Friday, 31 October 2008

Halloween Horrors: Mwahahahahhhah

Yes I know I'm rather gruesome to look at my dears, but be kind, I am getting on a bit. 891 years old this year.

Yes, Delores is the name and Devilish Cleaning's my game.

And I'm making no apologies for gatecrashing. I just had to do something with that dreadful Almost Mrs Average. That domestic tripe has just pushed me too far. So, I fought her for her password, sent her off to landfill with an old boot for company and thought I'd tell you a few home truths.

It may be Halloween, but you can forget the scary ghosts and ghoulies, the real horrors can be found lurking behind that woman's closed doors.

If I went into detail, I'd send you running. Sufficient to say that just one look at her bathrooms (all three of them) was enough to make me wonder what she's been doing these last few months.

As I bundled her into the bin lorry, she bellowed "It was the book", cried "then there was the pasta" and finally gave me the lowest of low excuses "I was waiting to test green cleaning".

With rubbish excuses like that, she deserves to be despatched off with the rest of the trash.

And you should look at her cupboards. Cor blimey, with the space and time dimensions attributable to the Tardis, she's managed to fit the whole cleaning aisle of Sainsbury's under her sink.

Zero waste indeed. If that's not a waste then I don't know what it is.

Well I've got plans for that noxious lady.

Vinegar, lemon and bicarb.

By the time she escapes from the nasty combination of methane and leachate and brushed off the fish bones, she will be so grateful for my actions.

It may not have unblocked her plughole in the shower, but at least it's made her shower head all shiny and her toilets spanking clean.

Do I sound kind...?


I don't think so, I'll turn her bathtime bliss into a fizzing cauldron of vinegar and finish her off with a nice dip!

So I'm afraid it's Bye Bye my dears......I've clearly got a lot more work to do.

And er...Happy Halloween....


Thursday, 30 October 2008

War on Waste in Wales: Recycle for Merthyr Tydfil

Creoso i Cymru. Bore da. Sut ydych i heddiw? That's "Welcome to Wales". "Good Morning" and "How are you today?"

Unfortunately that's about as much Welsh as I can remember from my schooldays but I'm now happy to add to Rhyfel ar Wastraff (war on waste) to my vocabulary and indeed Ailgylchu dros Ferthyr Tudful (recycle for Merthyr Tydfil).

Now, if you're thinking this is all a bit random (and indeed it is), I'm simply recovering from a whirlwind trip, where we got up early and drove to Wales to see my family and drove through the night to arrive back in Suffolk just as the clock struck midnight.

And indeed, here I am, back at my computer with hair like Russell Brand, which is my normal look if I haven't made it into the shower.

However, I'm also sitting here with Bin Envy!

As soon as we got to my mum's house yesterday, or rather mam's house, she got very excitable and dragged me into the kitchen to look at a pair of bins that have revolutionised waste collection in the Merthyr Tydfil valley.

And here they are, a pair of diddy blue bins, comprising a little caddy for collecting food waste in the kitchen and a larger (but still fairly small) bin for putting out on bin day.

The small bin comes with its very own cornstarch liner so that it doesn't even get dirty. And look at what you can put in it:

The food waste is collected every week for in-vessel composting, which according to the organisation Environment for Wales, is the first purpose built facility in Wales.

Now my mum is very happy with this system but she has said there are people in the village that aren't so happy. One woman says she doesn't have any food waste so doesn't want extra bins. I guess the answer there is to send them back or use them for something else.

Another lady said she didn't like throwing food slops away. But hang on a minute, that's what they do anyway in the big black wheelie bins that are permanent fixtures of the street scene.

I remember living in this street, when wheelie bins didn't litter the pavement and you could walk along two-by-two rather than in single file. Just imagine, by reducing rubbish, recycling more and separating food waste in this way, it would be possible to elimate the ugly black bins from the terraced streets in the valleys.

I've just read that Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council has recently announced that it has come top of the league in the general Local Government performance indicator tables for Wales.
In a press release earlier this month Chief Executive, Alistair Neill commented on the result saying "This is really encouraging news for everybody involved in driving on performance within the Council"

He also said "Why don’t we all make the effort to become the best in Wales in recycling too?"

With progressive schemes like this being introduced, I've got a funny feeling that they might just make it. I hope they run a Zero Waste Week. That would be fun and I'd have some other new words to add to Welsh vocabulary too.

And Zero Waste in the valleys might just banish those wheelie bins forever!

Oh nearly forgot, the only other bit of Welsh I remember is "Mae gath yn eistedd yn y basged," Now if anyone can translate that, you will think that I really am bonkers. (Sigh - I think it's time to go wash my hair!)

Visit for more local info.


Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The "mural" of the story is....

...DON'T SCRAP YOUR OLD VAN, give it an ULTRA VIOLET makeover and sell it on eBay

Ultraviolet Artist, Simon Buck, whose work was featured on Grand Designs this year, will be selling his freshly customised UV van on eBay over the next few days. That's one mighty way of putting your old stuff to good use. To find out how he gets on, keep an eye on UVartist's YouTube account, where over the next couple of days Simon will be providing an up-to-date video and announcement of the sale.


Sunday, 26 October 2008

Waste Free Norfolk

Blinkey Blimey, it's all going on in the world of waste.

As Cornwall comes to the end of its Zero Waste Challenge on Monday, Norfolk will be waking up to the start of its own Waste Free Week.

And this is going to be a real fun week for the county, not just because of the challenge but because there is a gaggle of brand new bloggers on the block ready to blog the week away.

Waste professionals from across the county have already been exercising their words of wisdom in preparation for taking up the waste free challenge themselves, under the full spotlight of the public. Norwich's Freecycle moderator is also blogging about her rubbish too.

So ladies and gentlemen, without further ado (and at risk of sounding like Our Graham, on Blind Date) let's welcome them on stage...

Please give it up for Bin Diver Kate, the super duper Kate MacFarland, who gave my wheelie bin the kick up the backside it needed when she worked at St Edmundsbury Borough Council and had the strength to answer all my questions during Zero Waste Week. I'm not sure if I scared her away, but having sorted out Bury's rubbish she scuttled over the border and is now happily settled at Norfolk County Council. So please go and cheer her on (and ask her all the questions you like) at

Please also welcome Alex Bone, a Senior Environment Officer at South Norfolk District Council. Alex has been getting into her stride sorting out her makeup, batteries and Tetra Paks. She's a lateral thinker and as she lives in a flat, she's been wondering what to do with her vegetable peelings. But guess what, she's managed to line up some friends to take her compostables. Now that's creative thinking. You can find out all about the goings on over at her blog

Next please give a big round of applause to Martin Mahony, who has recently joined Breckland District Council as Environmental Awareness Support Officer. He's been getting prepared by hunting down packaging-free goodies to take into work and fully recommends voting with your feet to reduce the amount of packaging that ends up in the bin. To find out more about what he's got to say on the subject, pop over to

And last but not least, say a huge hello to Katy, a moderator for Norwich's Freecycle network. She's a good friend of Alex and has accepted the challenge not just to reduce her family's rubbish this week, but to blog about it too. She's already been flexing her rubbish reducing muscles and has been cycling to her local shops. She knows plastics will be a problem so she's trying to avoid them (even though a few have crept in) and go to the Norwich Beer Festival instead. Apparently she's off to a party too. So to find out the latest waste reducing gossip, pop over to

With the extra news from Defra that Kings Lynn has been selected as one of its six Zero Waste Places*, it sounds like there's a big waste-free party happening in Norfolk this week. Not only have they got a good recycling rating but I think they have also broken the record for the most number of zero waste bloggers in any given county. It may not be up to the Guinness Book of Records standards, but it certainly meets the Rubbish Diet criteria and if any other county can beat that, then I'd like to know!

