Today is Monday 17th March, which marks not just the end of St Edmundsbury's Zero Waste Week, but the end of my personal 8 week challenge to reduce the amount of waste that my family sends to landfill.
So after eight weeks of buying less, learning new habits, double-checking recycling opportunities and being ever mindful of what I'm throwing away, here's the moment I've been waiting for........
CUE DRUM-ROLL FOR THE FINAL WEIGH-IN......
So without further ado .... the contents of this week's black bin are.....
1. One Plaster (from my finger injury on day 1)
And that's it....Just one itty bitty first-aid plaster (band-aid), from when I cut my finger last Monday! If you look carefully at the photo, you can see it sitting on wheel of the bin!
...and that really is the total amount of landfill rubbish that our family has created in one whole week!
BUT PHEW....IT WAS CLOSE!
There was almost my tube of toothpaste, which Mr A tried to bung in the bin, but I rescued it, rolled it up and gave it some extra squeezes and I reckon I've got another day before its contents are exhausted.
But there have been some other candidates too. When I looked in the bin yesterday afternoon there were:
1. Two Butter Wrappers (teetering on the edge, awaiting their fate)
2. A small length of scrunched-up sellotape (thanks to my renegade 3 year old)
3. Some used cotton buds (thanks to Mr A. I suppose he's not done badly, but I knew there would be something to contend with)
As it's Zero Waste Week and I possess the tenacity of a dog with a bone, I was determined that nothing else was going to be thrown away. I have already declared the plaster, despite a couple of suggestions to burn it or run it down to the local hospital, but with my sense of fairness its only fate is landfill.
However, I needed to do something with the rest of the stuff, which called for extreme measures.
I discovered I could tear off the plastic film that coated the inside of the butter wrapper, but I was still unsure whether either of these components are recyclable. As for the cotton buds, I thought the best bet for those would be to stuff them in an old sock and bung them in with the next load of washing. They came out clean and I tore off the cotton wool and put it in the compost bin, which only left the thin plastic tubes.
Hmmmm, not bad, but I said I was tenacious!
I knew I needed some back-up and my secret weapon came to mind...
No, not the 1980s Norwegian pop-group with the dulcit tones of Morton Harket, but my three year old who constantly begs for opportunities to make things.
"Mess to Impress" is his tagline!
So, I called him to my rescue and gave him some paper, glue and the little bits of rubbish that I'd rescued from the bin.
He couldn't believe his luck and got to work on some junk art, combining the plastic tubes, sellotape and butter wrappers with other bits that he's collected, all following the principles of "Reuse". It's a bit abstract, which could be appropriate when I think back to my challenges with recycling.
He couldn't think of an appropriate name for it, but I'm going to call it "Unburied Treasures". One thing's for certain, I daren't ever throw it away but I suppose I could always put it on eBay and hope for a fiver.
And that's where the story of my own Rubbish Diet challenge ends....at the end of Zero Waste Week, with our black bin containing just one plaster!
Personally, I am amazed at the results.
Even though it set out as a challenge to reduce my rubbish, the effects on other areas of my lifestyle have been incredible. I now spend less on food and am more thrifty. I am more organised with shopping activities and have got into a routine of using a range of outlets, which provide more eco-friendly options.
What has been great is the immense enthusiasm and support from the Internet Community. The comments have been fantastic and inspirational and it is the advice from our "unsung heroes" from across the globe that has led to the success of my own personal challenge. I would like to thank all contributors who have made suggestions, sent comments of motivation, shared their stories and have helped to promote the wider issues. Big thanks also go to Woman's Hour, Radio Suffolk, Ireland's Newstalk, Sustained Magazine and East Anglian Daily Times for promoting the blog and the challenge. I never expected it to get such attention, but it's been great and I owe a big thank you to Cybele at Freecycle for that. Thanks also to Wiggly Wigglers for helping with my composting queries and inviting me onto their podcast, which is coming up this week.
I would also like to extend special thanks to Melanie Rimmer at Beansprouts for her great tips at the beginning of the challenge as well as Kate McFarland at Edmundsbury Council Council for her advice along the way. As well as to all my friends, thanks also go to Tracey Smith at International Downshifting Week for being a fabulous mentor and to my good friend Christina Surdhar of About Bury for sticking by me, allowing me to extend my deadlines and letting me bore her with my talks of rubbish! I'm sorry if I've omitted a mention, but it's beginning to sound like an Oscar speech!
However, I would like to make one last thank you. The biggest thanks go to Mr A and the Junior Posse, for putting up with my ideas and my nagging over the last few months. Thank you guys for the big effort you've made and long may it continue. You know it's worth it.
So what's next? Well, Mr A has been so bowled over by the results of The Rubbish Diet, that he now wants me to move onto tackling our Clutter, Energy use and Spending, but first things first Mr A. We've got to make sure the rubbish is kept down before we go onto the next challenge, which means The Rubbish Diet is here to stay for a little while longer. I know I said it would be just eight weeks, but there's so much that's been left unexplored and I am now officially hooked!
So what can you expect from here-on in?
Well there's going to be less about me and more about others, much to the relief of some. Here are just some of the things I'm planning to take a look at:
- Waste Management in Switzerland, a country which has the reputation of being one of the top recyclers in the world.
- How restaurants cope with food waste?
- Getting the low-down from packaging companies, how do they see the future?
- What happens at a materials recycling facility?
- More solutions for recycling some of the tricky little things.
- Some fabulous products made from recycled materials.
- Indeed profiling anyone in the production/waste stream that is making interesting progress in the right direction.
- I might even ask Gordon Brown about his own rubbish! Strange, but I'm now finding the idea of rummaging through the trash at No. 10 quite appealing.
The site will also feature the progress of other people who decide to take up The Rubbish Diet and attempt Zero Waste for themselves. So, if you would like to rise to the challenge, get some help and feature your story here, then please get in touch. All enquiries and information should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now I'm off to celebrate...but not with champagne .... oh no!
Today is Bin Day and I am going to celebrate by NOT PUTTING THE BIN OUT...
because for the first time in my life as a responsible adult...there's no need to.....HOORAY! Indeed, if I keep this up, I won't have to put it out for weeks or months!
So I'm now going to take a few days off and enjoy the celebrations, but please come back in a couple of days time for the next update, or sign up for the RSS Feed at http://feeds.feedburner.com/TheRubbishDiet
In the meantime, I am going to leave you with a final message in the form of an illustration that I commissioned from the brilliant artist Ray Smith of www.thegreenpen.co.uk. For best effect, click on the picture to enlarge it and enjoy!