Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby

Do you remember our Ruby and how she decided to put her own bin on a diet.

Well, I managed to catch up with her yesterday and wow, what a difference!

She told me that her family's amount of recyclables is down almost by as much as 50%, which is amazing! This means they are no longer filling their landfill bin with packaging because of overfilling their recycling bin. These days, it can all fit into the recycling bin with room to spare. This means the amount of rubbish in their landfill bin has also shrunk over the last few weeks.

When I spoke to Ruby she told me "It's as a result of being aware of choices. I've tried not to have too many ready-meals and have started cooking properly instead. I've stopped buying vegetables in packs just because they look nice and have chosen loose products instead, using the paper bags provided by the supermarket."

"Cooking properly has made a huge difference and it's a fallacy that it takes longer to make something from scratch."

"Tonight I cooked a fish recipe that I found on the BBC Good Food website, which used haddock, prawns and Parmesan. It took about 15 minutes. It is fast food but it's fast healthy food and is so much better than buying over-packaged meals. I've also found it very therapeutic just pottering about and cooking. Another website I like using is BBC Food's Get Cooking where they have videos of chefs making things. The link to the site is:"

I was amazed to hear this. When I first chatted to Ruby about her Rubbish Diet Plan, I was careful not to overdo it, as I didn't want to put her off. Even though I suggested buying products with less packaging I hadn't quite expected such a result on the ready-meal front. After all, it was such a major part of Ruby's busy lifestyle!

This is what Ruby had to say on the matter.

"I've always been suckered into the lifestyle portrayed on ready-meal packaging, which has lovely photos on the front, but it's nothing like that when you open it up. I've realised how much we're marketed to and it's something I would now consider complaining about as much as the amount of packaging itself. Supermarkets and producers need to stop such subliminal manipulation of consumers".

I can't help agreeing with her, especially with what I know from my own marketing education that I embraced in the early nineties.

Anyway, the other big news is that the Ruby Household has recently contacted the local council's waste and recycling officer to order a wheelie bin for kitchen waste*. This will also have an impact on their rubbish, so I am looking forward to that chapter.

All of Ruby's latest news will soon be available on Ruby's Rubbish Blog, as soon as she works out how to get her photos off her new camera.

I left Ruby to enjoy her new goodies that had just arrived from Lakeland. She couldn't help being very impressed with the bubble wrap...just brown paper that can be easily recycled.

Isn't this great...Ruby talking rubbish. The best thing is...she seems to love the subject as much as me....


*If you're not sure whether you are up-to-date with your local recycling facilities, why not "ring up your council". LETS Recycle has a list of recycling officers for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. You never know what new options are available in your area. You may even find offers on things like Bokashi bins and Green Cones.


Tuesday, 29 April 2008

A trip to the cobblers to boot!

(Image copyright Flickr's GazH)

"Twenty Quid?" I gasped in disbelief!

Twenty Quid to replace the soles of an old pair of boots that cost just 35 pounds in the first place! The same boots that have been in the boot of my car for six months.

I must have passed the cobblers over 100 times , but still they remained in the car-boot.

I remember buying them in Marks & Spencers, not too cheap and not too expensive, just priced nicely in the middle.

It had been a bit of an emergency. I had been walking in town, turned a corner and my heel suddenly fell off.

Oh dear, I've just re-read that sentence. Now that would have been a real emergency. Perhaps I should clarify.

The heel of my right boot suddenly detached itself from my FAVOURITE tan leather boots. They were about a year old, and had been a great purchase in a sale at Clarkes and I loved them to bits, quite literally.

I went straight to the cobblers for an emergency repair. I had to wait in a queue, balancing very carefully as not to attract attention and when it was finally my turn, I asked if my boot could be fixed while I waited.

The man managed a glance, looked at me and managed a very gruff "No can do" from behind his beard.

Not even a "sorry love".

So I gruffed off, headed straight to the shoe department of M&S and quickly found my £35 replacements.

But they were not quite as nice as my broken tan leather boots. The ones that fitted my feet like a pair of well worn gloves, in a manner of speaking.

They were not even as sturdy as the old pair and took just six months to wear down the soles, which is why they ended up at the cobblers, together with the original pair of boots that caused the trouble in the first place, with a total bill of £35, which included finally fixing the broken heel.

But can you believe that it took me six months to get there (or a year when you consider the original incident).

Well I wasn't planning on rushing back after the lack of customer service that I'd received in the first place and although there are other cobblers in town, they are off the beaten track and I would have had to have gone out of my way.

Besides, I had yet another pair of sturdy boots to replace the ones with the worn down soles, which were bought in the middle of a sudden downpour when I could no longer bear the squelchy feeling in my feet.

So I suppose I was pretty much sorted.

What worries me now is that both of these boots could have been candidates for landfill. In fact, the reason I've kept them in my car boot is not with direct intent to take them to the cobblers, but to save them from the hands of Mr A, who at one time would have just dumped them in the bin out of sheer frustration of having a couple of seemingly useless items hanging around the house.

Thanks to the Zero Waste Week challenge, I was able to justify my otherwise eccentric ways. At last there was an external justification to keep hold of them. I suppose I could have taken them to the local amenities site for recycling, but a dose of laziness intervened.

And I am so glad it did...

...because last week I collected both pairs of boots from the cobblers, the same store that turned me down in the first place. However, it's no longer run by the gruff man (who, I now know was correct in his assessment) but a cheery Scot who holds a great pride in customer service.

Hmmm, £35 to save two pairs of boots.

I suppose when you think they have been saved from landfill and you consider the cost of two brand new spanking pairs, that really does seem a bargain.

So if you have some old shoes that might be in need of repair, check out your local cobbler. Most shoes can be brought back to life whether they are in need of new heels, reinforced soles or just a pair of insoles. However, if after 20 years of service, they really have seen better days, don't just send them to landfill, instead drop them off at one of the local recycling centres that can be found at Recycle Now! The materials can be reused for other things.

My oldest shoes are about 10 years old, which is not bad going. I even think they'll be back in fashion this year, which goes to show there's plenty of life in them yet.