As it's half-term this week, you can guarantee that I will once again be more random than ever, but at least you've got some new bloggers to follow as they declare war on waste. I've updated my sidebar, so you can follow their progress more easily.

And if you haven't done so already, please pop over to see how John Rolls has been getting on with his Zero Waste challenge in Cornwall. While you're there, don't forget to give the staff a pat on the back at the Rezolve Kernow office. They took the challenge into the workplace and ditched the bags of rubbish for bags of fun and discovered a whole new way of bonding through home-made cakes.

So if there are any management consultants looking in, forget raft building, zero waste is the way to go.


*The Zero Waste places announced by Defra last week are:

  • The London Borough of Brent, which will develop 20 Green Zones across the borough by September 2009, which will involve establishing Green Teams of residents and developing a GIS-based map of the borough showing green ‘threads’ growing through the borough to track the progress of the initiative.
  • Shenley Church End in Milton Keynes will see the area of nearly 1500 homes, two schools and a number of high street businesses aim to cut waste and litter right across the area
  • Kings Lynn in Norfolk will achieve zero waste as far as possible within the historic area of the Tuesday Market, which is home to businesses and homes, as well being a tourist hotspot and the focus of many civic events.
  • The London Borough of Lewisham will run an Eco Street initiative, where around 100 properties will be targeted through a range of measures including specialist advice and support to cut waste.
  • Peterborough will run a Zero Waste City Centre initiative, which will focus on Cathedral Square and the three streets leading from it (Bridge Street, Cowgate and Long Causeway), including the Queensgate Shopping Centre, encompassing more than 200 retailers and offices, including the Town Hall and council offices.
  • The West Midlands will create a Zero Waste Region, focusing on businesses and organisation that produce a large quantity of waste, identifying region-wide waste infrastructure needs, improving co-operation and cutting business waste right across the region.
The objective of the project is to identify and monitor 6 places to become exemplars of good environmental practice on all waste. The participating places will fulfil a pathfinder role in identifying the barriers and illustrating solutions to enable others to adopt the most effective approach to zero waste, providing a year-end report in 2009.

More info can be found at:


Friday, 24 October 2008

Caught up in a Jam!

The Norfolk Waste Partnership conference was a fantastic event. Welcomed by a fabulous looking bin lorry brought all the way from Somerset, the conference came with a great line-up of speakers and an audience of around 200 people. So amongst a sea of manufacturers, waste-professionals, portfolio holders, councillors and master composters I couldn't help but feel like a bit of gatecrasher...watching on as a member of the public, witnessing how agencies, local authorities and retailers are working hard to save our planet.

I was going to do a write up about the event today, but somehow on a wet Friday morning in Suffolk it all feels a bit too serious, too work-like and would somehow detract from the essence of the blog.

So instead, I'll tell you how bizarre it was to be hooked up to a wireless microphone, how odd it was to be stood on stage and how surreal it was to be promoting the growing band of zero waste bloggers who are having an untold influence on thousands of readers regarding waste issues.

I'll also mention how relieved I was not to have fallen off the stage and how pleased I was that I hadn't accidentally tucked my dress into my tights. Just imagine the shame. However, I do think that when I let out a sigh of relief as the first seminar came to a close...that the microphone may just have still been on... oops, oh dear! But eh we live and learn! So during the second seminar, I got in my stride, thoroughly enjoying the experience, no phews and no worrying about live microphones.

I would have loved to have stayed, to network and chat but I had to make a quick dash to head back to Bury St Edmunds.

And it's a good job I left when I did, as I found myself in slow traffic along the A140. I should have sensed the doom and gloom of the traffic jam that lay ahead. As I crawled along at 10 miles an hour I noticed the signs that said "bypass needed now". Stuck in the car and wanting to be home, I couldn't help but agree with the protesters. If I'd known a man with a digger I would have called and helped them out.

Just past Diss a sugar beet lorry pulled out and I trailed behind it all way to Bury St Edmunds. I could tell I was nearly home and as I looked upon the pile of beet making its way to the local sugar factory, I remembered the other job I had to do.

Blimmin 'eck. It was nearly 6 o'clock and I'd almost forgotten I'd planned to make jam

So with the kids in bed, I reached into the fridge and pulled out the strawberries that I'd left soaking in a bowl of preserving sugar. In the pan they went along with the syrup residue, gently warming on the hob. I added some lemon juice, then turned up the heat to boil for 10 minutes before testing it on a chilled saucer.

And hey presto - result! If I'd been sat on a chair, I would have fallen off in amazement. I'd actually made my very first jam. And it was dead easy. Apart from the Mount Vesuvius experience, which has left my hob in a sticky mess.

I suppose the moral of this story is that despite its air of mystery, making jam is actually just as easy as recycling. It's just that I've never bothered before, thinking it was too much of a faff especially when you can buy it off the shelf with no bother. Like everything else all it needs is a little knowledge, a little time and the right motivation.

The truth is making a few jars of jam is quicker and requires less effort than making a Sunday roast. How bizarre is that!

I suppose it was the perfect bizarre ending to a perfectly bizarre day.

So thanks to the folk of Norfolk for putting up with me, thanks to David Roman of Monmouthshire Community Recycling for a great workshop and thanks to Strawberry Jam Anne for the inspiration to make some good old-fashioned jam.

After all that, I think it's time for me put my feet up and grab a slice of well-earned jam on toast. I now need all the strength I can muster to clean up that blimmin' hob!


Thursday, 23 October 2008

Jam or Norfolk? The significance of blogging about waste

Today I'm making Jam.

I am also co-hosting a seminar this afternoon at the Norfolk Waste Partnership Annual Conference.

They are both major milestones in my life.

It is the first time I've ever made jam and it's also the first time I've been a speaker at a waste conference.

But I'm not sure what's more nerve-wracking. Making jam has always seemed too scary to contemplate, but as I ponder addressing an audience of at least 50 professionals....well...jam seems so easy.

It really is bizarre how things happen. About a year ago, I was wondering how I could waste less and how I should cook more. Then came the St Edmundsbury Zero Waste challenge.

So I created The Rubbish Diet and blogged. I blogged about rubbish and landfill, packaging and recycling, food waste and cooking, composting and bokashi bins and have somehow emerged from an average disinterested recycler into what WRAP refers to as a "super committed recycler".

The blog has been significant in this process, attracting a virtual community of people who have come together to share ideas. The Zero Waste Week may have provided the purpose and the goal, but it's this virtual village that has encouraged momentum, enabling new ideas, new skills and new thoughts to be discussed as each week goes by.

It has also been amazing to witness the growth in the number of blogs that discuss waste. Even waste professionals are now poised to blog about their own personal challenges. And whether they act as temporary diaries or become something more permanent, I believe blogs have a key role as a catalyst for social change.

But why is blogging about waste so important?

For the blogger it is an opportunity to raise issues, confront challenges and appeal for advice. It creates a forum to pull together useful information and feature recommendations that can help a community of interested people, whether it is local, national or international. It also acts as a cheap form of therapy when the going gets tough and you wonder whether you're alone in the world with your mad ideas.

For the reader it offers an insight into someone else's thought-patterns, disovering ways of doing things that you've never considered before. With this comes a reassurance that ideas are safe to try. For some there is a also sense of voyeurism, an opportunity to delve into other people's lives and become a nosey neighbour from the comfort of your own home. Some blogs are so compelling, it is hard to leave them alone.

