Rubbish Isn’t Rubbish – How do you talk about your household waste? Is it Rubbish or Recyclable?

I was at the park last week with my boys and they were flying around the place having a ball, when my eldest stopped to pick up an empty plastic soda bottle.  I often collect up any waste from public spaces when I’m out, and it appears it is rubbing off on my boys.  The first thing my little guy said as he held it up was “Mummy, I’m going to put this rubbish in the bin”.

My initial response was a massive internal heart explosion of joy. Pride that my eldest was taking responsibility for keeping the space he loves to play in tidy.  My next thought, went to  the language he used, specifically the word “Rubbish”.

The bottle he held was something that we would recycle at home. It would go into the yellow waste bin our council collects fortnightly to turn plastic, glass and aluminium items into new products.  It so happened the park we were in also had a bin designated specifically for recyclable items.  But to my son, this piece of waste, was not distinguishable as something that could be made new. It was simply rubbish. Something to throw away, with no further purpose or use.

This made me think about how we as a society talk about our waste.  And the more I thought about it, the more I realised that most of the time “Rubbish, isn’t Rubbish”.  Think about it… Is it rubbish or recyclable?

What if we constantly taught our children the possibilities of what items we have used and supposedly finished with, can become?

At home we compost our food scraps, our boys understand that apple cores and banana skins go in a container on the kitchen counter that I empty every day or two and dig into the garden.  This nourishes the soil and gives anything I attempt to grow there a better chance to grow healthy and strong (despite my black thumbs). They also have a basic understanding of what items can go in the recycling bins.  Their special treat juice containers go in the bin for the recycling, as do the empty milk containers that mum and dad use to make their morning coffee from.  My youngest is nearly 3 and he gets this concept.

These items are not “Rubbish” they are useful, they are resources, they can be made into something new.

And so, when my son asked me this question, that made me so proud (and acutely aware of our disposable society and the non-biodegradable waste we thoughtlessly create), I took his hand, hunched down and said “Awesome-job honey, that one isn’t rubbish, we can recycle that puppy and turn it into something new. Let’s throw it in the recycle bin”

I lifted him up and he slammed it into the yellow bin with satisfaction.  And I promised myself, from now on, I’m going to be much more careful as to how we use the word ‘Rubbish’ around our home (and anywhere else for that matter).

Do you have a recycling regime at home? I’d love to hear about it. Either drop me a line in the comments below, or perhaps jump onto my Facebook page and share your story there –

Are you wanting to make tangible changes in your home to reduce waste? Me too, join me on this journey on my weekly post “Less Waste Wednesdays” this link will take you to my first post that explains what i’m trying to achieve, and this post about the difference between degradable and compostable plastic bags may be helpful for your home too.

If you are in Queensland (like my family and I) the “Containers for Change” programme has kicked off and you can collect 10 cents per recyclable container from participating locations.  Visit their page to check it out, we’ve started supplementing the boys pocket money from this scheme.

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