Ooooh did I say "fashion", better not get me started on that one!


Monday, 28 April 2008

Me, Me, Me...Revisiting Almost Mrs Average

Hello, hello, hello. I'm back from my "week off" and it's been a fun old week consisting of experiments with yoghurt, making a Jedi costume and drinking cider with Spandau Ballet's Tony Hadley...

...okay, I exaggerate...Tony Hadley was in the same room while opening the East Anglian Beer Festival in Bury St Edmunds. We didn't quite get the opportunity to chew the fat over a beer, but we did engage in some brief banter while he was posing for press photos on the other side of the bar.

Anyway, we start the week with the news that The Rubbish Diet is featured in our regional newspaper, The East Anglian Daily Times and I'd like to extend a warm welcome to readers who have popped over as a result. Also a huge thank you to Sheena Grant for such a great write-up.

It's fabulous to be back. I really did miss the blog last week.

As ever there was so much happening in the world of trash, I was itching to get out my laptop and add my two-penneth, but in honour of International Downshifting Week, I managed to refrain.

Instead, I took the opportunity to have a good old ponder over the events of the last few months. I still find it bizarre how having reduced our family's landfill waste has led to so much attention and that it has had such an impact on how others look at their rubbish.

However, it really is great when people tell me their stories of how they now rethink their habits, e.g. a mother from school who now uses containers rather than clingfilm for packed lunches, another mum who's changed her toiletries for products that use recyclable packaging and there's regular reader Baba, whose household has even developed a new catchphrase. Apparently "I'll tell Amost Mrs Average" can often be heard amongst the four walls of their kitchen, when pondering throwing things away.

...All from having set up a blog and talking rubbish to anyone who'll listen.

Some people may have described me as an eco-warrior, campaigner or an activist. I'm not quite sure if that is true. I'm just someone who thrives in a creative environment and loves to share a few good ideas (and some frustrations) through the joys of writing.

At the end of the day, I am still your Almost Mrs Average. I'm the same person who set up this blog 3 months ago when I decided to take personal responsibility for our household waste, joining a whole host of other people who are already doing the same thing but who are not eccentric enough or have got better things to do than to write about their efforts.

When you think about it, trying to reduce your rubbish shouldn't be anything special as it's no different to taking personal responsibility for looking after your home and garden, your finances or your diet. It's just a simple lifestyle choice, which like many other decisions offers a positive change to your personal life.

It's like having a blimming good declutter. Call it Feng Shui for your bin if you like and the best thing is, you don't have to be rich, green or eccentric. It's something that an average person can happily attempt, even if it means reducing your rubbish by just 10%.

I suppose you could think of me as an old-fashioned girl who takes advantage of 21st Century opportunities, enjoying modern life with a sensible approach. If I get given the odd carrier bag, I won't fall to the power of guilt in the same way as I don't confuse common sense with obsessiveness.

You certainly won't find me telling people where to stick their rubbish and I definitely wouldn't want to teach grannies (or indeed grandpas) how to suck eggs. That would be rather rude.

I'm just happy to carry on with my tales of ordinary living, some of which will make you laugh and some will make you cringe. I only hope that whatever the outcome, they will continue to inspire.

And on that note, I hope that regular readers managed to have a gander at Ruby's Rubbish update which she posted on her Living in Bury St Edmunds blog. I'll be summarising Ruby's efforts later this week, but the big update is that she's now also set up her own rubbish blog, which you can find at It's worth taking a look to see how she is being affected by the problem of overpackaging.

Another blogger who will be trying her hand at her own Rubbish Diet soon is Jo Beaufoix at Jo is busy doing an audit on her rubbish this week, so we can work out the easiest way to slim her bins. There'll be more on that soon.

So with Ruby being "Miss April" and Jo signing up as "Miss May", if there are any volunteers who also fancy having a go at slimming their own bins and who want to join up for June, just drop me a line at

I can see The Rubbish Diet calendar coming can't you? - Now that would be a fun project, as long as it could be recycled of course.

The other big feature that is coming up this week is an interview with Andy Hamilton, one of the twins behind and their new book The Selfsufficient-ish Bible. So watch this space to find out more about their book, what it was like being on BBC Breakfast's famous red sofa and of course what they've got in their bins.

Oh, and I might also tell you about my visit to the cobblers! Such excitement I know. I always like to leave a good cliff-hanger!

Monday, 21 April 2008

Try Zero Waste for Earth Day

It's Earth Day this Tuesday (22nd April), so if you fancy doing something different and are up for the challenge, why don't you attempt Zero Waste for just one day. It doesn't even have to be on Earth Day, any day this week will do.

All it means is buying nothing with packaging that can't be recycled or composted and throwing nothing away in your landfill bin. Some ideas include cooking less to avoid food waste and while you're at it, skip the crisps and chocolate bars. If you have a packed lunch avoid clingfilm and use a container or aluminium foil instead. Have I made it sound easy? I hope so.

Challenge your friends, family and colleagues and indeed other bloggers. It's just for one day, but you never could get hooked!

P.S. I am still on a blogging break as mentioned below. This post has benefited from the advance publishing feature of the test version of Blogger. I know it's cheating, but the technology is there to be used! So while you are busy getting enthused or scratching your head over the possibilities, I'm enjoying that spell of downshift time and will probably be in the garden planting my sunflower seeds.


Saturday, 19 April 2008

Bin there, darn that, and even bartered the T-shirt

I'd like to extend a warm welcome to readers of The Times, who have found the blog in today's Body & Soul supplement, as well as a huge thank you to columnist Anna Shepard for the mention in her Eco-Worrier section.

What a busy few months it's been since I started my council's Zero Waste challenge three months ago. Did I say three months...?

That means for a whole quarter of the year, I've been talking rubbish!

Who could have guessed there would be so much to talk about. Even curiouser, who would have thought it would get into the papers, the radio and on TV or that I would be interviewing Oliver Heath about his own recycling habits.

Anyway, for one week I'm going to ditch the trash-talk and avoid all forms of temptation to touch the subject.