Blogging about waste is the equivalent of word-of-mouth marketing and as rubbish is something that affects us all, there will be something to interest most readers. Yet every blogger who discusses the subject will offer their own unique perspective and attract a group of readers that differs from the next. And this is the key, an opportunity to share ideas with many different communities across the world.

So back to today and Norfolk's Waste Conference. The subject of this afternoon's seminar is Setting up a zero waste village, which is being led by David Roman of Monmouthshire Community Recycling and my role is to offer support on promoting the importance of community champions.

I believe that local community champions are highly significant to zero waste projects, providing a human face to demonstrate and promote best practice. From a marketing perspective, an average family is a profile to which most other "average" households can relate.

But wouldn't it be great if community champions blogged about their experiences too. Just imagine if every county across the country had its own zero waste bloggers, focusing on personal challenges at a local level but engaging with an audience in a national or indeed international context?

And who knows where blogging can lead.

I know there's the book deal but on a more levelling note, let's face it, if it wasn't for blogging, there'd be no way I'd be making jam. And for inspiration in this area, I can only thank none other than Strawberry Jam Anne, a fabulous blogger who writes about anything but rubbish.

Seminars and Jam eh? Who would have guessed how life can change on the road to zero waste?

So it's huge thanks to everyone out there for making it so enjoyable. I didn't know you 10 months ago, but I'm glad I do now. And that is the significance of blogging about waste.


Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Am I insane? You Decide.

My name is Karen and I recycle most things that I buy.

I recycle plastic wrappers

I recycle on holiday

And I have been known to help out the odd cafe that doesn't recycle, by taking my bottles home with me to put in my recycling bin.

Is this a good habit or is it an obsession? Indeed, should I be worried that I am about to join the 7% of Americans, many of who have been deemed carborexic, as “dark green”, hard core recyclers and carbon footprint worriers with an obsession on their hands?

Being a zero waste enthusiast perhaps I do have a psychiatric condition. Perhaps I am obsessed. Having chatted to Three Countries Radio presenter Jonathan Vernon-Smith yesterday, one might be led to think so. And I can see his point? After all, what sane person would go out of their way whilst on holiday to find a recycling bank when there are far better things to do? Goodness, I'm already on my way to therapy.

But let's look at it another way.

  • Do you stop being a vegetarian just because you're on holiday?
  • Do you stop wearing a seatbelt when you go abroad?
  • Do you stop cleaning your teeth when you're taking a day off work?
When habits are ingrained and you care about your principles and the consequences of your actions, of course you carry them with you wherever you go?

A vegetarian doesn't stop caring about their diet or animal welfare. Safety conscious drivers will continue to take basic precautions in case of an accident. As for cleaning your teeth, the risk of gum disease never takes a day off.

Now when it comes to recycling and the idea of zero waste, my thinking is this.

When I choose to buy something like a Diet Coke, I recognise two facts.
  • A proportion of my money goes on the drink
  • The rest of the money pays for the bottle
Even if the value of that bottle is just 10p, it is worth money. So if you throw that bottle in the bin, it is exactly the same as burying your well-earned cash in landfill. And the more we send to landfill, the more we pay, not only for its collection but in the form of landfill tax, when it gets dumped in the hole in the ground.

By recycling that item, it becomes an investment, ensuring the material can be reused, saving virgin resources from being extracted.

And this is still true, whether you're at home or away.

You don't even need to go out of your way. When we were on holiday in Switzerland, it only took seconds to drop off the bottles as we were passing the supermarket bottle bank on the way home. Just seconds, that's all, to do one thing that local residents would do every day.

One thing's for sure if we don't change the way we think now, environmental pressures will force us to take more urgent action in the future. In the meantime, I won't lose any sleep if I can't recycle my toothpaste tube or my crisp packets.

So, am I really so obsessed or is it a matter of being sensible?

Carborexic eh? The next thing they'll be telling me is that I've got a case of wasteophobia.

Good Grief, perhaps I have. Perhaps you have too. Anyway, I'll await the verdict and if I get taken away, I'll pray for a reprieve in a decade's time.


Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Surfing in Cornwall reveals Zero Waste Blogger

I was enjoying a good surf over the weekend when I stumbled across a blogger who was about to embark on his Zero Waste Week challenge, which is currently running in Cornwall.

And it's a Zero Waste Week with a difference. To see what I mean pop over to and meet Jon Rolls. Indeed he is not just slimming his family's bin this week, but also that of his environmental consultancy Rezolve Kernow, of which he is the Executive Director.

So while Jon and his family are sorting things out on the homefront, making the most of their wormery and food digester, staff at the office are focusing on zero waste lunches and office-related packaging. They're blogging about it too. So when you've caught up with Jon's progress, go and see what the staff are up to at


Monday, 20 October 2008

Kids in a Fizz: Just in time for Christmas

This weekend, I took the children to their favourite cafe in Bury St Edmunds: Coffee 'n' Kids, in Langton Place, where we went to road-test their latest and most exciting party activity ever...making bath bombs! And my goodness, I would never have thought that making those fizzy things would be so blimmin' easy, or indeed so much fun.

All they had to do was gently rub a bowl full of bicarbonate of soda, which had been combined with a little citric acid. Then adding a couple of drops of yellow and blue liquid, they watched the colour of the powder gradually change before their very eyes.

They added a scent of their choice. The mixture was then sprayed with some water and scrunched together as if making dough, before being pushed into a mould, where it was left to harden. A process that didn't take long at all.

And eh presto! No sooner said than done, the kids had a couple of solid bath bombs to take home with them!

And don't they look great!

As you can probably guess, I had no trouble getting both of them in the bath that evening...or indeed the next!

Now that they are smelling a lot more fragrant than normal, the boys can't wait to have another go and experiment with the different moulds, to make hearts as well as the traditional ball.

And with Christmas around the corner, we've got just enough time to get cracking on some very special hand-made gifts that'll make a nice change from their home-made invisible bogie biscuits. You know the ones I mean...fingers in dough one minute - and when you're not looking - up the nose the next...

So you see, there's no doubt about it that these gorgeous bath bombs are a healthier option and much more pleasant too. Dried flower petals can also be added to make an extra special gift for all the aunts out there. So huge thanks to Jo, the lovely owner, for introducing us to this fizzy adventure and giving an extra special touch to our weekend. We will most definitely be back very soon.


Friday, 17 October 2008

A Mess to Impress: Zero Waste Pasta

Given the choice, with hungry kids having just arrived home from school would you...

a) open up a packet of tagliatelle and throw it in a pan of boiling water and serve up tea within 10 minutes or

b) Optimistically open up a packet of grade 00 flour?

Crack open a few eggs and spend 5 minutes mixing together and kneading to make a dough.

Set up the pasta maker during the 15 minutes of rest, wondering whether it's you that needs the rest as well as the dough.

Unable to clamp the pasta maker to the worktop due to lack of space, you become a circus grade contortionist, with one hand turning the handle, the other feeding the dough through the drum and your wrist firmly placed on the top to stop the blimmin' thing from falling on the kitchen floor.

Then feel forever thankful that your husband arrives home just in time to physically hold the pasta maker in place, while your four-year-old joins in the the fun-of-the-fair and cranks the handle, leaving both your hands free to feed the pasta into the drum, rolling it through once, folding and flouring, rolling it through for a second time, folding and flouring, adjusting the setting and rolling it through a narrower setting, and narrower and narrower...

...and narrower setting, for each piece of dough, which you then have to leave for 10 minutes before you cut the pasta in shape and cook.

FINALLY 5 minutes later you all sit down to a fine dish of home-made tagliatelle, whilst falling off your chair in shock that you really have made fresh pasta.... that really tastes like fresh pasta.

