Reducing waste

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In the area of waste reduction, and seeing waste as a resource, there are also many fantastic examples to draw inspiration from. San Francisco plans to achieve zero waste status  - that is, sending no waste to landfill - by 2020.

Its 13-year-old zero waste program, part of its Climate Action Strategy, diverted 80% waste from landfill in 2010 compared to 35% in 1990. The city has made recycling and composting mandatory; it has also reduced waste collection fees for restaurants and hotels on organic waste. In addition, San Francisco has banned single-use plastic bags in 2007, polystyrene in city’s food services in 2006, and has recently banned bottled water on municipal property and city events – the first major city in the world to do both. In Malmo, food waste is converted to biogas, which powers the local 200-bus fleet. The city also reuses or recycles a staggering 98% of its waste into new material or energy. By comparison, in Victoria only 45% of the household waste is diverted from landfill.

In Chicago, there is a restaurant that went two years without sending any waste to landfill. ‘Sandwich Me In’ generated 30 litres of non-recyclable waste – the same amount of waste that some restaurants produce per hour – in almost two years, and even this amount was used by a local artist to create a sculpture. Another business following the zero waste philosophy, ‘Original Unverpackt’ in Berlin, aims to be Germany’s first waste-free supermarket. Selling groceries without packaging is enabled by customers bringing their own containers or borrowing reusable containers from the store. The produce is sourced from local suppliers – cutting transportation costs and pollution – and sold in bulk in the shop. Their idea is not new, and has been applied at least in the US and the UK.

Regarding personal actions, Bea Johnston’s example is truly inspiring. She and her family have lived virtually waste-free life in California since 2008 by generating only around one litre of waste per year – and creating health, financial and time saving benefits while doing that. She does it by applying a 5R principle: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot (Compost); check out her top 10 tips in eight categories to lower your waste at home.

After reading all these examples of low-carbon, sustainable living in cities, hopefully you feel inspired enough to take action! You can find more help for making it happen via Livewell How-to guides.


Livewell started as an action research project funded by the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Low Carbon Living, delivered through Curtin University and supported by the City of Yarra and Yarra Energy Foundation. Further funding was then provided by the CRC to produce the online Guide to running a ‘Livewell Group’


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