It’s Spring and that means it’s time for a Spring clean up. For a lot of people the Spring clean involves a trip to the tip to dump garden waste and all the stuff that is broken or that they no longer want. But not here. Here, the Spring clean is an opportunity to:
- repair all the things that need repairing
- salvage items or parts for reuse
- rehome good quality items that no longer fit our life
- recycle what is not able to be reused, and
- compost organic material.
So, the purpose of this post is to provide a round-up of what my Spring clean has involved this year, aside from washing everything, and to hopefully motivate you to find ways to ensure your ‘waste’ doesn’t end up in landfill too. It may not be glamorous but this stuff needs to be shared, my blog wouldn’t be a true reflection of zero waste family life without it. Plus, I’m proud of being able to keep our waste out of landfill.
To start with I went through all the rooms and sheds and pulled out all the items we don’t use anymore. This was mostly children’s books, clothes, and toys. We cleaned them and gave some to people who wanted them. Next, Ainsley sold most of the remaining items at the Poowong Pickers Festival. This was a great exercise for her and reinforced the importance of buying and looking after good quality items so that others are happy to receive them secondhand (actually, many of these items were secondhand when we got them). We gave a small bag of leftover saleable items to the opportunity shop.
We also had a couple of bicycles that the kids outgrew and wore out a fair bit. I didn’t know anyone who wanted them so I was going to try rehoming them through an online trading group, but then I came across Re:cycling in Leongatha. You can buy new and used bicycles from Re:cycling or drop off your used bikes to be repaired, used for parts, or recycled. As soon as I started talking to Mark it was clear that his passion is repairing bicycles rather than replacing them. So, I took our bikes to Mark and he said they will stay as they are until someone shows interest in them. If a customer likes a bike they can either take the bike without payment, or pay for the parts and labour needed to fix the bike. Mark does not on-sell the secondhand bikes; he only sells his labour to overhaul the bikes. I’m happy to spread the word about businesses like this and encourage you to choose secondhand so that we can close the recycling loop.
If you aren’t near Leongatha and want to donate a bike in good condition, GiveNow has compiled an Australian register of organisations who accept donations. In addition to those, you might like to check out Back2Bikes in Port Melbourne and Bicycle Recycle in Moorabbin, Victoria. If your bike is really beyond repair, you can recycle the metal parts. Many local recycling centres have a mixed metals recycling facility. But before taking your bike to the recycling centre, remove any rubber or plastic parts such as tyres, inner tubes, saddles, brakes, plastic light or lock fittings and bells.
Next on my to-do list was to part with a collection of plant pots I’d been holding on to because I thought I would reuse them. After seven years, it was time to admit that I was never going to use them. I took them to my local nursery to be reused. Some councils will take plant pots in kerbside recycling but reuse is a much more ecofriendly option than recycling them.
Now time to deal with my split vacuum cleaner hose. As I was under the impression it couldn’t be fixed, I was really happy when I was able to get a new hose for my 10 year old Dyson (the sales guy thought this was going to be difficult because of its age). But, in the time that I was waiting for the part to arrive, I started searching for things I could do with the old hose, and that’s when I found it, a video showing how to repair the split hose. I was so happy to have fixed my hose but unfortunately, I can’t get a refund for the new one. I’m hoping this is a blessing in disguise because if the old hose splits somewhere else later on, I might not be able to get the part. Another nice discovery was that since I bought my vacuum cleaner, Dyson have started taking full lifecycle responsibility for their products and will take back old machines for recycling at their cost. Good to know for the future.
Moving on to the problem of what to do with worn out shoes. Any shoes that are in good condition but which have been outgrown get handed on to younger cousins, otherwise we don’t replace shoes until they have been worn out (see photographic evidence). Shoes in this condition should not be donated to any charity organisation. However, if your shoes are gently worn you can donate them to local charities or organisations like Soles4Souls, Swapping Shoes with Amputees, and Shoes for Planet Earth.
I looked into recycling our old shoes and discovered that Nike’s Reuse A Shoe program, which collects worn-out athletic shoes for recycling and transforms them into Nike Grind, a material used to create courts, tracks, fields and playgrounds, does not operate in Australia (I spoke to Nike Head Office). I could post them to America but to be honest, I don’t want to pay for this and sending them that far probably negates the environmental benefits. I also found that Terracycle in Australia does not collect shoes for recycling. But then I came across Save Our Souls recycling partnership with Totally Workwear. I contacted them to confirm if the program still operates, and it does! Most of the stores will take old work boots so that the rubber can be recycled. My nearest store is Wonthaggi, so next time I am in that area I will be dropping the old work boots off. I’m relieved to have found this program for at least some of our shoes because I could not find a new purpose for all the old shoes in our life. I have enough pen holders and I have no reason to put plants in shoes when I have so much land to work with. I don’t believe in creating or keeping things that I don’t need or can’t give to anyone. I do have to send the sneakers to landfill but I am content knowing that the shoes have been completely ruined before we buy new ones and not just passed onto someone else to become part of their waste stream.
Also in the process of cleaning up and clearing out I:
- sorted reusable paper from paper that needs to be recycled
- cleaned labels off jars to reuse them for storage, preserves, or drinking glasses
- took our collection of single use household batteries to Aldi for recycling
- placed our collection of steel jar lids and twist tops into a steel can which I squeezed shut to ensure the contents is recycled
- took four blown light globes, an old irreparable TV, a mobile phone, a motorbike tyre, and six months of paper, glass and steel to the Lardner transfer station for recycling (we don’t have kerbside waste collection)
- mended clothing
- disassembled clothing that cannot be donated into reusable parts for future projects
- stitched up soft toys and repaired wooden toys
- sharpened knives rather than replacing them
- glued pottery back together
- smashed a broken plate into pieces for future mosaic artwork
- replaced a rake handle instead of buying a new rake and used the old handle as garden stakes
- cleaned out the fireplace and put in all the ash in the compost
- gave the dog a haircut and put all the hair in the compost
I‘m very happy to say that even though most of the items I’ve dealt with have come from a time when I was not thinking about zero waste – yes, I was waste conscious but not to this extent – I’ve still been able to reuse or recycle all of it. I really hope that when you have your next big clean-up, you’ll take the little bit of extra time and thought to ensure as many resources as possible get reused rather than sent to landfill.