I bet you'd choose Option A wouldn't you! And I don't blame you. But I dare you to try option B. Go on, it might have sounded a lot of trouble, but in a dysfunctional and extraordinary way I actually enjoyed it.

And I am utterly amazed by what you can make with just eggs and flour. Italian grade 00 is the best flour to use but you can use plain flour.

But before you go rushing out to get your very own pasta maker, make sure you read the advice below:


1) Home-made pasta is definitely cheaper than shop-bought if you overlook the £37 pounds spent on a pasta maker.

2) You don't really need a pasta maker if you're just interested in making lasagne sheets, or have great control of the knife to cut thin strips of tagliatelle. Simply mix the eggs and flour and knead the mixture into a dough. Cover and leave it to rest for 15 minutes and then roll the dough very thinly. You will need a some patience for this bit because it does need to be thin, as you'll see from the recipe here.

3) If you're going to use a pasta maker, you really do need to fix the solid lump of metal to your worktop. Next time, I'll make it at the dining table, where I can attach the clamp.

4) Finally you'll need an equal amount of time to match your levels of enthusiasm. It does feel an effort to make it all in one go, especially if you're in a hurry but next time I'll make it in different stages throughout the day.

So after all this effort I suppose the big question is....will I repeat this process regularly?

Well, I'm going to have to. Mr A, is keeping a close eye on things, insisting that I rake the money back. He really does wear the trousers you know! If someone had only answered my ad on Freecycle.

So, pasta three times a week, to feed a family of four...

hmm...that'll take me about a year then!

But after that, we'll be far as the pasta's concerned.

However I think I might just be in need of therapy!


Thursday, 16 October 2008

A turn up for the books

I'm afraid you won't find me here today. I'm having a change of scene and will be hanging out elsewhere, over at Tracey Smith's place, covering for her while she's enjoying a well-earned snooze. So do pop over and say hello. You can find me at

Addendum: I couldn't resist popping back with the news that's just come in from WRAP, announcing that the construction industry has just signed a voluntary agreement to halve the amount of waste it sends to landfill by 2012. Now that's what I call another turn up for the books.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Recycling Lives: Supporting, Inspiring, Employing

It was lunchtime. I was in London and it was raining.

I had been down to the city on one of my special visits and was dashing through Hanover Square, picking my way through the streets to the nearest tube station so that I could head home to rural Suffolk. The rain suddenly came down faster and I was quickly becoming drenched.

A group of office workers took shelter in a large service doorway, a gathering of strangers who were only drawn together because of the weather. I watched them sip their take-away coffees and nibble at their packaged sandwiches. Dressed in dark suits, they stood silently watching the splashes from the cars that passed by. An unexpected place for an unexpected picnic.

Laying down behind them was a man, covered in blankets and scraps of cardboard boxes. His head lay on a pillow made from a plastic bag stuffed with what were probably his clothes. A hood covering his hair and eyes helped retain the remainder of his privacy. While the lunch-break took place in the doorway, he slept in the silence that prevailed. At least I'd hoped he was sleeping. I wouldn't like to think that he was awake. Even worse, I'd hate to think he was dead.

As we go through our busy lives, getting through the challenges that hit us day by day, it is easy to forget those who live differently, in less fortunate circumstances. It's easy to ignore them and turn a blind eye, like the people in the doorway.

When I think of that man and many other socially excluded people like him, I feel glad that it's not me in that situation, or my husband and desperately hope that it won't be my children. However, I also feel bad that I cannot help. I get too embarrassed to offer conversation, respecting the dignity of others as well as worrying about my own guilt and if I offer money for a hot meal, I wonder whether it will be put to good use.

But like many others, I just can't pass by without empathy because somewhere along the line that person I see lying in the streets probably started out with a home, a family, friends and an everyday job. Like you and like me.

So it was with these feelings fresh in my mind I was delighted to have stumbled across the most wonderful organisation, which works hard to balance the needs of this complex jigsaw of the society in which we live. It’s a charity whose business is to recycle the stuff that people like me throw away but whose mission is to generate opportunities for those who are homeless or without jobs, encouraging all to see and to fulfill their own unique potential.

The organisation that comes with this fanfare is Recycling Lives.

Born from a real understanding of and a true commitment to helping the homeless, Recycling Lives was created in 2007 by Steve Jackson. And when you read his personal account and interaction with whom he calls "a man with a pram" you can't help but feel inspired by his passion for social entrepreneurship and desperately hope that he succeeds in his mission.


But it’s not just about the ‘traditional’ view of a homeless person is as a rough sleeper as depicted above.

As Charles Jackson, Chief Executive, of Recycling Lives told me “These days this image can be supplemented by a group of people who have for many years been institutionalised. I am referring to ex-service men and women or ex-offenders. People, who have served their time for their country, or indeed, served their time for their crimes. In the case of the ex-service people, perhaps they have been too well cared for? Perhaps they have had everything done for them? The same questions could be asked about the people who have recently been released from prison."

"Despite the fact that many good programmes are in place to prepare people for life outside their institution, a considerable number appear to fall through the safety net. If only there was a viable and sustainable alternative! It would be interesting to know just how many people are in this situation.”

“We at Recycling Lives feel this is an area where we can help and would be interested to hear from anyone who would be interested in supplying statistics or information relating to homelessness in ex-service personnel or ex-offenders.”


Mr Jackson also explained the relevance of the organisation’s enthusiasm for tackling regeneration and the issue of worklessness.

“We strongly believe that the introduction of a work ethic (subject to the person’s current status and ability) can go a long way to making a person feel useful and increase their self worth and self esteem.”

“Regeneration and an improved environment also contribute to a feeling of well-being for employees and the local community. Tackling both homelessness and worklessness complement and balance each other perfectly. After all giving someone a safe place and a job with security is our mission and sustainability is our target."

What Charles Jackson said struck a chord with me, as having grown up in the Welsh coal-mining valleys, I experienced first hand the effects of the mine closures in the 1980s, hitting the people and the community hard. As soon as I turned 18, I moved away to the bright lights of Nottingham, working hard for a degree to improve my prospects. But my visits home witnessed social change. It was no longer a working class community but an unemployed community, with an increase in shop closures, the emergence of security shutters and reduced self-esteem in many who would rely on the spirit of camaraderie offered by the local pubs.

I truly understand why Charles Jackson and Recycling Lives are passionate about these things and having come from a community where such issues are prevalent I appreciate the company's commitment.


So from its purpose built facility in Lancashire, Recycling Lives now provides a unique multi-agency approach to addressing the causes of worklessness and homelessness through the provision of a range of opportunities, including employment, skills-training and new business incubation, as well as a professional strategy for reducing landfill waste.

The team believes that everyone deserves a home, a job, and a safe and secure environment in which to live, work and play. Its activities are based on a set of fundamental values, including compassion, equality, fairness, opportunity for all, partnership, dignity and creativity.

I really admire Recycling Lives for this vision and how the organisation channels its experience in waste management to this end. I just love the synergy and the way in which it turns the demand for waste management services into social income that creates opportunities for those hit by poverty in this way.

And it really makes you think! Every time someone in Preston sends stuff off for recycling, whether it is household waste, electronic gadgets, computers, metal scrap or end-of-life vehicles, someone else has the opportunity to have their life turned around. It makes so much sense, doesn't it? And this is how things should be.

What's great is that Recycling Lives' vision is to create 50 sites across the UK, a strategy that could bring local benefits to the people in your area, which is why I would like to support this organisation in more ways than one. I would really like to see them achieve this goal.

