There are certainly challenges to living a plastic-free life in Darwin, some can be solved with a bit of effort while others either remain on either a 'deal with it later' list or the too hard basket.

First things first. Despite Darwin's distance from other population centres, our local Shoal Bay Recycling Centre takes all recyclable plastics

Another recent recycling initiative worth mentioning is courtesy of Coles supermarket, who are rolling out a nationwide soft plastics collection. I'll pause here to say I won't give my opinion for or against shopping at one of Australia's major food suppliers as it's up to the individual to decide how they shop, but either way I think this is a positive step in removing a large part of what is often unavoidable plastic from landfill. It hasn't rolled out in Darwin yet but for now I'm saving all my soft plastics until such time as it does.

All in all, my goal here is to send as little plastic as possible to landfill for as long as possible. This means that for now, I am avoiding plastic as a first priority, recycling it as a second measure, and hanging onto it if I can't do either of the other two. So I'm gathering up a small collection of hard and soft plastics to deal with when I find the facilities, and the rest is being recycled - or avoided entirely. Hanging on to what I can't recycle is a good way of motivating me to bring in as little of the non-recyclable as possible!

Thus far it has meant passing up a number of former treats and returning to an essentially vegetarian diet - for a lot of reasons - but in the context of plastic because it is very difficult to source meat that isn't pre-wrapped on styrofoam trays (with the exception of going to the butchers, but I'm not so fussed about eating meat anyway).

Onto some of my first solutions, here's a little rundown of some of the changes I've been able to make with very little effort:

1. Making my own cereal. I was able to get about half of what I needed (dates, oats and almonds) in bulk, while the rest (sunflower seeds, sultanas and desiccated coconut) was only available pre-packaged. A lot of nuts and dried fruits can't be sourced in bulk up here, which is likely mostly to do with the climate and spoilage issues. I may try drying some of my own fruit later in the year, but right now it's the monsoon season so I'm not up for experimenting yet!

2. Making rubbish bags from newspaper. I've actually been doing this for a while now, after realising I usually justified getting plastic carry bags by planning to reuse them as garbage bags. There are a lot of step-by-step instructions and youtube videos showing you how to make nifty origami rubbish bags, but I honestly can't be arsed making a Japanese inspired tribute to zen waste, instead I just fold a couple of edges over and close it off with a couple of strips of masking tape.

3. Unwrap the cheese! Parap Fine Foods have a great gourmet deli section of cheeses, that they wrap for you in waxed paper. The cheese is more expensive than at the supermarket, but it's also a much better quality.

4. Grow your own skincare. Bites, rashes, stings, burns and scrapes are par for the course living in tropical Australia. Luckily it's also a good climate for aloe vera. Break off individual stalks as you need them and store them in the fridge for weeks (weeks!!). I cut off sections as I need it, peel off the outer layer and apply the gel in the middle straight onto skin.

5. Plastic free in the bathroom and kitchen. You can buy these types of products in a few shops - including Greenies in Rapid Creek, Elevated in Darwin City or online.

6. Bar soaps to replace liquid soaps. I admit it, the lure of the sweetly perfumed liquid soap has sucked me in more often than not. But Darwin is a surprising hub of very decent handmade, plastic-free-packaged bar soaps. I source mine from Viva la Body in the city, but there are many to be found at almost all the Darwin markets.

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