It's not that I don't like it, it's more that I love it so much that I can't stop, whether it's the chat, the blog or indeed the offline ideas. However there are times when a woman has to think about other things, not least her children, husband, cats...oh yes and herself. And don't forget the cake! Cake is important too.

So as it's International Downshifting Week, I've decided to follow some top advice and slow down, take a few days off and spend some extra time with my family and friends, doing lots of fun things.

I'm also going to volunteer some of my time to help out in the world beyond the giant, at my son's primary school, which is very exciting indeed.

Then there's the big clear out. Being the Queen of Clutter, I need to look after my husband's interests, especially as he prefers the minimalist look. So a declutter exercise is on the cards! If the folks from my local Freecycle or LETS group are looking in, you can expect a few give-aways being advertised very soon.

So what are the chances of me staying away from the blog?

Probably as likely as staying off the chocolate, but I'll have a go.

However, if like me you are a rubbishoholic and you need some extra inspiration to keep you going, there will be plenty to keep you entertained. While I am away, feel free to have a nosey around the blog, where if you're a newcomer, you can find out how things went during Zero Waste Week and how I managed to get away with just one plaster.

If you still want more info, Peter at Junkk Male will keep you up-to-date with all things current. For an international feel, it's also worth having a peek at Say No To Trash in Canada as well as America's Wasted Food.

However, please don't forget Bury St Edmunds' very own Ruby (and my very own 'guinea pig'), who is following her own Rubbish Dietplan. Ruby has written an update on her progress. As I'm off this week, you'll be able to find it on her own blog, Living in Bury St Edmunds. If you get a chance, please pop over and encourage her along...I know she will appreciate your help.

So while I am relaxing, please feel free to comment and chat amongst yourselves. Just keep it clean and above board. I will return even more enthused to share my latest rubbish news, including details of another volunteer who is attempting to slim her bin.

In the meantime, I'm grabbing a cup of tea, putting my feet up and relaxing with the paper...

Now, where was that cake?.....


Friday, 18 April 2008

Recycling: a modern way to pull?

Rubbish: - A short film with Anna Friel, Martin Freeman and James Lance,

I love this short film which I found on You Tube yesterday. You'll need about 12 minutes to watch it but it's worth the patience.

It made me wonder what dating must be like in the 21st Century, in a world where environmental issues can raise such passions within. Having been in matrimonial bliss for 10 years (and still am, I hasten to add), I haven't needed to consider a chat-up line since the last century, which makes me feel happy even if a teeny weeny bit old.

But if you're single in the 21st Century, can outlining your eco-principles help in finding your perfect partner? Does it make it easier or more difficult to pinpoint the man or woman of your dreams? Would you be more attracted to someone if they were an efficient recycler?

Some people think so, which is why online eco-dating sites are becoming more popular. Sites like Earth Wise Singles and Green Passions allow you to specify your particular interest whether it's recycling, animal rights, alternative energy etc. So if you're still looking for "the one", this may be a good place to start.

So next time you're at the supermarket and it's a case of love at first sight with a tetra pak in hand, there's always a new line you could try...

Smile gently, and with your sexiest undertones, whisper:

"You can recycle that you know."

You may get a funny look, or even an eccentric reputation, but on the positive side you could meet your ideal partner. And if it doesn't work out, at least you will have shared some useful info!


Thursday, 17 April 2008

Talking rubbish at the hair salon!

I went along to my local salon for my regular hair cut yesterday. I was in desperate need, especially since my fringe made its impromptu appearance on national news a few weeks ago.

While I was there Lize, my wonderful stylist, brought up the subject of what happens to all the hair that gets cut at salons. I'd never thought about it before, but pricked up my ears with interest.

The hair collected by the salon actually gets sent to landfill. There's no surprise there as I had never considered any other use. Of course there is the option of collecting longer hair for use in wigs, but having done a quick search this morning I have discovered a few other interesting applications.

There's an interesting article on the Associated Content site, which reveals that human hair, along with animal hair\fur can actually be composted. Somehow I can't imagine the salon getting a composter for their levels of hair collection, but in small amounts (e.g if you have your hair cut at home), there seems to be no harm in putting it in your compost bin.

There are some other unexpected applications also, including stuffing pin cushions or using it as a deterrent to keep pests out of the garden. On this subject Lize related a story from her training days (which was a while ago), where a farmer used to collect hair from her old salon and used it to deter muntjac deer from his farm. Apparently, barber shops are the best source as the hair is not normally washed and retains the human scent. The things you learn eh!

Perhaps the most unusual use I've discovered this morning is the chair that was made from human hair last year. I came across it on the Y-Waste site. The chair designed by Robert Thompson is made from 100% human hair mixed with polymer matrix. The designer is now working with London South Bank University to develop the bio-polymer known as Pilius X, which mixed with bio-resins could be used in a range of applications including architecture, furniture and clothing.

Here's a short video, which highlights the process. Enjoy!

A visit to the hair salon will never be the same again. Perhaps I should have brought my trimmings home to put to good use. I quite fancy a new table for the garden. However, I think the composting option is the most practical for now.


Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Campaign for Rural England's Stop The Drop

Hot on the heels of Radio Suffolk's Don't be a Tosser campaign, comes the CPRE's (Campaign for Rural England) Stop The Drop, which is targeting both litter louts and fly-tippers.

Reported on BBC's Breakfast news this morning, the CPRE is also urging government to introduce a 10p deposit charge on plastic bottles, in the hope that consumers will return bottles, which will leave the UK's litter-louts and non-recyclers penalised by the extra charge. According to the BBC report, the average household uses 500 plastic bottles a year but only 100 of these get reycled. It is thought that the extra charge would encourage people to see plastic bottles as as resource and return them.

There will be sceptics who will doubt the effectiveness of such a scheme if it were introduced, but the enterprising mother in me is already thinking about the extra pocket money my kids could earn or indeed the fundraising opportunities for our local school, if we hold an organised litter pick.

