Monday, 30 December 2013

Farewell 2013 and hello 2014: Reflecting backwards and pondering forwards.

I hope you had a great Christmas and are are looking forward to the new year.

If you haven't done so yet, there's no better time to sign up for the Rubbish Diet Challenge and make it your new year's resolution,  You'll be in great company, with 100s of people signing up by the day, thanks to The Rubbish Diet being the Campaign of the Week at Money Saving Expert.

It's been an amazing year and probably one of the most difficult from which to choose a particular highlight!

January kicked off with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust running the Rubbish Diet, which saw great results from their dieters and resulted in meeting the fabulous bloggers who took part, including Sarah (Everyday life on a shoestring) and Jen (Make and Mend Year).

Of course, running all through the year was the enormous team effort to implement the Rubbish Diet in Suffolk, Shropshire and Powys as part of the Nesta Waste Reduction Challenge.  Sadly, we didn't win the £50k but it was brilliant to be one of the finalists and come out of the process with an established team, a purpose built website and a radio production toolkit.  Congratulations to the Gleaning project which won - a worthy project that helps rescue surplus produce from our farmers' fields for distribution to charities.

And dotted throughout the various campaigns were great opportunities to visit places such as San Francisco - as part of the Zero Waste International Alliance Dialog - to learn about how the city attains such a high recycling and composting rate at 80% and hear from practitioners from around the world about waste at different levels, not just recycling but from a humanitarian perspective too.

Whilst there, I also had time to finally catch up with Beth Terry, an old blogging friend and author of My Plastic Free Life.  I've known Beth since 2008, so it was a wonderful chance to meet and hear her stories of how she's now influencing Richard Branson.  Back in the UK, I managed to meet our own plastic-free hero, ironically self-titled Polythene Pam, who has since created a new Plastic-free directory of tips and resources, which you can find at

There was no rest for the wicked even during the summer.  A call from ITV brought an opportunity to trek to the North West to help the Heap family reduce their waste.   To see their negativity towards recycling turn towards enthusiasm and determination was utterly brilliant.  They soon reduced their landfill by 95%.  When you catch the waste reduction bug and see what's possible, it's proof that slimming your bin can really be contagious.

Towards the end of the summer I had the chance to meet Jen and Grant, more blogging pals from the Clean Bin Project in Canada, and send them to several of my favourite zero-waste hotspots for their UK film tour.  They had a great tour and if you haven't seen it yet, the Clean Bin movie is one upbeat documentary about reducing rubbish that you really shouldn't miss.

The second half of the year brought even more excitement with Rachelle Strauss' 6th National Zero Waste Week building on the successes of last year.  If you took part and thought that was good, just wait until you see what's planned for next September.

The last few months also saw waste professionals taking the Rubbish Diet challenge, which brought an interesting focus on testing whether they could 'practise what they preach.'  A highlight was Viridor's Dan Cooke's tale of working out what to do with an old wetsuit and CIWM Wales' Rebecca Colley-Jones challenge of turning her unexpected offal leftovers into a haggis. I hope they'll blog about them soon, especially as an insider's view offers a fascinating perspective.

The BBC Radio Suffolk Rubbish didn't win the CIWM communications campaign award, but it was great to be in the finals.  Here in Suffolk, presenter Mark Murphy's and I had loads of fun talking rubbish and listening to residents' stories, united in a single mission to reduce the county's waste.

That was a real highlight, as was interviewing and recruiting our first Bin Doctor for a campaign further afield in Harrow, not to mention joining the Board of Trustees at ReusefulUK.

So what's for next year?

With fantastic partners and a great team in place managing The Rubbish Diet joint venture, I hope for the website and local engagement projects to go from strength-to-strength.  I'm already looking forward to Wiltshire Wildlife Trust bringing the challenge to their local projects for the second year running as well as The Rubbish Diet taking to the streets of Harrow this January.   Our Harrow Bin Doctor, Debra, is already in place working closely with our community engagement manager, Ali, and has been talking rubbish with local community groups.  With most Rubbish Dieters having reduced their waste by 50% over the last 12 months, I hope for much more of this in 2014 and I am very excited about where The Rubbish Diet will travel this year, especially as more and more supporters sign up around the UK.

From a local perspective in my part of Suffolk, I want to continue to research and highlight the fantastic solutions that are being put in place by businesses and communities to reduce waste, to empower those who want to follow suit.  There's lots of potential to connect interested individuals and organisations through a reuse culture alone.

My other focus is on the innovative, motivating and entertaining aspects of waste reduction in a mission to bring a renewed vigour of interest in the topic to our TV screens, showcasing the possibilities and realities of what can be achieved.  There is so much more that our media can do to empower the nation and highlight issues where it's needed too.

And as for industry, I want retailers and brands to take an even closer look at the rubbish they sell us and in cases where hard-to-recycle plastic is used for cosmetic rather than protective reasons, redesign it for easier recycling.  Starting with something as simple as the ubiquitous plastic gift card would prove an instant hit.  If iTunes can switch to a card-based alternative, hopefully other gift cards will follow.  There is so much more to tackle than small cards but I also believe that what we might perceive as small things are also worthy of attention.  There is great value to be had in not forgetting that old saying 'Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves'.  Attending to the tiny details can often lead to huge change.

I hope that that 2014 will bring more exciting stories and innovations that will inspire more change. Against the tide of government cuts and news that recycling rates that are flat-lining, both individual action and community support is going to be more important than ever.

I know my ambitions for next year are high as is my level of confidence in people's abilities to make a significant reduction in our country's waste.

But I also know that by thinking big and with the right support in place, many things are possible.

So thank you to everyone who has made 2013 such a whirlwind of amazing waste-busting adventures.  Here's to whatever 2014 will bring.

Happy New Year!


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