Updated: Feb 21, 2019
The release of the Netflix reality series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” has sparked joy with people all around the world. The series is based on Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” where she describes the KonMari method of de-cluttering and organisation. The method involves gathering your items, one category at a time, and sorting through each item, one-by-one, to determine if an item “sparks joy”, keeping only the items that spark joy and discarding those that do not.
Although the book may have been first published back in 2011, the phenomena of people de-cluttering their lives didn’t gain global fame until early 2019. Whilst people all over the world are cleaning out their wardrobes, garages, kitchen pantries, bathrooms and bookshelves, the worrying reality is that people will likely incorrectly dispose of many items that didn’t spark joy.
Unfortunately, neither the book or Netflix series include information on how to safely dispose of items which may pollute our environment, such as household chemicals, medicines and needles. It is also important once you have de-cluttered your home to minimise waste to maintain your tidy spaces.
This blog post will address some environmentally friendly disposal methods for items which you will likely stumble upon on your quest to clean out your home. I will also include some initiatives to help Reduce, Reuse and Recycle for when you have completed your tidying mission.
NOTE: This article is tailored towards Australians so if you’re from outside of Australia, you may need to check with your local and state governments as to how to dispose and recycle items.
Many household chemicals are classified as hazardous waste and need to be disposed of correctly to minimise threats to the community and environment alike. Disposal requirements and methods vary from state to state. Generally, local councils and or state environmental authorities provide drop-off points or collection days where households can safely dispose of their chemicals free of charge. The types of chemicals and items which can be disposed of vary between state/territory, but they typically include:
Paints & Related Products
Herbicides & Pesticides
Car & Household Batteries
Household Cleaning Products
Motor & Cooking Oils
Acid or Alkali Chemicals
It is important to note that many of these services may have collection limits per household or chemical type. Commercial waste is excluded from these services. The following links will direct you to the correct method to dispose of these chemicals for your state or territory. Contact your local council to locate collection points in your region:
In addition, there are two Australia-wide chemical collection schemes which aim to reduce the amount of agricultural and veterinarian chemicals in the community and environment.
ChemClear collects unwanted or expired agricultural and veterinarian chemicals used in farming practices.
drumMUSTER collects empty eligible containers of agricultural and veterinarian chemicals used in farming practices.
Medicines, Needles & Sharps
Excess medicines around the home can not only take up valuable space, but it can be dangerous, particularly when children and pets are around. Many people do not know that medicines are not to be disposed of in your normal kerbside waste collection. It is not uncommon for medicines to be disposed of down the sink or toilet which is also extremely dangerous. Expired, unused and unwanted medicines should be returned to your local pharmacy for safe, environmentally friendly disposal.
The Return of Unwanted Medicines (RUM) Project is an Australia-wide medicine disposal program which provides community pharmacies with secured bins to confidentially and safely collect medicines to be sent to an EPA approved waste collection facility for incineration.
Needles, syringes and other sharps are not to be disposed of in the bin or with your medicines. If you have sharps around your home, these need to be safely disposed of in an approved sharps container. Alternatively, you can take these sharps to be disposed of to a registered sharps collection point. The following links provide information on how and where to dispose sharps in each state or territory:
Maintaining a de-cluttered home:
So you have used the KonMari method and you now have a home which sparks joy. Keeping your home neat and tidy can be achieved by using the principles of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
Reduce your waste where possible. There are lots of small things you can do to minimise the amount of items which enter your home and eventually become waste
Try to purchase items which are made of recycled materials, such as paper and plastic products.
Visit a bulk foods store. Bulk food stores allow you to bring your own re-usable containers to refill with food products in bulk. This means you get the exact amount you require without any excess product or packaging.
Avoid purchasing items which are unnecessarily packaged. This is particularly common in the fresh fruit and vegetable section of your supermarket.
Try to share items where possible. This may be useful with items such as household chemicals and tools where you only need an item for a one-off task. Try sharing items with neighbours, friends and family.
Reuse items where possible. This can be tricky as many items are not made to be repaired, but rather replaced if there is an issue or it is damaged. However, there are things that you can do to maximise the lifespan of items in your home.
Purchase items which can be repaired. This is particularly possible for more expensive items such as appliances, electronics and furniture.
Repair damaged items where possible. Although this isn’t an option on every item, including those with warranty, there are still things you can repair such as clothing and furniture. Community groups such as Men’s Sheds and Repair Cafés can teach you how to fix your beloved items. Check with your local council to see what options you have in your region.
Repurposing items in your home can not only save you money, but also cut down on waste. Upcycling items is particularly common for furniture items and the finished product can be highly desirable in the marketplace.
Recycle as much of the waste you generate as possible. This is made easy when you have kerbside recycling bins at your doorstep. There are many government initiatives which can help you recycle your waste.
Soft Plastics are a huge environmental problem but did you know much of it can be recycled? RedCycle is an Australia-wide program which recycles soft-plastics, such as plastic bags and food packaging. Items suitable for recycling can be collected and dropped off at labelled RedCycle bins in Coles and Woolworths supermarkets across Australia, in addition to other collection points.
Many food and beverage containers can be returned for a refund as a part of a Container Deposit Scheme. Currently, most states and territories have container deposit schemes in place where a 10c refund is given for each eligible container returned to a collection point. This is also a great way to make a little spare change on the side!
Donate items which are still in usable condition to charity. Most people know about donating clothing items, but you can also donate furniture, kitchenware, books and other items to charity shops such as The Salvation Army and Vinnies. These items will be sold on to people in need at a discount price.
Some items, particularly books, music, electronics, DVDs and games can be sold to second-hand stores for money. This is particularly good for items which may be collectable or that are still in near-new condition that you want to get rid of quickly.
Selling unwanted items is not a new concept, however it is made easy with the development of online marketplaces such as eBay, Gumtree and even the Facebook marketplace. Of course, you can always do the traditional garage sale or set up a stall at a market, however the convenience of online marketplaces can be too good to resist. Private sales can often lead to a higher sales price when compared to those sold to a second-hand retailer, however you do have to put in the effort and may have to be patient while the items finds a new home where it sparks joy.
There are so many ways to reduce the amount of waste in your home. For more information on how to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, ABC’s "War on Waste" documentary series provides in-depth information on why and how to reduce waste.
For more information on the safe disposal of items around the home, visit Planet Ark Recycling.