However, as well as income from its recycling business, Recycling Lives is a charity that still depends upon the voluntary giving and fundraising of its supporters. So in addition to making a modest personal donation, you'll now see the Recycling Lives logo is taking pride of place on this blog to help raise awareness of how recycling can help others in need.

So please take a look at their website and at the unique profile of its business. It really is worth a visit. Just hop over to And if you would like to make a donation, please call 0870 420 2872.

Of course, you too can use recycling opportunities to help those in poverty by doing something that's simple but fun! If you haven't managed to slim your bin yet, why not challenge yourself to a Sponsored Rubbish Diet. That's right, raise money for a good cause while you reduce your waste. You could even get people to double their money if you hit zero. Now there's a great excuse to get started.

If you're up for it try going head-to-head with friends and family, your colleagues at work or other parents at school. Make a big event of it. Just pick your charity and pick your week. Then recycle more and waste less. Finally send your money off to your chosen cause.

Of course I would be delighted if you donated your proceeds to Recycling Lives and I think it would make a wonderful surprise for them too.

Please note all photographs used in this post are copyright Recycling Lives.


This post is part of Blog Action Day 08 - Poverty, where over 9000 bloggers are joining together to raise awareness of poverty. According to the UK Coalition Against Poverty, 20% of the people in the UK are affected by this issue and around half of Britain's families living in poverty today live in a household where an adult is in work. The number of single people living in poverty has increased by 300,000 to 3.9 million since 1996.

Other interesting posts include:

Caring about poverty: at Groves Media
Poverty at Home Drawing at Rachel Creative
How I learned not to be selfish and love the power of porridge at Mission Creep
Focusing on Poverty at My Zero Waste
Poverty and Environmentalism at Tiny Choices


Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Fed up of over-packaging?

Then join the campaign, which will be taken by Green Voice to the UK Government. As we know every little LESS helps.


Monday, 13 October 2008

Carnival of Trash #4

Welcome to the October 13, 2008 edition of carnival of trash. This month, it's come back home where it all started just four months ago! Not for long though, because next month it's travelling up to Mansfield to the lovely home of the most fabarooney Jo Beaufoix.

So, get your gladrags on and bang the beat for edition 4 of The Carnival of Trash, where we've got a a whole range of fabulous delights for you this month.


Cindy presents Recycled Mini Shoulder Bag posted at My Recycled, saying, "Here is my little shoulder bag purse which is crocheted from recycled plastic bags. It's a fun and quick project which uses only about 12-15 plastic bags to complete. So grab some of those bags and crochet yourself a handy little purse with this free pattern."

Mrs Green presents Little Miss Green declutters posted at MY ZERO WASTE, saying, "One sunny morning, a mother enters her daughter's bedroom and steps on something sharp......It's time for a declutter."

Tracey Smith presents Recycle your plastic - Make Sex Fantastic posted at The Book of Rubbish Ideas, saying, "Now there's a broad claim if ever I heard one!"

Reducing Waste

Katie presents More Music, Less Waste posted at A Green Fire.

Jen presents Day 76: Wasted Food, Or Not posted at The Clean Bin Project, saying, "Sorry, I'm very very late. i don't blame you if this doesn't make it in."

Jo Beaufoix presents Saving the World with the Beaufoixs posted at Jo Beaufoix.


Condo Blues presents How to Make Old Doc Martin Boots into a Hip Flower Pot posted at Condo Blues, saying, "When life gives you old Docs - make a flower pot!"

Zero Waste

Almost Mrs Average presents Colouring in the Week posted at The Rubbish Diet, saying, "When the going gets tough, the tough hunt down a rainbow"

That concludes this edition. Thanks to everyone for their fantastic submissions. To participate in the next edition, please submit your blog article using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.


Sunday, 12 October 2008

"So who's nicked me wife?"...

...said the man with grey hair and trendy glasses, who commonly goes by the name of Almost Mr Average.

"I said...who the heck has nicked me wife?" he repeated, thinking I hadn't heard the first time.

But I had heard. I was just on my way back into the kitchen to get a serving spoon for the apple crumble, when the first comment came.

And I smiled...especially when I considered the evidence.

With a home-made sponge pudding for Friday's dessert and Bolognese for yesterday's lunch, followed by some home-made biscuits, he has been rather spoiled. And as for today, there was the home-made tomato soup for lunch, while the kids had the spaghetti version, which they call 'worms-in-mud'.

But I suppose it was the roast chicken dinner, followed by the apple crumble that I whipped up earlier, proved without doubt that the bodysnatchers had paid a visit.

No surprise he's been wondering what's occurring.

I was most definitely having what I call my Stepford Wives moment, where the seemingly perfect wife rises up like a pheonix from the ashes of can't be bovveredus.

You, see. This is how life is. I flit like Jekyll and Hyde when it comes to the kitchen.

I can cook and I can cook really well, but sometimes I just don't have the time to put my mind to it, the inclination to get off my butt, the imagination to whizz up something creative, the patience to follow a recipe or even the strength of mind to cope with my very teeny weeny kitchen, which has about as much workspace as a postage stamp. It feels so cramped it is most definitely the least desirable room in the house, yet it should be the heart of our home.

When I get like this, my inner chef goes AWOL! Yep, packs up the bags and leaves home without notice, leaving me with the capacity to do little more than conjure up anything that simply goes with slices of bread, pasta, cheese and raw vegetables. Desserts go AWOL, along with the chef and Mr A is left wanting...for weeks....and sometimes months on end! Even jacket spuds seem like an effort. And that's how bad it gets!

I convince myself I don't have the time and I make myself even busier. I then persuade myself I'm a crap cook, because I'm not even finding time to tackle the basics and eventually it needs the force of an army to get me back into the kitchen for any longer than 10 minutes.

But here I sit tonight, feeling like I have fed an army, fed them well and at very little cost (even the free-range-chicken was an end-of-day buy off yesterday's market for just £2) and the best thing is I've also got leftovers in the fridge ready to use-up this week. I'll add the remains of the tomato soup to the bolognese and throw in some chillis for tomorrow's lunch.. I'll mix up some custard and chop in the sponge pudding for dessert, perhaps with some pureed apple. I've also portioned out the leftover crumble into individual ramekin dishes for dessert on Tuesday. Now that feels posh!

And I shouldn't forget the chicken stock that's currently simmering on the hob, which can be whizzed up into a delicious soup with the chicken leftovers. Geez, I might even fall over myself with excitement and freeze it for later in the week!

So hooray, at last the Stepford Wife is back and I'm back to my ready-steady-cook self, enjoying myself in my very own experimental kitchen, just bunging in whatever I have to come up with some love jubbly delights. What's great is that this perfect wifey will be hanging about for a while, because that's what generally happens before she disappears in a puff again!

I wish I could bottle up the secret to guarantee her future return. It might mean that I could just snap my fingers in the future and get that wifey back in the kitchen cooking up a fantastic frenzy, when all else goes glum.

I don't know why this domestic demon returns. It might have something to do with the seasons. I love autumn and I love the puddings that accompany the transition into winter...It could even be that we're at home more,now that Mr A has finished his latest Open University stretch (yes it does seem like he's imprisoned in the world of study, when it's all going on)...It could also be that I've been given two huge bags full of cooking apples...

Or it might have been that I've talked myself back into my frivolous culinary ways while writing the latest chapter, provisionally called Can't Cook, Won't Cook. When I headlined all the excuses for not cooking from scratch, I realised that I was actually looking at a portrait of myself. And for each excuse, I produced many a reason to overcome estranged relations with the mixing bowl and oven.

So perhaps I shocked myself back into the kitchen.

Wahay! Well I'm so glad I did! So maybe that's the secret to getting the Stepford Wife back, to keep reading what I wrote. Ha ha! If it works for me, it'll hopefully work for others, because surely I can't be the only one who's trapped in this schizophrenic madness when it comes to cuisine!

I guess time will tell. In the meantime, I'll mention another reason for Mr A's relief.

His anniversary surprise on Friday was a home-made Cornish Pastie, with the aim of conjuring up memories from many a holiday spent in far flung Cornwall.

It wasn't quite what we both expected.

The pastry was as dry as stale bread and the filling was like chewing old socks. So it was just a bloody good job we had a whole bottle of champers to wash the experience down.

So that'll teach me for trying out new things on important occasions. The funny thing is on this occasion, I even stuck to a recipe. Now that's what I call sod's law!

[BTW - to see what surprise he got from the recycling bin, I've put an update on Friday's anniversary post. LOL]

Friday, 10 October 2008

Happy Anniversary Mr A!

We've always got something to celebrate over at the Almost Average household. And today is no exception. It's our 10th Wedding Anniversary and I've just discovered that the traditional gift for ten years together should be something made from aluminium or tin....

Well, I know Mr A and I agreed on no gifts this year, but....(impish laugh begins)...I'm going to have a root in the recycling bin and see what I can find...

And while I do that, I'll leave you with a wonderful clip of how to celebrate wedding anniversaries, Flintstone style...

ADDENDUM: Sunday October 12

By special request...don't hold your breath but what Mr A got as his "no present" surprise started out as this, an innocent aluminium foil pot:

and after being attacked with a scissors, ended up as this.....

Now who said romance is dead eh!


Thursday, 9 October 2008

A Poem about Rubbish

I heard on the radio earlier that today is National Poetry Day. Indeed I am not a poet and oh yes I know it, but somehow I just couldn't resist.

So, sit back while I torture you with my own contribution.


It’s a funny old thing is my rubbish
It breeds and breeds on its own
I chuck it all in
a huge wheelie bin
Then into a lorry it’s thrown!

It’s a funny old thing is my rubbish
It springs up from a place called thin air
It gradually appears
and then DISappears
As if it had never been there.

It’s a funny old thing is my rubbish
It all got too much to take
So I reduced what I bought
and decided I ought
Finish off all the meals that I make

It’s a funny old thing is my rubbish
I recycle much more than I did
I’m not sure how
but I’ll take a bow
Cos I can finally close my bin lid

It’s a funny old thing is my rubbish
I no longer create much at all
64 grams it all weighs
with trash from the last seven days
I’ve now got a bin that’s as slim as it’s tall

It’s a funny old thing is my rubbish
And I’ll tell you this in haste
It’s certainly no trick
and I’m no Clever Dick
It’s all thanks to what we call Zero Waste

It’s a funny old thing is my rubbish
It's even got a new name
It’s no longer rubbish of course
It’s now a RESOURCE
So to send it to landfill’s a shame.

They're funny old things are my resources
They now hang about for all to see
On a hook on my wall
And in bags in the hall
For me to take to the HWRC!

It's a funny old thing is my rubbish
HWRC is what we once called the tip
But it's no longer a dump
so in the car you should jump
It's most definitely worth the trip.

It's a funny old thing is my rubbish
The whole thing now drives me insane
But I think it's time
that I should stop this rhyme
Before I get accused of becoming inane!

It's a funny old thing is my rubbish...................!

Created in a moment of madness on Thursday 9th October 2008 for National Poetry Day


Are you from Denmark?

Today I have got a special request of an international nature.

I have been approached by a Danish freelance journalist called Sole Møller who is interested in following up consumer's waste related projects in Denmark?

Perhaps you can help and if you can't maybe you know someone who can.

The key requirements are that you need to be based in Denmark and have done something to reduce the amount of waste that you throw away. Whether it's storing your garbage in the basement or if you've taken other radical measures, Sole is interested in hearing from you.

So if you have a story that you would like to share please email him directly at by 20th October.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Just Gai's Zero Waste Challenge

It may seem like a Tale of Two Cities, yesterday Bath and today Bristol, but I am very pleased to venture over the border into my husband's home city to discover how blogger Just Gai got on with her Zero Waste Week, which was organised by Bristol City Council.

Having already been fairly green for a while, Just Gai and her family of four were initially inspired by the Rubbish Diet and Mrs Green’s Zero Waste Challenge. She had even been considering setting up her own independent challenge. However she admits that it might never have happened if she hadn't seen an advert for Bristol’s Zero Waste Challenge Week in a local magazine. The advert was the impetus she needed and was perfectly timed to give her a few weeks’ practice before the real thing.

Even though Bristol's main event was last week in the form of Zero Waste Challenge Week, her own challenge actually started just over four weeks ago, when she began blogging about her experiences over at

I am delighted that Just Gai allowed me to interview her to uncover more about what she did and how she did it. So, please sit back and relax, while Just Gai and I talk rubbish!

How much waste did you regularly throw out before you started your Zero Waist blog 4 weeks ago?

Approximately one swing bin liner a week.

How does this compare to the amount you threw away during the week before the Zero Waste Challenge Week?

The week before the challenge I threw away 135g of waste, which was about the equivalent of a 1\4 of a carrier bag.

That's a huge difference and in just three weeks. What recycling facilities did you have at your disposal?

In addition to our fortnightly regular bin collection we have a weekly kerbside collection of our black recycling box and brown kitchen waste bucket. We are able to recycle paper, cardboard, glass, tins, aluminium foil, batteries, spectacles, clothes, shoes etc in the black box and raw and cooked food waste in the brown bucket. Plastic bottles and drinks cartons are not collected but can be recycled in bins in our local supermarket car parks. I also have a compost bin and a wormery.

What has been the hardest part of the challenge?

Being organised enough to avoid having to make wasteful purchases. I tend to live from day to day, often picking up food on my way home from work. This is alright if I can get to my local shops but not if I have to resort to my nearest supermarket where almost everything is wrapped in layers of plastic.

What was easier than you thought?

I decided to ask local shopkeepers to place items such as meat, fish, olives etc directly into my plastic containers rather than in a plastic bag. I was afraid they would refuse to do so or, even worse, not take me seriously, but I needn’t have worried because, in the event, they were all very happy to oblige, even in my local supermarket.

Do you think it has been easier or harder living in a city, or did it make very little difference?

Never having lived in the country I am not qualified to answer this question but I would imagine, perhaps incorrectly, that a city council would be able to offer a wider range of recycling facilities than a rural one. Also, unless the rural community was able to offer a variety of local shops, which is increasingly unlikely, then residents might be forced to use neighbouring supermarkets, which are generally more wasteful.

Do you think that blogging about your experiences made a difference to how you tackled the challenge?

It was your blog and that of Mrs Green that set me on this path and posting my experiences on Zero Waist helped me concentrate my thoughts and inform my actions during the run up to and the challenge week itself. It was also the means by which I was featured in Bristol’s Evening Post which enabled me to reach a wider audience. I was encouraged by the comments and support I received from those who read my blog and were kind enough to leave comments. Blogs are useful vehicles for exchanging information and useful tips. They put a human face on what can be a rather depressing subject.

How do you think the challenge will impact on family life from now on?

I will never be able to shop again without giving as much consideration to the outside of a product as to what’s inside. Which is not to say that I will never buy anything wrapped in plastic again. However, when I do, it will be because there is no viable alternative. My family were very supportive of my challenge and, with the exception of the odd packet of sherbet and bag of crisps, went without many of their favourite foods. I am acutely aware of the danger of forcing the issue with teenagers, but I hope that my daughters (aged 14 and 16) appreciated what I was trying to achieve and that, even if not immediately, it will have a positive influence on their lifestyle in the future.