However what it could mean for households with excellent kerbside collection service that includes plastic bottles, is that active recyclers would also be penalised unless they returned the bottles back to the collection point, giving them yet another thing to think about. Is that fair? Would I get a £50 reduction in my council tax, for making the extra effort to take back my 500 bottles, which I already recycle? I don't think so. Oh dear, maybe I am one of those sceptics after all.

Oh such dilemmas. I'm just glad I am a mere blogger and not a law-maker.

However, as a consumer I welcome the suggestion and there is evidence that bottle deposit schemes work elsewhere. If you are interested, more information can be found at:, and

Anyway, this headline should not detract from the rest of the CPRE's Stop The Drop campaign, which is spear-headed by Bill Bryson, and is encouraging individuals to take action. To see how you can get involved, pop over to the following webpage:


Tuesday, 15 April 2008

An invitation...

It's great news that more and more people are getting involved in reducing their rubbish. Regular reader John Costigane has emailed me about his own successes in working towards zero waste. You can read about his progress at his website, Home Composting Recycling Forum.

John is also keen to hear from anyone else who may be interested in developing the website through an online forum, sharing knowledge and raising awareness. His idea is to gather like-minded people who can contribute their ideas as resources for newcomers who wish to reduce their waste.

John can be contacted by email at


Monday, 14 April 2008

Zero Waste Week - One Month On

Well, today marks one month since the end of Zero Waste Week and what you see on top of the bin is our family's landfill rubbish for the last two weeks.

I am extremely pleased with how we are keeping our rubbish down. I haven't put the black bin out for about 6 weeks. Well it just isn't worth it when you see what's in it.

The only bag missing from here is the one that I took to landfill myself, when I did the BBC interview a couple of weeks ago.

In fact, there is no longer any need to empty our kitchen rubbish bin every week or even every fortnight. It doesn't smell any more and I dare say that unless Mr A brings home some unrecyclable surprises, I probably won't need to empty it for a month. This is great when you consider that warmer days are just around the corner and we can enjoy the sunshine without the usual smelly bins.

Anyway if you've been wondering about the extra thing that I saved from landfill last week, I can now reveal that it was a polystyrene cup left over from a cup of tea made for me by the W.I at the Radio Suffolk Open Day last weekend. It may be that they have their own recycling arrangements but I wasn't going to take any chances, so I brought it home.

As it's planting time in the Almost Average Household and we've been busy planting some seeds and seedlings, I knew exactly what I would do with it. I put a few holes in the bottom and turned it into a small watering device for our seedlings.

I was dead chuffed with the transformation, especially as it will come in useful for the tomato seeds on our kitchen windowsill. However, after taking this photo this morning my three year old accidentally stepped on it and squashed it beyond use.

Oh hum....

...but not to be outdone, I just cut it up and added it to the rest of the polystyrene pieces that I rescued from Mr A last week. They'll be great for adding volume and drainage to our pots this season, so much better to be used than thrown away. As for my watering options, I'm sure we'll find something else.

Other ideas about recycling\reusing polystyrene can be found at Recycle This. Also if you work for an organisation that would like to recycle plastic or polystyrene cups, take at look at Save A Cup, which offers a regular collection service.


Friday, 11 April 2008

Could you be Self Sufficient-Ish?

It's been great to focus on recycling this week. However, there are a couple of guys who take recycling to the next level. If you don't know them already, I'd like to introduce you to Andy and Dave Hamilton of

I first came across their site last year when I was looking for ideas about how I could recycle or reuse the good old bread bag. I wasn't disappointed. In fact there were 66 ideas on their website, ranging from storage solutions to bird scarers. There are also some suggestions that will help raise a big smile on a rainy day, highlighting their light-hearted and fun demeanour.

The latest news is that after much hard work the self sufficient-ish twins have turned their ideas into a great new book, The Self Sufficient-ish Bible, which was published by Hodder & Stoughton last week. It's a lovely big chunky book, that you can't miss, so look out for it in the "Green Section" in your local bookstore.

As the subtitle states, it's an Eco-living Guide for the 21st Century and offers lots of inspiration for living a sustainable lifestyle in an urban environment.

The Self Sufficient-ish Bible has some great ideas for recycling. Not only can you find out more about recycling food waste with bokashi and building your own wormery, but you will also discover ways of recycling other things that are not associated with landfill, including waste water.

There are also excellent guidelines on how to reduce all that packaging by growing your own food, plus there are lots of wonderful recipes for delicious meals, home brews and toiletries.

Indeed it is packed full of ideas about every aspect of living a frugal, organic and environmentally friendly lifestyle.

I'm not quite ready to keep chickens, ducks or pigs but if you are serious about giving it a go, the book even has tips for managing livestock.

I'm really enjoying my copy of The Self Sufficient-ish Bible and am proud that I've got hold of a first edition. I am now inspired to give our council a nudge to see how it is getting on with our community's request to provide local allotment facilities.

So if you're keen on being green, it's a top buy that won't disappoint.

By the way, I haven't forgotten about my "just one thing" recycling challenge that I set on Monday. I've got my one thing, which I will reveal next week. I would also love to know how everyone else fared. If you don't want to go public, just drop me a line at

Next week, I will also reveal how things are going one month after Zero Waste Week. What excitement eh. I don't know how I can contain myself. Hope you have a great weekend.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Recycling swapsies and other ideas

Picklesmum swaps her cartridges for cartons.

Regular reader Picklesmum left a comment this week, saying that not only is she pleased to have discovered Tetra Pak recycling facilities locally, but that she has even encouraged her mum to bring hers with her when she visits by train so that they can also be recycled.

Even better, she is going to give her mum her Brita water filter cartridges so they can be recycled too. What a great swap, (which is why I couldn't resist including the intro to the 1970s UK children's programme which I found on You Tube - ahhh memories - forgive me won't you).

This is a brilliant example of how people are making that extra commitment to recycling, and with very little effort involved. Picklesmum's mother doesn't have a car so can't drive to the local recycling facilities and Picklesmum lives in a village that doesn't have water filter cartridge collection points, but their resolve has enabled a few more items to be recycled.

Not everyone will have the motivation, income, time, space or facilities to commit to heavily reducing their levels of waste but there are many others ways that people can make a contribution, even if it's in a small way.

So here are Almost Mrs Average's Top Ten Tips
  1. Say No Thanks to plastic bags, even degradable ones.
  2. Reuse any plastic bags you acquire, for example as bin bags
  3. Swap just one packaged item on your shopping list for something that has no packaging.
  4. Encourage your community to hold a "swap-shop" for swapping clothes, toys or books. This one is great for schools and clubs. You could even hold your own party. Clothes swap parties are becoming increasingly popular. Have a look at this Time-Out article for more details.
  5. When you are out and about, rather than dump drinks bottles etc in the general rubbish bins, bring them home and put them in your recycling bin.
  6. If you know someone who isn't able to take their recyclables along to a recycling centre, offer to take them on their behalf.
  7. If you hear of good practice elsewhere, ask your council to follow suit. They may not be able to offer new facilities immediately, but by showing demand they can at least investigate.
  8. Remember, your trash might be someone else's treasure. Before resigning it to landfill, think about giving it away. There are lots of ideas on The Times Eco-Worrier blog.
  9. Also find out if there is a local scrap-store near you. They often welcome odds and ends that can be reused for art projects.
  10. Rediscover your own creativity, as you might find another use for all your old junk. For inspiration take a look at and How Can I Recyle This? You'll be amazed at the ideas.
My favourite example of recycling/reusing has to be how Bury St Edmunds blogger John Moody swapped a pink bike with girly tassles for a boy's bike, by simply converting it himself. The obvious choice would have been to sell or give away the girly bike and buy a new one for his little boy. However John showed great commitment to modifying it and achieved a fantastic result.

However, what clinches the prize for creativity is the Ice-Cream Stick Ship, which is a project spear-headed by Robert McDonald who wants to teach children that anything is possible. Made from 15 millon ice-cream sticks and completed in 2005, the replica Viking ship set sail for England from the Netherlands on Tuesday. His crew are also hoping to sail the Atlantic, following an old Viking route to North America. Now that will be impressive!

Thanks to Kate for the tip-off. More info about the making of the ship can be found at PingMag.

Hmmm, I'm not sure whether I should be encouraging you to try this at home. Remember the high-seas are dangerous and if you are inspired to make your own canoe, yacht or even cruiseliner, please enlist the services of a professional and please remember your buoyancy aid!


Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Waste Not Want Not

If anyone is playing lingo bingo on this site, you can at last tick off the good old "Waste Not Want Not." After avoiding the cliché for the last two and a half months, I'm afraid I couldn't hold off any longer.

I haven't been able to forget Oliver Heath's point about the importance of seeing our waste as a resource and making the connection between what we throw away and what it could become.

Up until now my impetus for recycling has been driven by guilt, the guilt of having too much rubbish to deal with, the guilt of sending so much stuff to landfill and the impact of my actions on the environment. That's a lot for people to handle and pretty much falls into the negative "cup half empty" culture.

However, thinking about rubbish as a resource, in the way that Oliver Heath describes, captures a much brighter and more positive image. It's more upbeat, uplifting and encouraging. In fact, what he describes is covered by a term that I've not heard before, which is Upcycling.

Upcycling was first coined by William Mcdonough and Michael Braungart in their book Cradle to Cradle, Remaking the way we make things. It's all about taking something that is disposable and making it into something that has greater value. Thanks to regular commenter Mel for bringing the book to my attention. Some of the great upcycled products she's spotted are fleece jackets made out of pop bottles & carrier bags, pencils made out of vending-machine plastic cups and waste-paper bins made out of woven newspaper.

I hadn't realised how many upcycled products are available or indeed the variety. Just having a poke about the Internet revealed the breadth of items from school uniforms made from plastic bottles, right through to a range of shoes made from seat belts, car seat leather and recycled rubber.

And as for our old f(r)iend, the plastic bag, I've also discovered a jewellery designer who makes a beautiful range of necklaces and earrings from old carrier bags. Also don't close down the Internet tonight without visiting the Re-toyed Trash Project, which has encouraged me to get out the needle and thread and be inventive.

If you've now caught the upcycled bug and are looking for even more creative inspiration have a look at the following sites, which reveal the wonderful array of products that are available.

is the online shop which was co-founded by Oliver Heath and includes eco and ethically-friendly products. My favourite is the Recycled Cardboard Castle. I suppose that comes from being a mother of boys.

I can also recommend the recycling section on the Hippyshopper website/blog, which features a whole range of inspirational products. It is really worth a good-old browse. You'll even discover jewellery made from recycled flip-flops.

It is also encouraging to see that there are now alternatives to all those corporate promotional products that litter desk drawers, kitchen cupboards and eventually landfill. If you work in an office you'll know the kind of thing I mean. How many coasters and keyrings does the world actually need? At least, companies like Allwag are now offering alternative products made from recycled resources including tyres, plastic bags, juice cartons and circuit boards.

There are even products out there for pets, as demonstrated by the dog toys made from plastic bottles, available from the online store Stop and Paws.

So I think it's a big thumbs up for upcycling in the 21st Century. I now think about recycling in a new light and I hope you do too. I also hope that you'll enjoy the treat on offer below, a blast from the past which shows that even in the '70s the seeds were already in place....

P.S. Thanks go to regular reader Baba for the tip off about the Worn Again shoes mentioned above from Terra Plana. Please keep those recommendations coming in.


Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Talking about recycling with Oliver Heath

Last week I was privileged to interview Oliver Heath, designer, architect, television presenter and eco-hero. When he first appeared on BBC's Changing Rooms in 2000, he was described as one of the hottest interior designers around, with his approach being fresh and sometimes controversial. He now has several other programmes under his belt as well as a successful design practice and online eco-business.

Influenced by windsurfing, travel and nature, Oliver Heath's application of creativity in both his personal and professional life is inspirational and thought-provoking, particularly with regard to how he applies this to recycling.

After seeing the recent video that he had made for Recycle Now, I couldn't wait for a chance to speak to him about his passion for recycling, how he applies this to his profession and about his particular fascination for glass.

He was also kind enough to answer personal questions about his bin!

When did you begin to take an interest in recycling issues and what was the trigger?

"It’s a combination of different aspects of my life and is something that I’ve been interested in for some time. I grew up in Brighton and growing up by the sea and near the countryside gives you a great appreciation of nature and the delicacy of it."

"I taught windsurfing for about six years as I was studying architecture and I think a lot of what you teach in windsurfing is about how to protect yourself and look after yourself, teaching people some respect for the environment and making them understand that you’re at its mercy."

"When I chose architecture, those messages of respecting the environment, working with it and enjoying it, fed into the idea of the built environment and how we should be incorporating environmental issues into design, so you’re not trying to push nature out all the time but you’re working with the basics and the physics of it."

"Travel has always been a great source of inspiration. I think travel is important as it helps you to understand that the way we live now isn’t necessarily the right way of living. It’s how we have culturally evolved. There are other ways of living that are perfectly valid and I think it is important to understand that we can change and we can be different. There are better ways of living and we may not have it totally right."

What's the top thing that we should all be recycling and why?

"All waste streams are important and have their valuable contribution but I just think glass is one of the more beautiful materials that can put the message across."

"It is very easy to look at a bottle and chuck it in the bin. You could easily say 'that’s rubbish and I've finished with it' but if you were to have 100 or 200 bottles stacked up in a particular way and turn them into a wall of glass, with the light filtered through, you would see the subtle differences in the colours of the glass. You could create something beautiful. There’s a real transformation when you go from seeing one thing that you can easily discard to seeing it en masse and then realise the value of that thing in its quantity, for example the jewel-like quality in glass."

What's the most amazing recycled material in your experience?

"Glass or stainless steel can be recycled over and over again. Impurities in glass can build up, but stainless steel can have a high recycled content depending on where it comes from. It is extremely durable and can be cleaned easily and reused."

What eco-friendly practices do you apply to your professional services at Blustin Heath Design?

"As designers we always encourage our clients to be as environmentally conscious as possible and to consider that when thinking about the budget for each project."

"We work on a variety of different schemes from architecture through to interior and product design. We think about what kind of environmental approach we can impress upon a project to add excitement, reduce its footprint and also to make it interesting and beautiful. Ideally we want people to live comfortably and well, so we think about how we can incorporate a sort of eco-chic luxury into their homes. We also encourage our clients to put money into sustainable items, low energy appliances and into recycling items."

"Whilst we can uphold environmental principles on a day-to-day basis, e.g cycling to work, using public transport or buying our electricity from a renewable supplier, the greater impact we can have is transferring some of those messages into the built environment and using my media attention to highlight those principles to a wider mass audience."

What extra steps do you take to recycle in your personal life?

"A lot of my clothing is made out of my old clothes, which I take to the tailors to be re-modelled. I also buy clothes from second-hand shops and then get them re-cut. The shirt that I'm wearing at the moment is made from an old one that was cut and stitched back together."

"It’s about putting creativity into something and thinking 'what can I do with it?' Can it be something else?"

"A lot of furniture that I’ve made or built at home is made from recycled floorboards, which can be seen in the Recycle Now video. The walls in my bedroom are also made from recycled fencing panels, which have a beautiful aged quality to them. Combining creativity and recycling can create a whole new dimension."

So what's in Oliver's recycling bin at home?

"At the moment I don’t have a garden and we don’t have a composting collection in Brighton."

"I’ve three different sections in my bin. In one there are glass and plastics, which I separate later on, the second is paper and card, then cans. I’ve also got an equivalent-sized conventional bin for stuff that can’t be recycled."

How much do you send to landfill?

"The proportion of what I recycle compared to landfill is probably about 50/50. It’s difficult to say as I recycle absolutely everything that I can and is all dependent on what the council in Brighton and Hove can recycle for me. I often test them by putting more stuff in the recycle bin. It can be quite difficult with plastics and the differences in the many types of plastic packaging is quite subtle, so I always put more things in to see if they will take it."

"On top of that I'm just about to move house, so I will spend a lot of time emptying my cupboards, taking clothes to trade and stuff to charity shops and will try to find other ways to distribute things that we don’t want or need."

So what is the best way to encourage people to recycle?

"Through helping them understand that the things they recycle will become useful objects again and that there is a life beyond how they actually use them."

"You can help people make the connection between something you throw away and what it could become and enable them to stop seeing material as waste and start seeing it as a resource."

Oliver recently agreed to let the Recycle Now team into his home to highlight how easy it is to make recycled products work in a home environment. If you missed the video, here is another opportunity to watch and be inspired.

More information about Oliver Heath and his work can be found at with links to his professional practice Blustin Heath Design and the ethical and eco-friendly shop which he co-founded, called EcoCentric.

Further details about his work with Recycle Now can be found at:

More information on recycling in the Brighton and Hove district can be found on the local council website.


Monday, 7 April 2008

Recycling with CBeebies

On Saturday, I took the children and one of their little friends to see CBeebies live at the theatre! For those who haven't experienced CBeebies, it is a BBC television channel dedicated to the under fives and it's a quality one at that.

The visit to the theatre was a special treat for the Easter holidays and I must admit that at first I felt a bit dubious about being trapped in the Cambridge Corn Exchange, with a whole load of over-excited children for nearly two hours.

But ladies and gentleman, I am delighted to eat my words. Not only was the theatre packed with children who were just happy to see their heroes on stage, (who also seemed just as happy to see the children), but the CBeebies show came with a very special message...yes the importance of recycling and composting.

Children and grown-ups were entertained by PC Plum, Jenny Jumble, Postman Pat, Boo, Tamba, Bill and Ben, Jakers and friends, The Koala Brothers and Tommy Zoom, all doing their best to recycle and even compost.

Never before has a recycling message had such a "captivated" audience.

