Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Zero Waste Week: One Week On

After going "hell for leather" during Zero Waste Week, I just thought I'd reveal my rubbish one week on. I suppose it illustrates that just as a dog's just not for Christmas, The Rubbish Diet wasn't just for zero waste week.

Despite being a challenge, it wasn't a gimmick, or a indeed a one-off. It was a real learning experience, which I am happy to say has led to some major changes, which have somehow blended neatly into our lifestyle.

However, you will notice that this week's landfill rubbish is more excessive than last week's, which was just one plaster. As a pretty average family, we've been prone to the odd packet of crisps and chocolate bar this week and we're not going to get around to junk art modelling every time. So I hope that I get let off that our week's rubbish still comes to no more than a bag that's smaller than the wheel of the bin.

For readers who are new to this site, if you want to follow the story leading up to Zero Waste Week, all the links are shown on the right under "The Story so Far". However, I just thought it might be useful to publish a summary revealing the "highs" of slimming our black bin, the one that gets sent to landfill.

1. Food Waste

Food waste was the biggest problem for us. So I cut down on the amount of food I bought, the portion sizes that I cooked and have also tried to reuse leftovers. For anyone interested in tackling this issue, I can highly recommend the website www.lovefoodhatewaste.com.

The children were the worst offenders, so I changed the way that food was presented to them, not every time, but when I knew there was something that they might just sniff at, I gave it a new name. I found that Dragon Stew was more appealing than Chicken Stew, Pirate Island (with mashed potato surrounded by a sea of green veg and some fish) was more preferable than just fish with vegetables and it's amazing how a whole load of raw vegetables could be made to look like a rabbit.

If there were any scrapings left, these would normally have gone in the bin, but I decided to go the full hog and invest in a wormery and bokashi bin to cater for the scrapings. I am still "in training" with both these systems but can't wait to see the results.

2. Packaging

The next thing I cut out from our landfill bin was packaging. I used to throw all-sorts in there (and not just the liquorice variety). However, I have since changed my habits, firstly refusing plastic bags in shops and remembering to take reusable bags with me.

At the beginning of The Rubbish Diet challenge I spent a couple of hours in the supermarket, taking a closer look at packaging and getting familiar with the recycling logos, some of which I have found to be misleading. I have since tried to reduce the amount of packaging that I buy, looking for alternatives, e.g. I now buy fruit juice in glass bottles from my milkman, which also works out to be cheaper than the supermarket. I've used the market more often as well as our local butchers, where packaging can be reduced drastically.

If I need to buy packaged items, I make sure that it can be recycled, composted at home, or re-used. In fact, if you want to join the campaign against over-packaged items, take a look at the website Scrap This Pack to get your voice heard. I found it yesterday at the Junkk Male site.

I found the best way of dealing with packaging was to become better informed. For example, I used to just throw meat packaging in the black bin. However, having researched our council's collection services I now know that all I need to do is wash it out properly and it can go into the recycling bin. The same was true of tetra pak and other waxed cartons. I just used to throw them in the bin, but learned that our local council now has a drop off point, which means that if I do need to get a carton of something or other it can be sent for recycling.

One of my other frustrations has been plastic bags. My bin used to be full of them. I don't mean carrier bags, as these can be recycled at home or dropped off at your supermarket. The bags that really bug me are the cereal carton inserts, polythene covers for magazines, grape bags, bread bags, you know, all those piddly little things that end up in landfill.

But there is another way. Our council has a drop off point for plastic bags at its local amenity site, so we now make a pit stop there, when we're passing and also take what few aerosol cans and other things that might have gathered over the previous few weeks.

So if you have to deal with things like meat packaging, tetra pak, aerosols etc, it is always worth doing a quick check with your local council to get the latest updates on kerbside collection or drop-off facilities. For things like polythene, if your council doesn't have drop-off or collection facilities and you still want to keep it out of the bin, you can always post it to Polyprint, a supplier of polythene mailing film, who will be happy to recycle the material for you.

