It's still just one plaster that's been thrown away!"
And that was how Day 4 of Zero Waste Week ended...
...but it was close!
I went into our bathroom after my husband, the 6 yr-old Union Rep and his little side-kick had gone off to Work, School & Nursery (I am so glad I got the order right).
There, placed on top of the loo was a can of shaving gel.
I knew what that meant.
Even before I picked it up and gave it a shake, I knew it was empty, because that is Mr A's code.
If it's placed on top off the cistern, it means "throw it away and get me a new one ... (please)".
Of all the weeks! No pressure then!
The aluminium can is something that we used to dump in the black bin, even with the plastic lid intact. However, with Zero Waste Week upon us I had to make the effort and check.
So I rang up the council! (My apologies if that's beginning to sound like a catchphrase).
The lovely Kate in the waste department, must have been wondering what I was going to hit her with this time!
I asked her about the can and she confirmed that it can be taken to the local recycling centre, which is brilliant, especially as I've now got into the routine of collecting the odd loose item that can be dropped off when we're passing. Of course, I can take the lid off first and just put that into our normal recycling.
I wonder whether the recycling centre can take aerosol cans too, if so it means that our local authority would be amongst the 75% in the UK that can process them. Even though 75% is good, I am intrigued why it isn't 100% and would love to find out more about the inconsistency of recycling facilities across the UK. In the meantime, if you want to find out more information about recycling aerosol products, take a peek at the British Aerosol Manufacturing website (BAMA).
My other recycling query yesterday was to Cereal Partners, who manufacture Shredded Wheat, which Mr A bought on his way home from work one evening.
When serving breakfast, I'd noticed that the Shredded Wheat portions are wrapped in paper packaging, unlike other cereal products that use plastic bags or film. It looked like it could be recycled as normal paper, but I decided to ring and check.
I was right. The whole of the Shredded Wheat packaging can be recycled! That was fabulous news and I really think Cereal Partners should include that as a unique selling point in their marketing campaign, as it's a major plus point when you're following The Rubbish Diet!
Now that would start a trend don't you think. Maybe a "TOTALLY RECYCLABLE" label could follow in the footsteps of the ORGANIC, FREE-RANGE & FAIRTRADE markets. It is becoming increasingly evident that consumers who care are wanting proper labelling like this and agree that it would help to influence their purchasing decisions and this is a market in waiting.
However it has also become apparent that as there are so many differences in the collection services that local authorities offer, a "TOTALLY RECYCLABLE" type of label might be misleading if local facilities are not be available for that product. If you have a look at some of the plastic film packaging, you might see the phrase "Recyclable, where facilities exist", which highlights the problem perfectly.
Products are often labelled with recycling logos such as these, which are listed on the Wasteonline site. They were developed by the Society of Plastics Industry (SPI) in the US.
Polyethylene terephthalate - Fizzy drink bottles and oven-ready meal trays.
High-density polyethylene - Bottles for milk and washing-up liquids.
Polyvinyl chloride - Food trays, cling film, bottles for squash, mineral water and shampoo.
Low density polyethylene - Carrier bags and bin liners.
Polypropylene - Margarine tubs, microwaveable meal trays.
Polystyrene - Yoghurt pots, foam meat or fish trays, hamburger boxes and egg cartons, vending cups, plastic cutlery, protective packaging for electronic goods and toys.
Any other plastics that do not fall into any of the above categories. - An example is melamine, which is often used in plastic plates and cups.
I don't know about you but it can be pretty hard work as a consumer to keep on top of these labels and the system is prone to confusion, which can lead to contamination of waste, as people get frustrated or indeed have lazy moments.
I think the problem lies in that the industry uses labels and codes to communicate if the item can be recycled, (but even this appears to lack consistency in usage) and local recycling facilities communicate the extent of their facilities by using descriptive terminology, e.g. cardboard, plastic bags etc.
Perhaps it's just me and my need for simple systems, but wouldn't it make things much easier if the manufacturers and recycling services spoke the same language?
It's almost like the packaging/waste management process could benefit from a very simple classification system, you know, the kind of thing that you see in libraries. A librarian knows exactly where to shelve a book, not just because it is about Art, Literature, or History, but because it has a classification label, e.g. 700, 800 or 900 respectively. These numbers also help library users find an item. It's an age-old system that was invented by Melvil Dewey over 130 years ago. When a book is printed, its classification number is often included in one of the front pages, so that librarians across the world know how to deal with it in a standardised fashion.
So what if such a system was applied to packaging and waste management information? If the packaging industry developed a simple Consumer-friendly set of standardised codes across the board and if every council used these codes as part of their communication processes, the consumer might find the recycling process a lot simpler. I know I would.
It would almost be like a game of snap. e.g. if you see a "5" on plastic packaging, all you need to do is check your council's recycling list for a "5" and it would tell you if and how it could be recycled. As we've seen, codes are explicit in a way that descriptions sometimes aren't.
Now I admit to being on unfamiliar territory here, as I have no experience in the packaging industry whatsoever or indeed waste management, but I do have a background in information management and data standards, as well as information dissemination, which is probably why I get so frustrated with the inconsistency and confusion that exists.
Anyway, before I get charged with teaching grannies to suck eggs and how to label the egg-carton, I'll get back to a much lighter note with my other news from yesterday.
Yesterday afternoon I popped up to my son's school, to see how the Zero Waste lunch was going. In fact, the children were doing brilliantly. Very little packaging could be found in the lunch boxes and most of the trays were going back empty. All those who made an astounding effort received a certificate. So here's a big thumbs-up to the Zero Heroes at Abbots Green.
It was a proud moment to see my own son's tray being returned empty, but before he took it off to the washing-up pile, I called him over for a photo opportunity with the East Anglian Daily Times photographer. My 6 year old looked slightly bemused, but played his part beautifully.
The school is indeed an inspirational place for learning opportunities such as this. It already promotes environmentally-friendly schemes, has its own kitchen garden area as well as composting facilities and we've now got hold of a Green Cone food digester, which allows cooked food to be processed. The cone is just waiting to be installed (i.e. to have the waste basket dug into the ground), but it should be great for getting rid of the odds and ends at lunchtimes. Once it's installed, I'll update the site with its progress.
So after an extremely busy week talking rubbish, today's focus will be catching up with overdue work deadlines (after recording the Wiggly Wigglers podcast, which was postponed from yesterday). It will be strange to get back to something that's not connected with the subject of waste, which has of course taken precedence this week.
But I couldn't leave you without pointing you in the direction of this You Tube video, set to the music of Jack Johnson, the same track that Woman's Hour used on yesterday's column for The Rubbish Diet.
Turn up the volume, press play and enjoy!