The central character was a recycling bin, which was at risk from the terrible Polluto, who was on a personal mission to contaminate the bin with sludge and generally destroy the world. Fortunately Tommy Zoom saved the day and took Polluto home for a good telling off!

It was truly inspirational, making the subject of recycling totally interesting for children, not just emphasising its importance but also looking at the fun element of making new things out of everyday objects.

So what a great way to start off this week. Following last week's emphasis on landfill problems, the next five days will offer a more upbeat theme, focusing entirely on recycling and reusing.

As well as a review of a fabulous book that's just hit the bookstores, there is also our very first celebrity interview, which is not to be missed. On top of that there will be examples of some fantastic recycled products, which highlight the value of recycling, plus some hints and tips on how everyone can get involved. If you're looking for inspiration, you will definitely find lots of it here over the next few days.

I suppose this is turning out to be The Rubbish Diet's unofficial LET'S RECYCLE WEEK.

So, even if you're already an active recycler, why not have another look at your rubbish and see if you can keep one extra thing out of landfill. Even better, get your friends and colleagues to follow suit.

Who knows what will happen. Take last week, one reader found out she could recycle Tetra Paks at her local recycling point. Perhaps you can do the same too and find out what else you can recycle at the same time. As you'll see from the articles coming up, it is so worth the extra effort.

Go for it... all you need to find is just one extra thing. It could be an aerosol can, a plastic bag or even a meat carton. You could even cheat and swap your regular purchase that can't be recycled with an alternative product that can.

Is that really cheating? I think the answer to that is "Naaah"!

Anyway, if you need some help, more information can be found at:

Hmm, I wonder what else I'll be able to save this week. I'm afraid you'll have to wait and see!

If you want to find out whether CBeebies is coming to your town
click here for tour dates. The show comes fully recommended.

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.


Thursday, 3 April 2008

More landfill issues: Waste problems in Italy (Guest Post)

(Photo by Flickr's Chris John Beckett)

I normally like to hail "good news" stories on this blog being of a positive mind but when I heard about the waste disposal problems in Italy, I felt it would be interesting to get an Italian's view from the inside. Italy's waste problems have hit the press in particular over the last 12 months with reports of rubbish remaining uncollected in Naples because landfill sites are full. There have also been stories about how Campania has been hit by the tourist trade as well as tales of restaurants closing.

Loredana, aka Danda, a regular commentator on The Rubbish Diet blog has been kind enough to provide us with an insight from within Italy. It makes very sad, but interesting reading.

"Here I am to tell the Italian situation about waste, which is not positive, as all newspapers of the world already tell us. The recent events occurred in Campania actually are the tip of an iceberg that extends far beyond the visible part.

I’m not living in Campania, in the southwest of Italy, so unfortunately I cannot speak by direct experience and tell the dramatic situation that people everyday are living there. But it was well outlined by the media: entire areas, previously dedicated to agriculture or pasture, are now polluted by damaged bales, full of any kind of waste. There is domestic garbage mixed with mostly toxic industrial waste, which is carefully concealed or misunderstood as harmless organic waste.

Most of the towns are besieged by heaps of waste that bins can no longer contain. People must endure not only the bad smell that comes out, but the smoke laden with dioxins too. Some people, who are exasperated, burn trash ignoring the toxicity.

So bales are slowly brought in large landfills that are full now. Existing incinerators no longer continue their activities due to technical and bureaucratic problems. In the surrounding areas the residents fear the spread in the air of particulate resulting from incineration, considered by many scientists as a cause of cancer.

The rest of Italy has been watching open-mouthed at what is still happening there in Campania. But we are not aware that the danger is inherent in every region, that the emergency could explode everywhere.

I myself remain wordless whenever I look at these scenes and I can’t find a way to really understand where the mistake is and who is responsible for all of this trouble. We talk about “eco-mafia”, which means crime, we talk about inefficient systems for collection, storage and disposal of waste, we talk about bad administration, corrupt politicians.

But all these things make me think about the fundamental problem: waste is the product of our everyday life, so we, the consumers, ourselves are primarily responsible for all these afflictions.
One of the problems is that many people here don’t consider waste as the direct product of our consumerism that could be significantly reduced. There is a sort of cultural heritage that makes us think that consumption, and therefore throwing out, is a sign of prosperity. We believe that, once far from our sight, waste disappears. But it’s not in this way. Starting from now, we notice that everything we send to the landfill is bounced in our lives, in the air we breathe, in our food, in the water we drink.

Recycling facilities were widespread in almost all Italian municipalities. Each municipality unfortunately has different waste collection managements and sometimes it is proved to be insufficient, for the lack of economic resources or the lack of cooperation from citizens.

But the main problem is that people do not know what they are putting in the various recycling bins. There is a lot of confusion. Differently from what is happening in Great Britain, here in Italy both public administrations and the same collection service companies are lacking the dissemination of correct recycling rules to the citizens.

So many citizens here do not easily improve waste recycling and make little effort to put aside glass, plastic, metal, paper, organic waste. It is rare to have a door-to-door recycling collection system, even although this may already be a more effective solution, but it does exist in some cities.

Here it is easy to see any kind of trash in recycling bins. There are no controls, sanctions, nor incentives for the few people who behave in a virtuous way.

At school and through the work of environmental groups, the culture of recycling is transmitted to the young, but adult generations are the ones hardest to understand that this kind of behaviour should become a duty for everyone.

Industry plays its part too, not reducing the unnecessary packaging of products and the graphics on the packs badly illustrate the right way for recycling.

So far I spoke about recycling, but I couldn’t imagine what it could mean to introduce a broader effort in Italy, as “the Rubbish diet”, which tries to reduce waste almost to zero. I very often run into sceptical people who don’t trust in recycling at all.

I was delighted when I found out about British initiatives, for example people who undertake to live a week with “zero waste” are the real heroes. All the world should take them as an example to imitate.

I believe that our country is at the point where things must really change or we will end up having to renounce our health and our heritage. Let us not forget that Italy, for climate, geographic position and history is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, yet we are damaging ourselves! That is why we should not desire commiseration from other countries. We should not be surprised that others impose strict controls on food imports from Italy, which is happening these days, but we must roll up our sleeves and start with some small daily gestures."

