What we learned from our chat with Less Waste Laura by Victoria Cook

Laura Young AKA Less Waste Laura is an environmental scientist and less waste advocate.

After meeting a mate for a coffee I always dread uttering the words ‘Can I give you a lift anywhere?’ Not because it’s a pain having to drive out of my way, but because I know that the mess inside my car is enough for even the closest of friends to drop their jaw in shock.  Diet coke bottles, empty bags of crisps, half eaten sushi packets, wrappers and crumbs from snaffling nutty bars.  I reckon if I got trapped in my car I could last a good two weeks.  And probably put on weight.

That was the old me, now my car is too full of kid’s car seats to even contemplate giving somebody a lift (unless they’re up for being strapped to the roof rack) and I’ve spent the last year trying to use as little single use plastic as possible.  At first the switches were easy, stop buying plastic bottles and use my refill bottle instead, stop indulging in my sushi snack pack habit (I’m still trying to manage that situation) and refuse to buy items with unnecessary additional packaging in the weekly shop.  Any short fallings I could just whack in the recycling bin and get on with my day feeling like my conscious was as clear as my bank account the morning after payday.

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That was until one afternoon, while procrastinating on my phone I stumbled onto a TED X talk by Laura Young, or Less Waste Laura as you might know her.  In the talk Laura discusses how recycling isn’t working and instead we should focus on reducing our waste and trying to eradicate as much as possible.  My thoughts drifted downstairs to my own recycling bin, which I knew was overflowing with cans, boxes and God knows what else.  Come to think of it, how certain could I be that everything going into that bin was even recyclable?  Was I putting the right thing in the right bin on the right day?  Is there actually a God and what kind of animal is Goofy anyway?  I booked Laura in for a chat on our Inland Sea podcast ‘Things Can Only Get Greta.’

In person (via Zoom) Laura has an infectious laugh and is razor sharp, funny and buzzing with a revolutionary spirit.  During our chat, which you can hear here, Laura explained that recycling gives us a false sense of security.  The recycle symbols on packaging can be confusing and requirements change from council to council.  Many of the household items that end up in the recycling plant can’t even be recycled or are sent to third world countries for landfill.  Looking at the numbers is pretty bleak too.  Of the 8.3bn tonnes of plastic produced worldwide only 9% has been recycled (source: Guardian UK).  Laura’s answer to this gargantuan problem is simple and effective.  Be more aware of exactly what waste you’re producing and reduce it as much as possible.  A fun idea, she says, is to collect every bit of waste you use in a single week to see the problem for yourself.  It might not sound as fun as an evening of Nachos and Twister but it is certainly fascinating to see for yourself just how many packets of Jaffa cakes you (I) can get through in a week (five).

Reducing your waste is hard to put into practice, especially if you’re on the road a lot or have children and convenience can take over.  Planning and prep for the day ahead seems to trump this however.  Keeping reusables to hand and making your own lunch is cost effective, cuts your waste outgoings dramatically and can make giving your mates a lift in your car a much less embarrassing experience.


Ted X ‘Kicking The Plastic Habit’ with Laura Young