Every diet needs a toolkit, whether it's measuring implements, storage facilities or the ability to sort the elements into basic categories. I am certainly not planning on measuring all the waste generated for The Rubbish Diet. No, for this kind of diet, the key resource is an effective storage/sorting point whether it's in the kitchen, our garden or facilities provided by the local council.
Our starting point is the waste sorting system that lives in our little kitchen, where in addition to our main bin, the only spare space is dedicated to three other bins, which are used as follows:
1. Small one for kitchen waste
2. Medium one for glass
3. Large one for recyclable materials
We used to put all our recycling rubbish in carrier bags, where we could conveniently throw them "bag and all" into the blue bin, but I came home one day to a "naughty" sticker from the council, warning us that plastic bags weren't allowed in the blue bin and if we did it again they wouldn't collect our rubbish. Feeling like I had been unfairly told off without an opportunity to respond, I rang the council to defend myself and was shocked to find that the only option for carrier bags was the landfill site.
It was at that point, a couple of years ago, that I switched mainly to using "bags for life", which have become another essential tool. However, I can be such an "airhead" on times, I often forget to take them out shopping and carrying such a heavy guilt not to use ordinary carrier bags I end up buying more "bags for life" to add to my collection. It's a good job they're cheap and at risk of sounding like I am advertising Waitrose again, it's a fair price to pay for fast-tracking the queues by plumping for their dedicated Green Till where you are only allowed through if you've got reusable bags or wish to buy them at the till!
When we moved into our house 4 years ago, the council offered us three bins, which are essential tools for The Rubbish Diet.
1. a big blue one for all the recycling
2. a big brown one for all things compostable
3. a big black one for all the rest.
However, being a bit tight-fisted and short of space, we politely said "thanks, but no thanks" to the brown bin and instead invested in a compost bin for our garden. There was no way I was going to give anyone my compost. If there was free compost to be made, I was going to keep hold of it!
However, it's all very good having the perfect toolkit but you have to use it properly. Otherwise, it's like having a bookshelf crammed with diet books and ordering take-away every night.
Yes, the trick of this home-sorting system and the success of the Zero Waste challenge is the efficiency in keeping on top of the process. I remember Ben Elton's "things to do" sketch, where in his own inimatable style he emphasised the issue of the bigger the bin, the more you put in it and the bigger the problem of emptying it at the end. "Oh things to do, things to do!", he would say and would heave and pull, huff and puff and heave and pull again, highlighting the unmanageable situation that had developed.... and that was in the eighties, in the days when one bin, yes just one bin, was all there was to deal with. So you can imagine how it can be with four!
The number of times I have recreated the "Things to do" sketch in my own kitchen with my streamlined waste sorting system...oh, it's the kind of thing that could make a Waste Development Officer cry, where what looks like a well-thought out "thumbs up" plan, just crumbles before your very eyes.
Who really wants to empty the overflowing kitchen waste into the compost bin when it's pouring with rain? And as for emptying the recycling into the blue bin when it's blowing a gale...where the risk of having to chase the rubbish being blown down the street...that's enough for anyone to batten down the hatches and huddle indoors.
It's on days like this that even the best system can fall apart, where there's no room left in your sorting system....and there's the temptation of sin...as you succumb by dropping that odd banana skin into the waste bin that's destined for landfill...and while you're at it, the odd apple core won't harm, nor will that yoghurt pot that you can't be bothered to wash out!
So, if I am going to get anywhere with this Zero Waste business I have to use the tools properly and use the Weight Loss Toolkit as it is intended. Those who know me well, will understand the challenge ahead and will hopefully come to my rescue at the first sign of bad weather.
So keep crossing your fingers and wish me luck as I ponder buying a cape and sowester!
The St Edmundsbury Borough Council Recycling Guide: