Inspirational

I’m a Waste Warrior

Belinda swapped her big bin for a tupperware box - here's how you can too!
  • Belinda Chellingworth, 39, from Sydney is Australia’s first garbologist.
  • The waste warrior ditched her big bin and fits all her rubbish in a Tupperware container. 
  • Now she wants Australia to join her in saving money and reducing waste.

Here Belinda tells her story in her own words

Staring at the mountain of used betting slips in the bin, I sighed.

It was 2000 and, aged 20 and working as a barmaid at the local pub part time, I hated to see reams of paper going into landfill.

Digging my hand in the bin I pulled out the slips. 

This’ll do for notes at uni, I smiled.

I’d always hated to see waste. Brought up on acreage in Western Sydney, NSW, I’d grown up dodging snakes and chasing wildlife on our property.

As a young child, I’d learned how precious nature and water were. When the rainwater tanks were empty there was no more.

Studying a biodiversity degree, I was determined to work towards a waste-free world. 

I saw a lot of food waste at my second job in a supermarket. I was stunned by the volume of out-of-date food, including piles of barbecue chickens, that were dumped each night.

‘Come and get some of the chickens,’ I told my mum, Liz, who did just that.   

But still far too much went to waste.

Grandma Betty would’ve been horrified. She was good at reducing waste
– cooking the right-sized meals and mending clothes instead of tossing them.

As I graduated and the years passed, I began working with businesses like Aldi, Australia Post and the government, informing them about waste prevention and recycling.

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Belinda as a child (Credit: Supplied)

I wanted to educate people not just about recycling, but also consuming less.

I knew to help save the planet, change started at home.

By the end of 2017, I’d ditched my red rubbish bin, and shrunk my household rubbish down to the size of a Tupperware container every fortnight.

I’d stopped buying convenience food with plastic packaging, cooking fresh food instead.

Every few months I’d visit farmers markets, taking my own cotton reusable bags. And I invested in a vegie delivery with a company who took away the cardboard box.

In my garden, I set up a worm farm. As the worms wiggled away happily, I threw in my vegie scraps.

Next I planned my meals for the week, but I was still throwing out food past its use-by date. 

So I bought bright yellow sticky tape from OzHarvest which said use it up. Then I stuck it on any food in the fridge that was due to go out of date, to remind myself to eat it up first.

When I prepped for each week, I made a list of meals before I went shopping. And I cleaned my reusable keep cup, Tupperware tubs and water bottles ready for the week ahead.

I did my best to repurpose any packaging – I even took my old plastic plant pots back to the local nursery.

And when I had a stack of bubble wrap after moving, I called the local picture framers, who took it off my hands to package their frames. 

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Belinda and Grandma Betty (Credit: Supplied)

I knew to help save the planet, change started at home.

Getting a new family member, my staffy Humphrey in 2020, I soon learned recycling was a challenge with pets. 

As my furry little boy scampered around the house, I trawled online marketplace sites for recommendations for long-lasting dog toys. 

I fed Humphrey a high-protein, better quality diet, meaning I was buying less, resulting in less packaging. And even better – less dog poo!

When the tough waterproof bags of kibble ran out, I’d repurpose them as storage bags in my garage. And I hated buying plastic dog poo bags. Instead I picked the empty ones up that were strewn around as litter.

Last November, I set up my business, BC Consulting, educating companies on the circular economy.

My friends and family had a good laugh about the fact my business was rubbish!

‘You’re a trash maiden,’ my mates laughed. 

‘Or bin chicken queen,’ another one ribbed me.

But they always asked for tips on how to cut down household waste and save money.

‘Try reusable cotton cleansing pads for your face – you can repurpose them for things such as removing nail polish,’ I told my girlfriends. 

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Belinda and Humphrey (Credit: Supplied)

‘How’s our garbologist going?’ she asked, as I laughed. It’s such an apt description of my job!

I often scoured second-hand online sites for good items. And I saved myself a tonne on bottled fizzy water by purchasing a second-hand SodaStream. 

If I needed a particular tool, I looked online for tool libraries or men’s sheds that lent them out, saving on money and packaging. 

In my wardrobe, I knew I could save on waste by buying second-hand clothes, but also by reducing the amount of clothing I bought. 

When my good quality black work pants faded, I had an idea. I could dye these, I thought.

Investing in a dye, it instantly revived them. 

My other gran, Pat, is very supportive too.

‘How’s our garbologist going?’ she asked, as I laughed. It’s such an apt description of my job!

I was shocked to learn over 21 per cent of Australian households experienced severe food insecurity last year, meaning they ran out.

Worse, households throw away up to $2500 of food on average yearly. That’s money down the drain.

So I’m calling all Australians to become garbologists like me. Start with just one change and turn it into a habit.

For more information visit Belinda’s Instagram page.

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Belinda and friend Naomi (Credit: Supplied)

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