My waste-saving efforts are wasted

I grew up being taught that recycling is the way, so it came as some shock recently when I read two different books that suggest it’s not the best solution to reducing waste.

Household waste only makes up a very small fraction of all man-made waste – the majority is output that is never seen by us, from the factories that produce everything that we can’t live without (and plenty of what we can). The position the books take is that it whilst it is commendable to recycle, you should not think that your duties to a healthy planet stop there. One author even suggested that big industry lobby groups actively promote household recycling as the best solution – and try to make you feel guilty for not doing it – just so that your attention is focused on your own small contribution rather than their massive one.

The author’s preferred household contribution would be to continue recycling of course, but understand that until regulations are in place to limit waste upstream then nothing will really change. Taking this one step further, they suggest putting your plastic to paper by writing a letter to your politician demanding regulation action is much more effective than sorting your paper and plastics.

There are two parts that prevent me from taking this action, the first – which is a no-brainer to solve – is that I’ve never written to my parliamentary representative before, and find the concept a little daunting. The second – which I’m happy to have debated out of me – is a growing belief that they actually don’t do much unless there’s a bit of ‘something’ behind a suggestion to ‘push them in the right direction’. I don’t have that kind of ‘something’.

I’m planning on procrastinating about writing a letter, and remain conflicted that this is the best mode of action. At least I’m aware of the facts now. Until I put plastic to paper, I’m going to continue to try and take the first step in producing less waste – by avoiding it in the first place. The best way I know how to do this is to buy food from bulk food stores – they stock a wide range of products in big sacks direct from the producer, and you take either your own container or fill a paper bag there, thus not using yet another can or box or disposable container.

My favourite store in Adelaide is Goodies and Grains in one of the Central Market Arcades, I have found one in Göteborg called Fram Livs near Linnégatan, and don’t know much for Melbourne – suggestions for there and any other city welcomed, along with good tips for avoiding waste!

Small Habit, Big Change – Find a bulk food store to start avoiding waste. It means soaking beans etc overnight, but what where you doing at 4am anyway. It’s cheaper and you can store more, therefore spending less time and energy shopping.

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Does that coke have corn in it?

A curious question indeed, and certainly not one you would have been asking in your childhood! Next time you buy a can of coke though – or any other soft drink – satisfy your curiosity as well as your thirst and check out the ingredients label. The first item should be water in some form, next should either be sugar, high fructose corn syrup or HFCS, then a bunch of flavourings. But the interest lies in the second item, because most of our sugar – the little white granuled stuff, has been replaced by corn. Yes that’s right, corn – the cobbed yellow stuff that is most delicious in a roast but also fun to dip into guacamole.

Recently we watched an upsettingly interesting documentary called King Corn, about two guys who became interested in food ingredients and decided to grow an acre of corn and follow it’s path through the food chain. There were not many new things to learn if one has already watched Food Inc, one of the most popular food doco’s in recent times. Food Inc seems to be a movie amalgamation of the books An Omnivore’s Dilemma and Fast Food Nation, and is an absolute must to watch to discover more about how your food gets to your plate. I was so intrigued that I watched it twice, and there’s so much to understand that it’s probably worth re-visiting time and again.

I did however learn one mind boggling fact from King Corn70% of all the antibiotics in the USA are given to cattle!! Why? Because they’re fed corn, of course. Makes sense to me! Cattle have evolved to eat grass, but because they get fed corn the poor fellas get all sorts of troubles, and therefore their feed gets supplemented with antibiotics. Seems just a little arse-about to me, why not just feed them grass? The EU has banned antibiotics in animal feed since 2006, but does this happen in Australia? Bet your last grocery shop on it – http://www.abc.net.au/science/slab/antibiotics/agriculture.htm.

Back to the can of coke – curiously, I discovered yesterday that Sweden coke ingredients list  sugar and not HFCS. I’m reckoning on that sugar actually being HCFS – which does not bother me so much for the coke because I buy one as often as I have jam with eggs, but concerns me for the other products that include ‘sugar’. I try to avoid sugar as a rule, but when I choose it I want to be ingesting little granules, not syrup of engineered cobs.

Small habit change – watch Food Inc. That’s not really a habit but it’s the path to many other roads of knowledge about your food. If you’re interested wink wink then send me an email and wink wink I might know how you can get the movie wink wink.