Friday, 4 April 2008

Ruby's Rubbish Diet Plan

After revealing her rubbish to us on Monday, this week I've been busy working on Ruby's diet plan, with the aim of slimming her bins. Even though it won't be practical for her household to go down to virtually nothing, the plan should help her reduce her rubbish by half.

I thought it would be useful to include the list of recommendations here as there's nothing like publicly revealing the plan to encourage progress, as I too discovered a couple of months ago. However, please note that the information below is based on the recycling facilities that are available in St Edmundsbury. Local facilities may vary.

Problem 1: Overloaded Recycling Bin

Symptoms include: not enough space after roughly a week in service; rubbish often needs to be crushed or added to landfill bin.

Recommended Solutions:

  • Try to buy products with less packaging.
  • Identify items that could alternatively be composted.
  • Identify items that could be taken into school for junk modelling activities.
  • Buy extra blue-bin bags from the council, so that recycled items can be disposed of properly and saved from landfill (note - this is the last option, if all else fails)

Problem 2: Landfill bin is full to capacity

Symptoms include: rubbish needing to be crushed before collection; extra bags are sometimes put out for collection.

Recommended Solutions:
  • Consider composting opportunities* to remove fruit peelings, tea bags/coffee grains and guinea pig waste from landfill bin.
  • Identify items that can be recycled at the local recycling facility and store those away for separate recycling: e.g. aerosols, tetra paks and plastic bags can be taken to the local recycling point..
  • Implement a routine, perhaps a monthly drop-off at the local recycling centre.
  • Remember that plastic and foil trays, including meat trays, can be washed out and recycled in the blue bin. Plastic bottles can also be recycled.
  • Try to replace products that have non-recyclable packaging with items that have no packaging or are packaged in materials that can be recycled.
  • Consider reducing take-away portions and other cooked food portions, if leftover food is a real issue.

Priority targets:

  • To Reduce packaging to improve condition of blue bin.
  • To Remove items from the black bin that can be either composted or recycled at local recycling facilities.

Ruby is going to implement this plan over the next month, with a review half-way through to see how things are going.

To help the "Ruby household" on its way, I've presented the following suggestions:

Packaging alternatives:

1. Avoid packaging where possible, but if packaging is needed, try to choose recyclable or compostable packaging. If using an Internet site, next time they are in the supermarket the family should try to look for alternatives to over-packaged culprits that they regularly buy.

2. When buying chocolate bars, consider replacing the products that are wrapped in plastic film with those that use paper and foil.

3. Buy fruit and vegetables loose rather than pre-packaged. If using Internet sites, use the comments box to request that items aren’t bagged and then return shopping bags to the driver. If items are delivered bagged, call the shop manager to consider changing their policy to accommodate the request.

4. If tinned food is normally bought in multi-packs, find out if buying single tins is just as cheap and order those instead. That way, the plastic wrapping that is used for multi-packs can be avoided. Pet food, baked beans, tomatoes and tuna are regular culprits.

5. Have a go at supersizing non-perishable products. Less packaging is often needed for one large container than two smaller sized ones. This can also save money in the longer term.

6. Instead of wrapping leftover food or packed lunches in clingfilm, use aluminium foil which can be washed and recycled. Better still use containers, which can be reused.

Composting alternatives:

1. The solution with the least impact on the family would be to ask the council for a brown bin, which can be used for kitchen and garden waste. The items that can be put into St Edmundsbury's local brown bin collection scheme include: Shredded paper; plain cardboard (without printing); fruit and peelings; vegetable peelings and salads; tea bags and coffee grounds; ash (must be cold); grass cuttings and hedge prunings; leaves and bark; plants and dead flowers; straw; sawdust and untreated wood. The best thing is that in our area, there is no extra charge for a brown bin collection.

2. Alternatively a home composter could be purchased. This would have the benefit of composting guinea-pig waste as well as egg-cartons, newspaper and cooking oil which would remove a number of additional items from both the black and the blue bin.. Note, a composter cannot take wood or very hard hedge prunings, but I can’t see that being a problem for the Ruby household. Estimated cost: £30

3. If cooked food waste continues to be a problem, this can be composted in a Bokashi system, which is an indoor bucket that can be filled with most food waste, including cooked meat products. Active bran is added to the food in layers and left for two weeks to ferment. The liquid must be drained off regularly and can be poured down the drain or diluted with water as a fertiliser for plants. After 2 weeks, the fermented food can be put into the composter. Estimated cost: £50-£85

In reality, I think that option 1, the free brown wheely bin, will be more suitable for the Ruby household, as it will have the least impact on the family's lifestyle. Ruby has a small back garden and even though it would be a nice idea to grow some plants and possibly vegetables, there are currently no opportunities for using compost from a home composter.

We've agreed that Ruby's 10 year-old daughter will be the bin monitor to help the family keep on track. Apparently she's great at organising people, including busy parents, which is what's needed for a project like this. So watch this space for further news.



Anonymous said...

Sounds impressive - best of luck Ruby!! Its great how much you can learn from small ideas and its also funny how quickly household members get hung up on the principles of recycling....Husband Baba keeps a close eye on things here and if he thinks I'm making a mistake either with a purchase or by putting something in the wrong bin he immediately says "I'm telling Mrs A!" I can tell you it works!! My face goes red and I rush to rectify the mistake - I'm terrified of the recycling police!! System works though - I've never yet made the same mistake twice.

Have also just discovered that I can actually recycle my tetrapaks locally which is a BIG revelation to me - thanks for the advice!


Anonymous said...

Well done Ruby for taking the initative !!

timx said...

One of the problems, as you know, is that supermarkets put packing round lots of stuff where it isn't necessary. A friend of mine takes the packaging off whatever she can before she leaves the supermarket, leaving it for the supermarket to dispose of. As well as cutting down the volume of her home rubbish, it sends a message to the supermarket!

Mark said...

I bet you would have never thought it would turn out like it has when you started this project, it is quite inspirational and goes to show what an ordinary person can achieve in their community, now that you are passoing on the lessons you have learnt to others.

Cheers Mark

Rev. Peter Doodes said...

Hi Mrs. A,

It can be done! Try this...


The recycling police... hmm... sounds like a good idea to me!

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi Baba - LOL at Mr Baba's response. Good on him and good on you too for allowing him to influence you...yay!
And hooray for tetra pak recycling.

Here's a quick link for others who are interested (but beware, if you're at work, you might want to turn the sound down.

Hi Ron - thanks for visiting and I'm sure Ruby will be glad of your support. I know I am ;-D

Hi Timx - I agree, packaging is such a huge problem. That's my next personal focus, to cut down on packaging even if it can be recycled.

Hi Mark - so true. Who'd have guessed eh...certainly not me. I'm just glad to be of help while I can.

Hi Fr Peter - thanks for popping by. I can see you're doing great with your own challenge. That's fantastic. The more the merrier!
Thank you for your support for Ruby too.

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