Monday, 4 February 2008

Great advice from Bean Sprouts

Today's post is a guest article from Mel at Bean sprouts, who is much more experienced in matters like this and has some fantastic ideas for a novice like me. Thank you so much for some great advice Mel. I'm sure that most people will be able to make use of the top tips listed below.

"Congratulations to almost mrs average for placing her bin on a diet, and for blogging about it so other people might be inspired to follow suit. I have to say our household isn't zero-waste, so I almost feel a fraud giving advice. But we do try to "slim our bin".

The most important thing to do is to pay more attention to the "reduce" and "reuse" parts of the old maxim "reduce, reuse, recycle". I think too much attention goes onto recycling our waste, when we'd all do better not to create so much waste in the first place. As Mrs A is finding, this means shopping less and shopping cleverly. Another blog I enjoy is, where Beth writes about her quest to eliminate plastic waste from her household by not buying it in the first place. You can imagine how hard that is. She's struggling to find somewhere she can buy cheese that isn't wrapped in plastic and has had to give up pitta bread and tortillas altogether, for example.

But we're all going to produce some waste. Even prehistoric hunter gatherers left dumps of waste, much to the delight of archaeologists who study their waste to learn about their diets and lifestyles. So recycling is important. I've got some suggestions for Mrs A concerning the things on the "hit list".

Aerosols - You can largely avoid buying these in the first place. There are alternatives to most things that come in aerosols. For example sell deodorants in solid and powder form, and they really work. But we still use a few aerosols (mainly WD40). I recycle them with the metal tin cans and so on, which my council collects from the kerbside fortnightly. Can you recycle your aerosols this way, Mrs A?

Batteries - Find out where you can recycle them and for heaven's sake get a recharger and switch to rechargables.

Cooked and uncooked food, meat, fish and bones. Get a Green Cone. I haven't used one myself, but they claim to be able to compost most things.

Cooking oil or fat, egg shells, shredded paper and vacuum cleaner contents - These can all be composted in a regular compost bin. I know because I do it. Solid fat I would feed to the birds instead. Melt it into a cup, a clean empty yogurt pot, or half a coconut shell if you happen to have one, then let it set. Hang it up (piece of string through the yogurt pot or coconut shell), or get it out of the cup and hang it in an old mesh bag, the kind you get onions in, and hang that up with string. Or you can smear the solidified fat and seeds into an old pine cone, and hang that up.

Glass and textiles, including clothes, porcelain/ceramics. Good items that are no longer needed, such as cups and glasses, can be given to a charity shop or Freecycle. Broken ceramics can be used as drainage in the bottom of plant pots or you could make a mosaic. Worn out textiles can be made into other items, such as quilts or rag rugs.

Disposable nappies - These have to go if you're aiming for zero waste. Disposable nappies make up 4% of the UK's household rubbish and 50% of all the rubbish in a one-baby family. Switch to washables instead.

Plastic Bags - These can be reused for shopping until they're bust, then they can be recycled at most supermarkets. Alternatively you could cut them into long strips and knit them into a sturdy reusable shopping bag.

Dog Waste - Make your own pet waste composter.

Shredded Paper - This can be composted, as I said. It can also be made into briquettes to burn on an open fire. I've done this. It's easy, and they burn really well. I also use shredded paper as chicken bedding. If you don't have chickens of your own, perhaps you know someone who does (or rabbits, guinea pigs or any other animals) who might be glad to have your shredded paper instead of buying bedding straw. It also makes great packing material. You could try offering it on Freecycle - my local Freecycle often has keen eBayers asking for packing materials. The same goes for polystyrene.

Cartons - Post them back to Tetrapak for recycling or you might be able to find a local place you can drop them off for recycling.

I hope these ideas help you reach your goal of a size zero bin by Zero Waste Week, Mrs A. It's the only instance of "size zero" I can really approve of".

One family's search for the good life.



Almost Mrs Average said...

I just wanted to thank Mel for all the hard work that's gone into this. It is brilliant. I almost bought a Green Cone today, but have decided that it's not quite right for our small garden. However, I have got over my disappointment as there are other options which I am now considering.

I'm going to check out the Lush deodorants as they sound a great option and I hope that through the FreeCycle contacts I can find some use for the rags and plastic bags. I also love the idea about reusing fat to feed the birds. I'll mix it in with seeds and nuts, to make a bird cake similar to the one that my eldest brought home from school last week.

Even though they are on the black bin Hit List, I am pleased I don't have to deal with nappies or dog waste but there are some really good alternatives which will be useful for those of you who want to give either a go.

Good news though...I've just had it confirmed today by the local council that they will look at the possibility of extending kerbside battery collection to our neck of the woods. Fingers crossed...soon I hope to get a lovely pink hook to attach to my blue bin for that very purpose :-D

Anonymous said...

Great post! I still haven't purchased a battery charger, as we bought scads of disposable batteries at Costco ages ago before we knew better and are still using them up. But it's on my list of allowable plastic to buy. Or maybe I can find one used.

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi FPF - battery rechargers are a great buy, but ours isn't very effective. The kids have so many toys that run on batteries it is crazy. If we can, we try and just let them run down in the hope that they forget that they ever did something electronic in the first place. Good luck in getting yours. Freecycle might be worth a try.

Anonymous said...

Hi Almost Mrs Average,

What a fantastic blog! I was just browsing for some inspiration, as I have set myself a similar challenge this week regarding our rubbish.

I'm considering a Bokashi bin - perhaps this would suit you more than a green cone?

If you can get one, it *is* worth persevering with the rechargeable batteries. We've finally got some that actually last and do the job. I found out recently that some of the chargers, start *discharging* the batteries if you don't take them out when cooked **sigh**. So perhaps this has been happening to you?

Anyway, best of luck with your challenge - you're doing so well and I'm right behind you with ours too!

Mrs Green x

Anonymous said...

Oh what a dork - I've just seen you already have a bokashi! I shall get stuck into your posts after breakfast and see how you are getting on with it.

Sorry about that!

Mrs G x

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi Mrs Green - Thank you for popping by. It's great to see so many people slimming down their bins. I've just found your site and good on you, not just with the bin but also with the other eco challenges too.

The Bokashi has been brilliant. We've now emptied our first load out into the compost and wormery and I am pleased to say it was a success!

I've just visited your site too. It's fab and I recommend it to others. I look forward to reading about your progess. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for sharing.
Through your blog, a lot of people including me of course have a chance to read and learn from.
I have read some of your post and I really enjoyed reading it.
And if you want to learn chinese,please visit at
Thanks again and looking forward for more of your posting soon!

Anonymous said...

At first I was marveled to see such a blog.Your blog is sparkling. It has a great appeal. How are U able to cope such a lot. Meet me at
Waiting with curiosity. To know your innovation.

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin