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Waste Reduction Initiatives and How To Make Compost

Avoid, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Tips

Reduce Reuse Recycle Repurpose Symbol

We are living in a time where we understand more about our planet, its ecosystems and the impacts of human activity. Without careful management, these impacts could have long lasting effects on our environment and our way of life. We have the responsibility for ensuring that as both a government and a community, we do everything that we can to reduce the burden on our environment and our precious resources.

FACT: Food and garden organics waste accounts for around half of waste sent to landfill.

Waste Reduction Tips


  • Needs versus Wants – always ask yourself if you really need the item or want it to AVOID unnecessary items?
  • Make a list – buy only what you need AVOID impulse buying by sticking to the list. Don’t shop when you’re hungry
  • Bag you’re shopping – in reusable (organic cotton or hemp) bags, baskets or backpacks to AVOID plastic
  • Household cleaners – buy and use less, read the labels AVOID the more toxic products and look for natural and safer alternatives
  • Buy in bulk – as it REDUCES the amount of packaging and will save you money
  • Concentrated products – often means REDUCED packaging and energy to transport
  • Buy REUSABLE products - AVOID single use products like batteries, nappies, disposable razors, plates or cutlery
  • Choose products – with none or RECYCLABLE packaging (fresh fruit Vs frozen)
  • Fresh fruit & veggies – come with NO PACKAGING and even better if they come from your own backyard
  • Is it reliable? Can it be repaired, refilled, reused and restored? Will the product last as it gets older?
  • Other alternatives - like buying second-hand, hiring / renting or borrowing less used items. Use your local library
  • Shop ethically - every purchase makes an impact, your dollar is your vote

GREAT RECYCLING TIP: Being a good recycler is one thing, but you can be a great recycler by buying things made from recycled material. Close the loop by buying products with recycled content in things like plastic containers, packaging, boxes, toilet paper, wrapping and copy paper.

In the Home

  • AVOID plastic bags for rubbish completely by using biodegradable bags for the kitchen bin, allowing them to break down in landfill. Even better use bags from cereal, bread and frozen food for wet or messy garbage
  • No Junk Mail – add a sticker to your letterbox to REDUCE paper wastage. Contact the Distributions Standards Board on 1800 676 136 for a free  “No Advertising Material" sticker
  • Phone Books – cancel deliveries to your home through Directory Select (This external link will open in a new window)
  • Donate containers – from margarine, ice-cream and even egg cartons to your local schools or childcare for REUSE in craft activities
  • Donate books – and magazines to schools, hospitals, charity book stalls or second hand booksellers
  • Store – household items like buttons and screws in REUSABLE glass jars and bottles
  • Lighting – use low-energy fluorescent light bulbs which last longer and cost less over time. RECYCLE your used bulbs.

FACT: The average Australian household wastes more than $1,000 every year purchasing items they never use. So buy only what you need and save.

Complete the Cycle: Buy Recycled

In the Garden

  • Lawn clippings – leave them on the lawn as you mow, saving time and also fertilising your lawn
  • Compost – food and garden waste

Saving Money

  • Cleaners – can be bought in refill packs, or even better, start natural cleaning
  • Tea – sold in tea bags can cost up to twice as much as that sold in bulk. You can also buy your coffee freshly ground into your own container
  • Chips – sold in small individual packets can cost up to 44% more then the same amount sold in larger packets. Separate them into Tupperware containers or individual zip lock bags that can also be washed and used over
  • Bulk – buying of rice, flour, potatoes, and sugar can save money and waste
  • Salt – sold in recyclable cardboard is much cheaper then salt sold in plastic
  • Toilet cleaners – do little more then change the colour of the water
  • Borrow – books from the library or second-hand instead of buying new ones

Extra Tips

Avoid Reduce Reuse Recycle

  • Write – to the manufacturer of your favourite product if it doesn’t come in recyclable or reusable packaging
  • Mug – use your own for takeaway coffee, AVOIDing disposable containers
  • Takeaway – ask them to AVOID using extra wrapping and plastic cutlery, even better, take your own containers
  • Nappies – use cloth or a nappy service wash service instead of disposable nappies
  • Garage sales – and donating to charity are a great way to REUSE old furniture, TVs, appliances and clothes

What can I do with my food scraps or green waste?

Research show that:

  • Food scraps - one third of our rubbish we put in our red lidded bin (which ends up in landfill) is food scraps.
  • All waste - half of our waste could be made into compost and mulch at home.

Composting can:

  • help us create healthy gardens;
  • reduce the germination of annual weeds;
  • reduce water loss through evaporation;
  • lower extreme soil temperatures in summer and thus alleviate plant stress;
  • reduce soil erosion;
  • enrich South Australia’s poor soils; and
  • reduce the waste that goes to landfill, and reducing greenhouse emissions.

What is composting?

Composting is the process by which waste organic matter is broken down over a period of weeks or months. It converts organic materials into a rich dark-coloured product, mainly humus, which can then be spread on or dug into the garden to act as a soil conditioner and slow release fertiliser.

Micro-organisms, including bacteria and fungi, break down the materials, recycling them and their nutrients back into the environment. This activity generates heat, which destroys weeds and seeds, pests and diseases. The heat dissipates as the process is completed.

Composting needs

  • air;
  • moisture; and
  • nitrogen and carbon (woody material).

What can I put in my compost?

  • vegetable and fruit scraps;
  • fallen leaves and fruit;
  • tea leaves and tea bags;
  • coffee grounds;
  • vacuum cleaner dust;
  • dead flowers;
  • soft stems of plants;
  • egg shells;
  • old newspapers (shredded);
  • lawn clippings;
  • sawdust, and small amounts of wood ash or lime; and
  • tissues.

What can’t I put in my compost?

  • meat, fish and dairy products (they attract rats and vermin and can smell);
  • large branches (they won’t break down);
  • timber products treated with chemicals;
  • magazines; and
  • diseased plants.

Which method is best?

Choose a shady area of the garden so the sun won’t dry out the compost. Put the materials all in together or layer them: grass clippings, leaves, food scraps, shredded newspaper. The best place to compost is in:

  • a pile on the ground;
  • an enclosure made of wood or mesh;
  • a large metal drum with no base and holes drilled in the sides to let air in;
  • a commercial compost bin; and
  • a rotating compost barrel.

Each has disadvantages and advantages, for example:

  • some bin designs make it hard to get the compost out
  • compost heaps may attract unwanted animals and vermin.

How can I help the process?

Help the material to break down quickly by:

  • mixing/turning it over regularly to allow air in;
  • making sure it is moist;
  • keeping it well drained; and
  • breaking up materials into small pieces before adding them.

Note, that adding compost worms to speed up the process may not be successful (compost heaps that generate very high temperatures will kill the worms).

If the material to be composted is very woody (i.e. lacking nitrogen) add a small amount of manure. If it is dry add water or materials high in moisture; if it is too wet add straw, wood chips or other dry organic materials (i.e. not soil).