, Port Macquarie
Save and freeze all your left over liquids from cooking vegetables, boilingeggs, gravies, to use later in soups or stews and clean out sauce and spice bottles and any vegetables that need to be used out of the fridge. Nothing goes to waste.
- Margaret, Port Macquarie
Unwrap any prepackaged food before you put it in your child’s lunch box. That way you can make sure it is all recycled properly rather than possibly being dumped in the red bin at school.
- Anna, Port Macquarie
Visit local charity shops
Compost or worm farm at home (The good news is Council’s green food and garden waste bin can take many things you can’t compost at home such as citrus, bread, bones, seafood, chicken, meat and other items that are difficult to compost.)
Sell unwanted items at garage sales or online
Shred waste home office paper and mix it in with compost in the tumbler. Win, win, win!
Win1: Ensure your privacy is not compromised, and protect yourself from identity theft
Win2: Dispose of waste office paper without using yellow bin
Win3: Add to your own compost, contributing to the growth of your own healthy vegies.
- Deb, Port Macquarie
I save all meat scraps in the freezer and take them to my daughter's farm for her dogs.All other foodscraps are saved for the chickens.No food gets wasted.
- Jennifer, Port Macquarie
A tip shop at the local tip site would go a long way to recycling a huge amount of useable items that have been prematurely dumped . One person's rubbish is often another person's treasure.
- Stephanie, Port Macquarie
We have been collecting our toilet roll holders to reuse as seedling starters pots in the Veggie Garden. Cut the rolls in half, fill them with seedling mixture and plant your favourite seeds. When the seedlings have sprouted you can plant them in the garden toilet roll and all!
- Jade, Bonny Hills
Buy goods and clothing at op shops to support reuse and charities plus turn old faded or stretched t shirts into DIY shopping bags. Search it on youtube, just need scissors and 10 minutes!
- Gavin, Port Macquarie
To reduce our waste we re-use some of our empty food containers as play items for our kids toy kitchen. Our boys love playing with 'real' food and pretending to make our favourite meals for us using real ingredients. This saves some items from ending up in the waste bin and also means we're not buying extra plastic toys to stock the kitchen - saving money and plastic resources.
- Luke, Port Macquarie
Go on holiday! Food scraps go to my pet chooks, worm farm and garden compost. Chook poop is then used as mulch on the roses. Recycle containers for 10 cents goes to the Return and Earn machine.
- Fiona, Lake Cathie
Wash all small and medium sized glass jars and lids, remove labels if possible and take to Opportunity Shops as people who make pickles/chutneys/relish and jams purchase cheaply from these shops and this money in turn helps others in need.
- Margaret, Port Macquarie.
Buy produce that is plastic free and get yourself a compost bin and put your scraps in it.
- Kylie, Lakewood
Buy 2nd hand as it saves the resources, waste and pollution of making new things whilst giving old items a second chance of a longer life. We saved this vacuum from the tip when theguy throwing it out said it still worked and that was over 2 years ago!
- Gavin, Port Macquarie
I save all newspapers and magazines to use as mulch around plants in the garden to reduce the need for watering. Juice cartons can be used to protect tubestock plants by opening the bottom and top and simply putting over the plant like a sock and covering the bottom of the carton with some soil to stabilise it.
- Andrea, Telegraph Point
Collect all leftover food, peelings and scraps and feed them to the chickens! No waste and eggs in return!
- Mary-Anne, Byabarra
Place a compost bag in your freezer for meats etc. that will smell before collection day. Pop it in the green bin oncollection day and voila - no mess, no smells.
- Lyn, Port Macquarie
My tip is avoiding friut fly with the green food scrap waste. Keep the small kitchen green bin in the freezer. No nasty smells and no more problems with pesky friut flies.
- Ammanda, Port Macquarie
When your clothes, or linen, are beginning to look old, or are torn, instead of throwing them out, cut them down and use them to make other bits of clothing for your family. Dye them. Use them to make quilts,a special doona orcushion covers that will bring back memories for years. Cut them into rags if they are too worn out (great for dusting or washing the car). And, you don't have all that extra plastic from new cleaning cloths to dispose of.
- Pat, Port Macquarie
Cut the bottom out of a 20ltr drum or bucket (must have a lid), drill 10mm holes all over the drum. Now bury the drum in your favourite vege or flower garden, leaving 100mm above ground. Get some compost worms online or from your local garden centre, fill up the drum with kitchen scraps as per PMHC guidelines for green waste, pop in the worms, the worms will convert the scraps into super garden worm castings and you will have the best vege garden in the street. No need to move or water (worms should get enough from when you water the plants), remember to keep the lid on to stop the dogs and birds getting in. Cheers, happy gardening.
- Jim, Beechwood
Rather than tip water from steam vegetables down the sink, collect & water plants when cooled. Recycle the nutrients & waste less of this precious resource.
- Julie, Lake Cathie
Rather than throwing out leftover takeaway Thai or Indian curries, decant the excess into a smaller container and freeze. Thaw and add extra vegies for a brand-new curry!
- Merran, Bonny Hills

EPA-logo.pngThis project is a NSW EPA Waste Less Recycle More Initiative funded from the Waste Levy.

This page was last updated on: 13 May 2021