How would you encourage others to have a go at a Zero Waste challenge?

I would urge them to give it a go. I relish a challenge and so I had to go for broke. To those who are less foolhardy than myself, I would suggest that they start with one thing and wait until they are comfortable with it before moving on to another. Investing in a reuseable shopping bag to avoid plastic carriers is as good a place to begin as any.

From reading your blog, it is evident that after a "shaky" start, you managed a number of consecutive Zero Waste days, when nothing went in your bin at all. I am sure readers will be keen to find out what you had in the bin at the end of the week. Can you show us?

At the end of Zero Waste Week I threw away 5g of waste, comprising 2 pieces of plastic tape and 5 plastic labels and a metal seal from a string of chorizo sausages.

And what amazing results too, just a tiny amount of plastic that can easily fit into the palm of her hand.

As you know, I'm getting to like poking my nose in other people's rubbish and I am truly grateful that Just Gai obliged and something tells me her swing bin could be looking for new accommodation.

But seriously what will happen now? On her blog Just Gai acknowledges that she won't be able to keep this up on a permanent basis as there are too many essentials that her family just can't live without such as pasta, couscous and pitta bread, all of which are packaged in unrecyclable plastic. However she plans to carry on taking her containers to the shops, will recycle all plastic bags and will continue to bake more.

The other great news is that even though the challenge is over, Just Gai hopes she will continue to blog about various waste issues from time to time over at her Zerowaist blog.

So while I'm cracking open the champagne to celebrate her hard work and resounding success, please do keep popping by her blog to see how she's getting on. If she's not around, try her other excellent blog, which can be found at


Tuesday, 7 October 2008

How the Bakers fared in Zero Waste Week

Last week, I promised I would catch up with the Baker family regarding the successes of their Zero Waste Week challenge, which was organised by Bath and North East Somerset Council.

Judith kindly provided me with a full summary of how the week went. It really brings home the actual issues to hand and helps put things into perspective for the average family, which is why I've sought permission from Judith to publish the full update.


"First the good news: the bin lorry passed my front gate at 8.30 this morning but there was no bin bag for it to collect from the Baker family. So it was indeed Zero Waste Week, for the first time ever. Should we break out the elderflower champagne?

Later perhaps - and, as always, the truth is more complicated.

Just before the screeching of brakes announced the imminent arrival of the Bath & NE Somerset Council refuse truck, I snapped on my rubber gloves and delved into the bin under the sink to see whether there was anything to put out.

There was indeed a little bit of rubbish. Not much, less than a quarter of one of our normal mini-swing bin liners. It was pretty well all plastic film of one sort or another, the sort not taken by Polyprint or Impact (at least, not according to their website). But there was nothing smelly or 'orrible, so I just weighed it (200g) and left it. And there was yet another lightbulb (150g). Hmm, what is going on here - that's three in two weeks. Low energy, short life?

Not all rubbish makes it into the main kitchen bin immediately, so one regular Monday morning task is to empty the bins in other rooms.

  • Sitting room: all paper and card - no problem.
  • Giant bin in my home-worker office: full to overflowing, but all paper which will go in the green crate on Thursday.
  • Bedrooms: one family member has had a heavy cold so there was a mass of tissues. Someone once told me you can put used tissues on the compost, but I draw the line at putting tissues full of cold germs in with my vegetable peelings and grass clippings. Instead I wrapped up the tissues and put them in the bathroom bin, which is where the bad news breaks.
Those of a sensitive disposition should look away now:
  • 2 old toothbrushes and one empty tube of toothpaste (35g); 1 empty bottle of cold remedy with an non-removable metal-and-plastic cap and two empty plastic pill packets (another 35g); Tissues and ummm ... feminine hygiene products (sorry, I did warn you) 200g The dratted contact lens pods - a rigid plastic dish and a plasticised foil lid (150g, two weeks' worth for 3 of us)
It was not a huge amount, certainly not enough to make me change my mind and run after the bin lorry, but it is clear that this is an area that needs a lot more work.

Finally, a review of the recyclables. In the cupboard under the stairs, along with the green crate for bottles, paper, tins and soft plastic containers, there is 475g of plastic wrapping destined for Polyprint.

I really do not mind sending one pack a month of very tightly screwed up magazine wrapping, frozen pea bags and bread bags to Norwich at a modest £1.52 a time.

Also awaiting action is 100g of rigid plastic.
I tried hard not to acquire any at all this week, but my daughter and I would have starved on the long train journey home from York to Bath if we had not bought a prepared salad and a yogurt each.

I will send it to GHS, so it did not end up in the bin this week. But I am not going to make a habit of it, because the economist in me screams "This is madness".
The pots needed washing up (warm water, eco-washing up liquid) and careful drying; they are bulky and will make an awkward parcel. And I simply do not believe it is sensible for individual households to post yogurt pots round the country.

I have heard a rumour to the effect that Bath & NE Somerset is considering collecting a wider range of plastics in the next 2 years. For me, that can't come soon enough. I would even be willing to take them to a Council depot, as I do with my Tetra-Paks, as long as it does not mean a special journey. (By the way, one of my neighbours takes his plastic back to the supermarket, on the basis that if they are confronted with it, they will mend their ways and start wrapping food in compostable or fully recyclable packaging. But garbage guerrilla action isn't my thing. Yet.)

Two lessons from this week: (1) packaging and forgetfulness are the enemy of zero waste, at least in this household, and (2) I would do a lot better if retailers reviewed their packaging policies and the Council collected plastics. "

Huge congratulations go to Judith and her family for reducing their rubbish to just under 800g in a week. The event has shown that even if a family's rubbish is still low, it is always worth signing up for a Zero Waste Challenge as it provides new opportunities to reassess the facilities that are available.

However, the news doesn't look good regarding Judith's plastics. I caught up with Sarah George, Waste Campaigns Officer for Bath & North East Somerset, one of the key organisers of the challenge, who confirmed that despite rumours there are no timescales or definite plans for extending plastics recycling at present. I guess this may change as markets are firmed up and infrastructures are developed in the future.

I also asked Sarah for some feedback on the council's Zero Waste challenge.

"We've been really pleased with the response to this year's Zero Waste Challenge Week". She told me

"Altogether 4 adjacent authorities have taken part and we've had staff teams, schools and community groups all getting involved and giving the challenge a go. We are looking forward to seeing how we can develop this challenge further in the future."

One of the adjacent authorities that Sarah mentioned was Bristol, where Just Gai has been participating her Zero Waste Week. So as we leave the Bakers with a congratulatory round of applause, do come back later this week to see how Just Gai has got on.

But before we head off to Bristol, I'd like to thank Judith for both participating in and supporting this blog. Her insight is a valuable one, as we strive to tackle this thing we love to hate...waste....! And her experience has definitely proven that once you've done a Zero Waste challenge, life can never be the same again.


Monday, 6 October 2008

It's carnival time again

It's incredible how quickly time flies when you're having fun and next week, it's carnival time again! Yes, The Rubbish Diet will be hosting issue 4 of the Carnival of Trash.

So, if you've got something to add on the subject of waste, whether you call it trash, garbage or rubbish, your work will be welcome here.

Please submit all entries at the Carnival of Trash page which can be found at:

The deadline is 10th October.


Saturday, 4 October 2008

Sucking Strawberries on a Saturday night

Good grief - I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror just now.

I looked like I was sucking lemons instead of strawberries. It was a scene worthy of Candid Camera and I didn't know whether to laugh, cry or just finish the whole punnet.

