1 Year of Rubbish: 2017

Kia Ora, happy new year! I hope everyone had an enjoyable break. I took a bit of time off social media and instead focused on my friends. I’m feeling refreshed and productive, and have lots of ideas for future blog posts (let’s hope I can actually stick it out this year). Last January I shared a glimpse of the contents of my rubbish bin for 2016, which you can read here. I kept track of majority of my rubbish again for 2017, and have picked through it to share with you. Rubbish is a pretty personal thing, so if you’re new here, you’re likely to learn a bit about me!

I’d like to state that there’s some things that did not make it in to my rubbish bin, that I contributed towards.

  1. Pre-consumer waste: This is waste created in the making or transportation of a product. I don’t see this waste, but I do know it is there. The waste we usually end up with, such as packaging, is the stuff that I can avoid.
  2. Waste from things other people bought for me: I spent a few weeks staying with family early last year. I didn’t impose my zero waste habits on them as I was being looked after and feed (and I’m already a pain for being a vegetarian!).
  3. Car related things: Yes, I still drive a car, it’s pretty hard to avoid in Auckland. When I can, I take public transport & cycle (I don’t like driving). My car is older than me, and I’ve owned it for 9 years. I had my car repaired twice last year (ugh, money!) so I’m guessing there was a bit of waste happening there.
  4. Tiny house related waste: This is being saved for a later blog post.
  5. Medical waste: I had a very healthy year last year, hooray! But If I do go to the doctors/hospital etc I take this waste as a given, due to hygiene reasons.

Also, I now no longer own a rubbish bin! I had a massive declutter and sold or donated a lot of my belongings to prepare for my eventual transition to tiny house living. Amongst one of the things I sold at my yard sale was my rubbish bin, which was hardly getting used.

This year I’ll likely use an old plastic coconut oil container with a lid to stash my trash. I also have a separate bag of building waste too.

I did a lot of tidying and downsizing in 2017, as well as some travelling & tramping, so my waste reflects that. I’ve also had an increase in soft plastic recycling, mainly because of the tiny house building and dumpster diving.

My trash from 2017:

Medical waste: Mostly painkillers, an old contraceptive prescription packet (I’ve switched to the IUD), plasters, flea treatments for my cat, a bloody bandage also from my cat (who had a late night bleeding paw), an old razor head (I hardly use my razor so haven’t bothered to replace it with a stainless steel safety razor), bamboo toothbrush heads and nylon bristles.

1 plastic straw: Given to me when I didn’t ask for one. I suspect there may have been another one that snuck its way in to my drink but I didn’t bother to carry it home.

An empty hand lotion packet: Something I’ve had for years, I’ve been slowly using up all my lotions and cosmetics and making my own or doing without.

Broken coat hangers, a plastic thread spool and old plastic eyeliner pencil. Items from ‘pre zero-waste.’

Broken rubber bands. 

Clothes tags, an old beaded bracelet and a broken watch strap: (most of the broken strap was binned at the watch repair place in Australia, I mentioned having this replaced on my instagram).

Nylon tea bags: I found these tea bags at the back of my pantry (I know, even I was surprised considering how much I write about food waste and using what you have etc.). I used the tea in a bath salt blend as it was about 4 years old.

Miscellaneous small items: An assortment of nylon toothbrush bristles, plastic swing tags, staples, fruit stickers and other random things that not even I was sure where they were from.

Sticker backings, luggage tags: I used a few stickers during the election campaign and acquired stickers from automated sytems when signing in as a guest (ironically when doing something waste related). Luggage tags were added to my checked baggage when I flew to the South Island to go tramping (checked luggage) and again when I flew to Australia, although I had carry on luggage only.

A container seal: A large air seal from a plastic container (the one in my photo) of pea protein powder I purchased (mentioned here). The order came with some free promotional materials I did not ask for, so I sent them back.

Car registration labels: These are a plastic lined paper material. I would love to eventually sell my car and buy an electric bike once my tiny house is nearly complete.

Receipts: Most receipts aren’t actually recyclable paper, they are thermal backed. The thermal ones turn dark when left too long in your car, or when scratched they leave a black mark. These receipts feel thicker and shiner than paper, and are unfortunately covered in BPA. So avoid touching them if you can! If you work at a shop that uses them, have a chat to the manager and see if they can opt out of receipts or switch to paper.

Plastic cards: Old bank cards, gym cards, single use gift vouchers. These aren’t recyclable, I even contacted Westfield to ask about theirs as they had the recycling logo printed on it. I ended up schooling Westfield in the recycle-ability of their cards, and they offered to take them back to recycle them.

An old nylon blend reusable bag: This bag was about 10 years old (from Supre, that’s how I know!) and had been sitting in the sunlight in the garage so was disintegrating into micro plastic. I salvaged the handles to up-cycle and chopped up the still study parts to stuff my cushion with. Nowdays I tend to buy or make my reusable bags from cotton (using secondhand or up-cycled fabric).

Old ribbons: Made of a synthetic blend, so can’t be composted.

An old wooden ornament: The paint was peeling from this ornament and I’m not sure if the wood has been treated. I thought it was better to landfill this than potentially contaminate my compost.

Laminated paper: This was the name sign above my desk from a job I finished in early 2017.

Dust mask: I got this dust mask while working at the landfill. This was a necessity due to health and safety (hello asbestos!).

