Planning Clean-out? Consider Sustainable Decluttering

Gunnedah Shire Council

Most people will undertake decluttering or clean out activities within their home at some point. However, when wanting to throw away unwanted items, it is important to stop and consider whether these items could be a valuable resource before opting to dispose of these items to landfill.

The total waste generation rate in New South Wales has increased by 17% since 2015, with the state generating 21.9 million tonnes of waste material per year. While this is a staggering figure, there are simple steps households can follow to better identify and manage resources and become more mindful consumers.

“The careful consideration of any unwanted items before sending them to landfill can not only help reduce overall waste generation figures for the state, but also assists the community by putting valuable resources back into rotation for others to use,” explains Gunnedah Shire Council Manager Waste Sheridan Cameron. “This is a key element of being a mindful consumer.”

‘Mindless consumption’ is the purchasing of products without considering their lifecycle and packaging outputs. This in turn places low value on things such as resource use, environmental impacts of production and ultimately disposal

As an example, at the beginning of the 21st century, people bought half as many clothes and kept them for twice as long. In more recent times, people now purchase 60% more items of clothing yet keep these items for half the amount of time.

Alternatively, ‘mindful consumption’ places value on resource use and shows an awareness of how certain purchases may impact our society and the environment.

“It is so important to be intentional with what we buy and make conscious decisions when purchasing that take into consideration the impacts our actions have on our society and the environment,” says Ms Cameron. “Choosing high-quality, durable items over cheap, disposable ones places higher value on these items which can save money and reduce waste as we are less likely to consider landfill as a suitable disposal option for higher value items.”

The waste industry regularly refers to the waste hierarchy as a set of priorities for the efficient use of resources: avoidance, reuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle with disposal being the least preferred option. Sustainable decluttering processes can be drawn from the waste hierarchy to declutter your space in the most sustainable and efficient ways.

The NSW EPA’s Circular Economy Policy highlights the importance of valuing resources by getting as much use out of products and materials as possible and reducing the amount of waste generated. In 2024, Gunnedah Shire Council is encouraging the community to become more mindful of their consumption habits and value waste as a resource to reduce the social and environmental impacts of disposal to create a more sustainable future.

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