If you've never tried it you should really give this a go, even for entertainment purposes alone.

You see, this afternoon I stumbled over the most amazing fact that strawberries can be used as a natural whitener for teeth and are reported to remove stains such as those caused by tea and coffee.

According to an article at Health, you just need to mash up a single strawberry and mix the pulp with some Baking Soda (Bicarbonate of Soda) to create a paste. Then apply with a toothbrush and leave it there for 5 minutes. The malic acid from the strawberry will be left to do the work, after which you brush again and rinse.

However, it was the advice at Natural Elements that appealed to me, which simply recommended biting into a strawberry and rubbing the pulp over your teeth.

So having asked Mr A to pick up a punnet in town this afternoon, I have now worked through its entire contents.

It wasn't that I'd overlooked the fact that only one strawberry was needed, they were just so damn tasty.

And the best thing is, I'm sure it's worked!

I just hope Mr A wasn't expecting a dessert tonight because he will be disappointed!

So next time you get a chance to indulge in these delicious red beauties, I suggest you give it a go. Just try and keep a straight face while you're at it!


Friday, 3 October 2008

Can it get any better than this?

One week's rubbish, two year's on.

I’ve often wondered what life must be like several years after doing a Zero Waste Week. So you can imagine my excitement in discovering the Baker family from Bath who took part in a similar challenge two years ago

Judith and her partner Simon signed up to the challenge, along with their teenagers Matt and Laura, when Bath and North East Somerset council launched their first Zero Waste Week in 2006, a concept which had just been introduced to the UK from an idea that had already been spreading around New Zealand, Australia and Canada.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to talk to Judith about her thoughts on waste and what initially attracted her to the original challenge.

As a post-war baby, I had grown up with the waste-not-want-not message.” She told me, “My family were already behind the idea of leaving a smaller footprint on the earth and the Zero Waste Week supported both these ideals.

Before their Zero Waste Week challenge, the family weighed their rubbish, two bin bags (swing bin size) which came in at 4.5 kilograms. By the end of the week they had reduced this by 80% to an amazing 900g, amounting to just half a bin bag.

Judith was already used to recycling, sorting newspapers, magazines, greetings cards and scrap paper, as well as glass bottles, jars, tins, cans for their kerbside collection. They were also lucky to have plastic bottles collected too along with batteries, textiles and shoes. Everything was sorted into plastic bags for their fortnightly collection. They generated very little food waste, so this wasn’t a problem. They also composted their peelings and whatever scraps were left would always be put out for the birds.

With excellent recycling facilities and with a garden waste service to boot, which also accepted cardboard, it might have seemed that there was nothing else to tackle. However this was not the case.

Things like plastic fruit punnets weren’t collected by our council,” said Judith “neither were yoghurt pots or margarine tubs. We would also have had a problem with Tetra Pak cartons and polythene bags but I found out we could recycle Tetrapaks, posting them to Perry’s in Bridgewater and we could send magazine wrappings, frozen vegetable bags and bread bags to Polyprint in Norfolk”.

After all this effort I wondered what did actually end up in their Zero Waste Week bin two years ago. Judith enlightened me.

Just some miscellaneous plastic packaging, such as crisp packets, a plastic tray from a tiramisu and a croissant wrapper as well as some scrambled eggs and baked beans that went wrong, which in retrospect could have been put on the bird table”.

Having made a massive reduction to their household waste, I was also keen to find out whether this effort was sustained after Zero Waste Week. What was the impact of the challenge and how much does the family now throw away?

Judith revealed “We now throw out one swing bin’s worth of rubbish per week. We learned a lot from the challenge and I have continued sending my polythene wrappings to Polyprint. It costs £1.52 per month to post a package weighing just under 500g. It would make things so much easier if the council collected all types of bags and wrappings. We also continue to recycle Tetra Paks, but no longer have to send them to Perry’s thanks to a recycling service set up by the council.

This is a fantastic example of how once an individual or a family experiences such a challenge, life can never be the same again. Admittedly the amount of rubbish went up after Zero Waste Week, but the reality is that there is a regular reduction of 50% that has been constant over the last two years. It really does demonstrate the longevity of the effects of such a campaign on a family’s lifestyle.

The great news is that Judith has signed up for the Zero Waste Challenge again, the one that is currently being organised by Bath & NES, which is taking place this week. The only change in the family circumstances is that son Matt has now gone off to university. I wanted to find out what she thought might happen this time.

I know that plastic will be my downfall,” she asserted. “I will make an effort not to acquire certain plastics but I don’t have access to a street market which would help to reduce this. I also know the bathroom bin will be a problem. We all wear contact lenses, so there will be a mass of plastic pods. There is also the problem of new types of polythene packaging, such as the bread bags introduced by the Co-op which are labelled Oxo-degradable. These can’t be recycled so will have to go to landfill.

I managed to catch up with Judith on Wednesday evening to get an update about how things were going this week. Just like in 2006, the first task was to weigh the amount of rubbish from the week before. Quite timely for the Bakers, Day one was also Bin Day. So how big was last week's rubbish?

"We only put out one bag, which weighed a shade over 2 kilos, well under half of what we used to put out before ZWW 2006. More than half that 2 kilos was one single item - a large tub of tile grout, nearly full, which had gone off since the last time we did any DIY and was unusable. If I treat the grout as one-off or exceptional item, I was putting out just under one kilo, or roughly the same weight as I did at the end of ZWW 06. So we haven't been backsliding too badly. "

That's a great starting point, just one bag! But how were things faring by Wednesday night, Day 3 of the challenge? I asked Judith to have a quick check on their current rubbish.

As she poked about her bin, this is what she had to say.

"OH NO did I really put the eggshells in there? Shame on me. Into the compost with you, my beauties, along with the tealeaves (a moment's inattention from someone who shall be nameless). The rest is crisp packets from packed lunches and a few of those pesky semi-degradable plastic wrappers, unsuitable for Polyprint. But there are notable absences: no yogurt pots this week because I bought a brand which comes in a re-usable clear pot with a cardboard stiffener, and the chocolate mousses came in earthenware pots which are eminently re-usable."

And is there anything else?

"There is still a bit of clingfilm but a lot less than usual. I have been trying to give it up, honest. It's just that it is so very useful for covering left-overs in the fridge in such a way that I don't forget they are there ...
So half-way through, I can see that even now it won't be zero waste, but I am hoping for an improvement on last time."

Well, I think that's fantastic and I am looking forward to their final weigh-in next week.

If Judith does end up with any rigid plastic containers, she will save them up until she has a decent amount to mail to GHS Plastics in Portsmouth, which I recommended to her after seeing the company featured on

I’ve also got some some more news for Judith and anyone else who’s participating in a Zero Waste Challenge. As well as GHS and Polyprint, I’ve discovered that Impact Recycling in Kent will accept deliveries of a whole host of household waste items, including the plastic punnets that Judith found tricky the first time round. The great news is there’s not a minimum requirement, just a simple request to sort items into separate bags.

So that's another source that will help the Bakers slim their bin even further, even if something odd pops up like a cracked CD.

There are still a few nerve-racking days until the end of the challenge, so while we’re waiting to catch up with the Bakers next week, you might want to find out more about the resources mentioned in this post. The links are listed below:

GHS: Tel: 0808-100-1456

Impact Recycling: Tel: 01634 255400

Perrys Recycling (office recycling): 01935 850111

Polyprint Mailing Films: 01603 721807

And please remember, if you're planning on sending items through to the companies concerned, please call first to check their current arrangements.

More information about the Bath and North East Somerset's Zero Waste Challenge Week, can be found at

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