Thanks very much to Loredana for her insight. She is not a journalist, a writer, or indeed an eco-activist, just someone who cares about what's happening to her country.

It is hard to imagine what it must be like living in a society where waste is left uncollected or indeed living in a country where you worry that it could so easily happen to you.

This isn't meant to be a scare story, as I have faith in the UK system and in our people that we will continue to reduce the amount that our society sends to landfill. Call me an optimist, but I also believe that manufacturers will begin to reduce unnecessary packaging too, as consumers who want to make a difference begin to vote with their feet and indeed their wallets.

Loredana's blog can be found at: but I hope your Italian is good as she writes in her native tongue, which is why I am even more grateful that she was able to provide her guest post in english.


Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Behind the scenes at the landfill

I'm so sorry if you're reading this while having your breakfast, but yesterday I popped down to a Suffolk landfill site to do a brief interview with the BBC's Mike Cartwright for News 24.

The story was to cover the news that landfill tax is increasing and that in Suffolk, we have only six years left before our landfill facilities reach capacity.

Suffolk County Council's Assistant Director for Environment, Bryn Griffiths, was also there and it was very interesting to get some extra background info on the challenges of waste management and the problems of methane gas created by biodegradable waste dumped into landfill.

If you've never been to a landfill site, I fully recommend a visit as it is a real wake-up call, even for ardent recyclers.

Just the sight of the bin lorries dumping the rubbish can make you feel ill. Then there's the smell, which is gross and if you are able to hang around long enough, you'll see all sorts of things that could easily be recycled or reused.

Amongst the gone off food, there were old shoes, plates, socks, paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, plastic bags and children's balls, much of which could have been recycled. You name it and it's in there somewhere.

Every time a layer of rubbish is added, the bulldozers cover it with earth. It was a bizarre feeling to realise that I wasn't actually standing on a hillside but on top of a mountain of waste.

At one point Mike Cartwright picked his way through the pile of rubbish, to deliver an intro for the BBC News 24 studio. Now that represents commitment to a job, as does the fact that the news team had spent nearly five hours on location.

Of course a trip to the landfill site wouldn't have been complete without taking my own week's rubbish along, you know the familiar small bag that only the size of my bin's wheel.

But do you know what?

I felt guilty just leaving it there on the side of the bank.

It was a bit like littering.

I know it was a landfill site, but all the same it didn't feel good.

In today's society, we've got so used to throwing things away and today's visit woke me up the fact that there is no such place as away, as once quoted by author Andrew O'Hagan and Anita Roddick.

I once described car boot sales as the graveyard of consumerism. I now know I was wrong. The real graveyard of course is the landfill.


Tuesday, 1 April 2008

The BBC, landfill and my own back garden

I know it's April 1st but I promise you this is no April Fool.

When I woke up yesterday morning I had no idea that by the evening I would have a BBC news team in my back garden, filming my recycling habits for today's Breakfast programme on BBC One.

Again, I know it's April Fool's Day, but the issue being covered is no joke. Today the landfill charge is being increased by £8 per tonne of waste in a major step by the government to encourage businesses and householders to recycle and compost more of their waste.

In financial terms, this means that the cost of waste disposal in the UK's landfill facilities will rise from £24 per tonne to £32 per tonne. Until now annual increases have been just £3 per tonne. However it appears likely that we will see further increases at the new level until at least 2010, when landfill tax is expected to reach £48 per tonne.

So it looks like there is something else to hit our pockets. Talk about kicking a man when he's already down and brow-beaten by other economic problems, but if our country has to meet the targets set by the European Landfill Directive, drastic action is needed.

If each and every one of us had to bury our own waste in our own back gardens, surely we would want to do something about reducing it well before the authorities come knocking on our door.

We are simply running out of space in the country's back garden, which we call landfill. Already this week we've seen Plymouth's landfill site close because it is full to capacity. The city's waste in now destined for alternative facilities in neighbouring Cornwall. Our local facilities in Suffolk are facing the same issues, with space expected to run out in six years time.

So it is no coincidence that more and more councils are choosing to change household waste collection to a bi-weekly service, with the aim of encouraging people to reduce their rubbish.

At the moment I don't mind paying the extra council tax that will need to be recovered to cope with the issue, as it will be a while yet before society gets used to having to reduce our levels of household and business waste. I just hope that some of the money collected by government is invested in improving recycling facilities to help alleviate the problems.

However, ask me the same question in a couple of years time when I might be a lot more hacked off if I have to pay for a share for my neighbours' waste to be dumped. I may not be so generous.

In the meantime, consumers should not become the "fall-guys" of waste management problems. The whole manufacturing and retail chain needs to demonstrate significant changes to help us reach the targets set by Europe. Councils across the UK also need to provide comprehensive recycling facilities that are both easy to use and effective. I feel lucky that our local authority offers excellent recycling services. I would certainly not be happy paying a local council for dumping my landfill waste on the basis of poor local facilities.

However, let's look on the bright side as it's not all doom and gloom. I recently highlighted on the Sustained website, the figures from Defra which reveal that non-recycled waste levels were lower in 2006/2007 than those recorded in 1983/1984. Having peaked in 2000 at 450 kilos per person, the annual figure for 2006/2007 was down to 351 kilos per person.

What this shows is that there are lots of folk out there who are already slimming their bins and having talked rubbish with so many others, I know there are plenty more people out there who would like to take proactive action too. We just need to capture their imagination and show them how easy it can be.

Anyway, if you're up early you'll see me briefly demonstrating my own recycling facilities on today's BBC Breakfast and later on News 24. Look closely and you may even get to see my lovely wormery. So it's definitely a case of the early bird catches the worm and all that.

Addendum: Have just come back from an interview at a Suffolk landfill site, which should also be on the BBC1 lunchtime news as well as other broadcasts throughout the day.

Useful sources:

More information on the 2008 budget and landfill tax can be found at Lets Recycle. Waste disposal statistics can be found at Defra.

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