3. Cleaning waste.

One of my biggest sins used to be cleaning materials, sponges that would be used for a week and dumped in the bin, reams and reams of kitchen towel that would be used for clearing up the mess and quickly thrown as well as whatever variety of anti-bacterial quick wipe products I could find.

The impact on the bin has been incredible since I ditched these products in favour of washable items, including sponges and cloths that can be thoroughly cleaned in the washing machine. Whatever little kitchen towel I now use, I just scrunch up and put in the compost bin.

I also supersized products such as washing powder, washing-up liquid and fabric conditioner, which I now buy in much larger containers and I also use them more sparingly. This has been such a bonus, as not only is less packaging used, it means that I don't have to pop out to the shops so often and don't get tempted by lots of other things while I am there.

4. Personal products

Despite being a bit shy at first, I decided to rise to the challenge of switching from disposable sanitary pads to rewashable pads. I found my shyness was soon resolved, when I ended up promoting them on Irish national radio during a live interview with Sean Moncrieff.

One thing's for sure, I wish that I'd switched years ago and can't believe it's taken me so long. It's a much nicer way of dealing with the monthly inconvenience that we'd all like to forget and with a fantastic range of modern products out there, this type of switch comes highly recommended.

I'm also eeking things out, to make them last a bit longer. Take the toothpaste that was due to expire during Zero Waste Week. I rolled up the tube and squeezed and squeezed to make it last a few more days longer. It eventually expired last week, but undeterred, I slit it open and managed to get one more use out of it. I still haven't thrown it away though, because it got snapped right from under my very nose by my 3 year old who wanted to use it as a boat.

5. Buying less stuff

Now this one is a no-brainer! I've found that the focus on trying to slim my bin meant that I reduced the amount of stuff that we've bought as a family. I've also tried to rethink what presents I buy for other people, minimising packaging and waste. This doesn't mean that it's less fun for others. They haven't really noticed the effect at all and have still had great presents such as books.

I suppose that my old habits of "Retail Therapy" have now been replaced with "Rubbish Therapy"....ooohhh I can see a future in that .... what about "The Rubbish Therapist"? We've already had "The Bin Doctor" and "The Rubbish Consultant"... ha ha...where will it stop?

However on a serious note, since starting The Rubbish Diet blog, I have noticed the development of a sort of "Rubbish Pride", amongst folk who have been delighted to tell me about the status of their bins as well as almost "Bin Envy" from those who feel the need to sort out their own problems with rubbish.

I hope that this summary has been useful. Even though it doesn't capture all of the insights that I gained from the experience, for the dedicated, there are many more links in the side-bar, which will provide a lot more detail.

Other tips can be found on The Rubbish Diet recordings, which were featured on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour. The quick links to the "Listen Again" feature are as follows:

Mon 10th March: Intro & Tip 1, Get Some Comfy Shoes
Tuesday 11th March: Tip 2, Learn to Become a Rubbish Cook
Wednesday 12th March: Tip 3, Get Some New Pets
Thursday 13th March: Tip 4, Get Everyone Involved
Friday 14th March: Tip 5, Weigh In

If regular readers are wondering about the status of Ruby's Rubbish Reveal, Ruby will be doing her own Rubbish Audit this week, in preparation for slimming her own bin and I will post the results of her audit very soon, that's if I can find my way out of her rubbish pile. So watch this space for more info.

And don't worry. I'm not going to post up pictures of my rubbish every week. That would be like watching paint dry. However, it will be interesting to see how life is one month on. Please remember that suggestions are still always welcome, so please feel free to share your stories.



Anonymous said...

Nice Read


Almost Mrs Average said...

Cheers Mike and thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Excellent read. I'm in USA and although we recycle a lot here (Portland, Oregon) we are aways behind you! After reading your blog I was enthused to call our garbage hauler and find out more about changes forthcoming for us. Food recycling still over a year away.... I've bookmarked your site!

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi Anon - thanks so much for popping by and I'll always welcome your visit. Good news about the food recycling plans, even if it is still a while away. The key is to keep asking questions and showing interest. I know that such schemes need funds, but it always helps if there's an extra dose of enthusiasm.

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