Whittaker’s chocolate wrappers: I have such a sweet tooth, and sometimes my craving is specific to Whittaker’s Chocolate. I mostly buy chocolate in compostable or paper & foil packaging these days  (I plan on writing a blog post about that in the near future). Unfortunately Whittaker’s is not recyclable as it’s a plastic coated foil. I have taken this up with Whittaker’s a few times before hand. I will confess there is a total of 12 packets there, most of which were shared with my friends while tramping or after tiny house building.

My ‘rubbish bin’ for 2017’s trash.

Other Weird Things That I Recycled:

A blown energy-efficient lightbulb: Energy efficient lightbulbs contain mercury so shouldn’t be landfilled. I took mine to the Waitakere Recycling Centre.

Polystryrene: I inherited polystrene from a second hand item I purchased in its original packing. This will be taken to EcoMatters Environment Trust to recycle.

Soft Plastic: I avoid soft plastics, but occasionally have to buy something in packaging- mostly building related. Any soft plastic that can be scrunched was taken to the collection points at my local supermarket. More info about this scheme can be found here.


Buying Nothing New:

I also mentioned in my 2016 rubbish blog that I had not bought many brand new items. This is still true, I have not bought a clothing item brand new since early 2015. There are a small handful of items that I have purchased brand new; a fancy new rotary cutter and bike lights, using gift vouchers I had, and of course things for the tiny house. I’m not actively doing a Buy Nothing New challenge, as I hardly buy new anyway. I don’t intend on doing any new challenges this year; mainly because I’m busy tiny house building, and hoping to travel after finishing the tiny. I will continue to keep things as low waste as possible, but I’m aware building and travelling are both areas where rubbish can be hard to avoid!

A disclaimer/side note…

I have been living low waste for nearly 3 years now. Living sustainably is something I’m incredibly passionate about; having studied Environmental Science and Physical Geography. I am aware I’m in a privileged position. I don’t have children to look after, am in great health (I didn’t even go to the doctor last year) and I’m white and middle class. Please do not compare yourself to me, or other zero wasters who have been doing this for years. Zero waste and sustainable living should be accessible to everyone. I have taken to Twitter to rant about this before. Unfortunately zero waste is becoming a bit of a trending commodity. I suggest you check out this blog post by Lindsay from Treading My Own Path about zero waste and privilege.

Please do what you can, make conscious choices and don’t get too hung up on the small things. Don’t deprive yourself of necessities and fun things. It’s OK to indulge yourself every once in a while (here’s looking at my Whittaker’s Chocolate stash!). It’s cliched, but every bit does count. Even just talking to your friends about waste can help! I’m in awe how often waste comes up in discussions around me, even when I’m not contributing to the conversation. If you want to make a difference, contact businesses/organizations/MPs about their waste practices or how they can help make change. They are usually happy to get on board and listen to their customers/citizens.

P.S. Next time I’ll make sure I brush my hair before taking a selfie with a rubbish container on my head!


  1. Candace Weir   •  

    Great post Amanda and well done to another waste free year. Thanks for the link to Lindsay’s article, it is very well written and something that I have been thinking about ALOT lately. Thanks for keeping it real zw sister! xC

    • Amanda Chapman   •     Author

      Thank you Candace! Yes zero waste & privilege has been bugging me for a while now, especially after I went to a posh waste event. Hence my post on Facebook linking to your blog, you keep it real and practical! I’m just a single gal in my own little bubble. xo

  2. Carla@ouramanahsourfutures@wordpress   •  

    Your bin sale made me smile 😁 I know noone who could sell their bin. Your waste of the year looks like my daughters bedroom. I have realised I need to do more explaining to her she is only 8 so i think we can let her off.

    • Amanda Chapman   •     Author

      Hi Carla, thanks for your comment. The person who bought my bin (for $2 haha) had no idea how much of a big deal that was for me! That is cool that your daughter has a good role model, I never had a sustainability minded family member to look up to. I wonder how different I would be if I did (or if I would have rebelled!).

  3. Rach   •  

    Great summary Amanda, it’s interesting to see how many random objects in our daily lives can’t be easily recycled or composted. And I think the pile of Whittaker’s wrappers are a perfect reminder that it’s important to enjoy life!

    • Amanda Chapman   •     Author

      Thanks Rach! Love that about enjoying life, so true! Good to see you blogging again by the way.

  4. Ian Price   •  

    Just to let you know that in the first week of April 2018 a new anti food waste app, Y Waste, will launch in New Zealand.
    On the app food retailers can post and sell their end of day excess unsold food at a discounted price instead of having to throw it away. This way they can generate extra revenue and save on wastage costs and customers get to eat great food, save money and we all het to save the planet. Check out http://www.ywasteapp.com where you can also download the app.

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  6. Bren Murphy   •  

    Your energy and commitment to living waste free is really powerful! I can see so many areas I can improve upon and help me get toward my goal of zero waste. I have been talking about it within my circle and most stress upon the inconvenience as the number one cause of frustration. but it can be flipped around and viewed instead as part of the journey of mindfulness and finding a more meaningful existence. Or being more grounded through less “stuff” passing through our hands…
    Very Grateful

    • Amanda Chapman   •     Author

      Thank you Bren! It’s definitely frustrating sometimes, and I get annoyed that this is put on the consumer. However, It’s amazing to see how much waste has become on the radar in the past few years, and consumers, businesses and governments are starting to work towards zero waste as a realistic goal.

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