OK, down with the trumpet fanfare. It's too soon for that, but what a fine start to Week 8 of The Rubbish Diet challenge, with reports already coming in from some of our fabulous bin slimmers about how little rubbish has been created last week. Terry-Anna's rubbish bag is so small, it's dumpier than a HP sauce bottle and you can fit it into the palm of your hand. As for Tim's rubbish, there's much excitement that for the first time throughout the challenge, it's possible to see the bottom of his bin.
This is indeed the last week of the challenge, the finale week that comes with an extra mission, which should they choose to accept it, will give our volunteers the opportunity to attempt a Zero Waste Week. That's going one whole week, trying to create no rubbish at all. Of course they can recycle, reuse and compost what they can. It's what ends up in their rubbish bin that counts.
Zero waste is naturally the ideal, but for this week, it is just a goal. This week is really about just going that extra mile to see how low you can go, reinforcing all that has been learned during the previous weeks and heightening awareness of your impact on waste outside the home. For those who attempt the challenge, some will find it easier than others, due to better recycling facilities, size of household, or better control over daily routines.
So are you up for a zero waste challenge? If so, then read on.
The first thing to remember before attempting a Zero Waste challenge is not to be afraid of failure if you don't reach it. The second is that it is only a week, a week where you might choose to change your habits to experience the impact, but it doesn't mean that you are setting your expectations for a lifetime. And finally, even if a week seems too long, don't be put off. Try a Zero Waste Day if it feels less scary. Most of all, do try and make the week fun, looking for more ways where you can save money along the way.
More information about attempting a Zero Waste Week can be found in the online guide that accompanies the Rubbish Diet blog and this final week. Also, the following mini-challenges will set you off on the right foot.
1. Agree who is taking part in the Zero Waste challenge? Is it just you, or your whole household? If it's the household, write out a list of reminders about what can be recycled & composted as well as a list of things that can't.
2. Even if you can compost\recycle your foodwaste, try to keep it low. Follow advice at www.lovefoodhatewaste.com to find out more about storage, portion sizes and leftovers. If you often have fruit going to waste at the end of the week, try to buy less this week, store it in the fridge or use it up before it goes mouldy. If certain foods regularly go to waste, this could be the week that you decide to buy them less frequently.
3. Avoid rubbish whilst out and about. Even if you've got rubbish under control at home, as soon as you step outdoors, society almost throws it at you, from plastic straws in bars, to single servings of condiments. Possibly one of the biggest culprits are those disposable cups. Even some of those hot cotton handwipes, given out at the end of an Indian meal, could count as rubbish, as many restaurants buy them as cheap disposables. And don't assume that the bottle left over from your favourite tipple will get recycled by your favourite cafe, bar or restaurant. Although it's getting better it still depends very much on the establishment's attitude to recycling and the way in which it manages its waste stream. However, a few tricks up your sleeve will boost your rubbish-busting defences, such as a portable reusable cup, pre-empting rubbish by refusing it, asking the right questions and keeping your eyes peeled for on-street recycling bins that help you recycle on the go.
4. Ask for a doggy bag. We've all been there, having a great meal at a restaurant but too full to finish what's on the plate. If you''ve enjoyed it, don't look a gifthorse in the mouth! Ask for a doggy bag and take it home for finishing later. Trust me, this is a trend that is no longer frowned upon by the catering industry. I'd bet they'd even take it as a compliment. In fact, many restaurants are now positively encouraging you to repeat your enjoyment at home, in order to reduce the problem of food waste. If you don't believe me, take a look at the Too Good to Waste campaign, which has been launched by the Sustainable Restaurant Association. There are even tips to avoid food waste in the first place, by ordering smaller portions or juggling the menu options to match your appetite.
5. Don't give rubbish to others. Until now, The Rubbish Diet challenge has focused on how to reduce rubbish at home. However, this week's Zero Waste Week is also a good opportunity to think about how much rubbish we give to others, especially when buying presents. Remember, when choosing gifts, much of the plastic used in packaging still can't be recycled by many of the councils across the UK, so try to avoid it where possible. At least the great news with the forthcoming Easter celebrations is that many chocolate eggs now come without plastic packaging. Of course another tricky area when it comes to gifting is giving unwanted presents, so it is always wise to check, even if you'd prefer the idea of a surprise. And remember, if you give plastic gift cards to help the recipient choose what they'd like, these are not widely recycled either, despite their great abundance.
So, I hope that helps you kick-start the final week of The Rubbish Diet challenge. In just seven days it will soon be over. Throughout the next week, I will be updating the blog with stories about people and organisations who are doing some great things to reduce their contribution to our country's waste mountain. So do drop back for the latest update and if you've spotted something too, please do share.
In the meantime, let's catch up with some of our volunteers who have been reducing their rubbish on the home-front. Results will be updated as they come in and I can't wait to see how they get on this week.
Household: 2 adults, in Ipswich Borough, Suffolk.
WK1 Weigh-in: 1.5 large bags, filling one third of a wheelie bin (fortnightly): WK 8: a small bag that can fit into the palm of your hand.
2. Ness. @NessyThompson
Household: 2 adults & 5 children, a rural village in Mid Suffolk
WK1 Weigh-in: 2 full wheelie bins (fortnightly). WK 8: 1 bin, just over half-full.
3. Donna. @Donna_De
Household: 2 adults, in Tower Hamlets in London. www.beatinglimitations.com/blog
WK1 Weigh-in: 1 30L rubbish sack. (weekly). WK 8: 1/2 30 rubbish sack
4. Amy. @AmyMarpman
Household: 2 adults in New York City. www.beyondthebluebin.com
WK1 Weigh-in: 2 bin bags - estimated 9kg / 20lbs. (Weekly) WK 8: 5.5kg /12 lbs
5: Kate. @BusinessPlumber
Household: 2 adults, in a rural village in Mid Suffolk : www.businessplumber.co.uk
WK1 Weigh-in: 1 unusually full wheelie bin - incl Christmas waste. (fortnightly): WK 8:1 small bag
6: Jax. @LiveOtherwise
Household: 2 adults, 3 children & a baby, in Suffolk Coast. http://liveotherwise.co.uk/makingitup/
WK1 Weigh-in: 7 small bin bags - filling one third or half of a wheelie bin (fortnightly). WK8
Household: 2 adults, 2 children, Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire
WK 1 Weigh-in: 3 large bin bags, almost filling a whole wheelie bin. (weekly). WK 8
Household: 2 adults, 3 children, Lincolnshire. www.bringingupcharlie.co.uk
WK 1 Weigh-in: 1 full wheelie bin (fortnightly). WK8:. 3 small bags, so little you can see the bottom of the bin.
Don't forget, just because the Rubbish Diet challenge is already in WK 8, the finale week, it doesn't mean that you can't join in. Just visit the online guide to catch up with everything you need to do. There's also lots happening on Twitter too, so to join in the conversation just use the hashtag #therubbishdiet, or tweet @karencannard.