Mia’s weekly waste message in a bottle

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Mia Swainson… “Feel good about the things you do and not guilty about what you’re not doing.” Photo by Danielle Nohra

A FAMILY of five from O’Connor has managed to fit its weekly waste into a one-litre jar.

Mum, Mia Swainson, her husband and their three young boys started their journey towards zero waste after Mia read about a Canadian woman who could fit a year’s worth of waste into one jar.

It really struck a chord for the 39-year-old strategic business consultant, who is a sustainable living advocate in her spare time.

“My passion is in supporting people take the next step,” says Mia who runs waste workshops at Canberra Environment Centre.

But, when reflecting on her family’s journey towards zero waste, she says there were two things that every household could do straight away.

The first is understanding recycling which, she says, includes soft plastics that can be “recycled” by using a REDcycle drop-off spot at more than 20 locations in Canberra, usually in front of a Woolworths or Coles supermarket.

“When people recycle their soft plastics it’s then processed into something else,” she says.

This keeps it out of landfill and, when it’s removed from the bin, Mia says it helps people see what waste they’re producing.

“The second step is to take organic waste out of your bin,” she says.

When people take out organic waste, such as kitchen scraps and rotten food, Mia says it will likely halve the waste in the bin.

“It’s nearly 30 to 40 per cent of people’s bins,” she says.

“[And] there’s a heap of ways you can process the material at home.”

Mia suggests starting a compost bin or a worm farm, but if that’s not an option she recommends an app called “ShareWaste” where users can connect with people around Canberra and drop off their waste to someone who has ways of processing it rather than it going to landfill.

“When organic waste goes to landfill it produces a really nasty greenhouse gas called methane,” she says.

“About three per cent of greenhouse gases in the capital come from methane right now.

“Because climate change is such a pressing issue we need to reduce as much as we can.”

While those are Mia’s two easy steps to do today, she says there are other things people can tackle such as “the buy-nothing-new challenge”.
“Anything beyond medicines and food,” she says.

“See if you can buy nothing new and see what comes out of that.

“A lot of waste is driven by people consuming more than what they need.”

It’s not about buying nothing new forever, but Mia, who took on the challenge with her family, says it helped them become more conscious about purchases.

Recently, Mia needed a new hiking tent and, because of the challenge, decided to check the Gumtree website and found the exact tent she wanted, a lot cheaper and it had only been used once.

“There’s a fabulous resource called ‘Buy Nothing New’ on Facebook, which has about 10 group pages around Canberra,” she says.

“It’s really diverse in what you can get and what you can give.”

But, Mia doesn’t want people to become overwhelmed with what they “should” be doing and suggests that people focus on what they are doing that’s good rather than what they’re not.

“Pick one or two things to change at a time and pick something that suits you,” she says.

“Feel good about the things you do and not guilty about what you’re not doing.

“As long as you are on that journey, it’s a really positive thing.

“Waste touches every single person and we have the technology to do so much better than what we are doing at the moment.”


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Danielle Nohra
Danielle Nohra is a "CityNews" staff journalist.

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