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environment recycle reduce reuse

Why we need Zero Waste Week!

Zero Waste Week logoLast week there was a discussion on a local business forum about the best coffee maker to get for the office. Opinion was divided between various big brands of pod-based coffee machines. I took a deep breath and bravely suggested that none of these were ideal, as they all generated a huge amount single-use plastic waste. Well, you’d have thought I’d criticised someone’s choice of baby name, the reaction I got! It all boiled down to “why should we be challenged on the waste we create?!”

It was ironic that this conversation came just before Zero Waste Week. The point of Zero Waste Week is to encourage everyone to think about the amount of waste they create and think of ways in which they can reduce it, with an ultimate goal of not creating any waste at all. It is a challenge, and challenges are hard!

Sculpture made of WEEE waste
Sculpture made of WEEE waste at the Eden Project

The average UK household produces 1 tonne of waste a year, and alarmingly this amount is increased by 3% every year. We throw away twenty times more plastic than we did 50 years ago. The main reason for the increase is that convenience is prized far higher than sustainability. And yet, it estimated that Britain will run out of landfill in approximately 8 years.

So, this is the reason we DO need to be challenged about the waste we create. I don’t claim to be perfect, I am a long way from being Zero Waste, but I do think about the purchasing choices I make. The waste reduction scale starts with REFUSE, then REDUCE, then REUSE, then RECYCLE and finally landfill, and yet a lot of people think they are doing their best by recycling that which is collected kerb side.

I agree that some of our problems with waste are the cause of companies, who have things such as built in obsolesence, contracts that encourage further purchase etc and these need to be tackled by government and by campaigning, but that doesn’t completely absolve the individual of the need to take responsibility for the products they introduce into the supply chain. I’ve blogged before on easy ways to reduce your waste or even just your single use plastic, but it starts with thinking.

Thinking: “Do I REALLY need this?” “Do I have something else that can do the job?” “Can I source this second hand or borrow it from someone?” “How will I dispose of this when I have finished with it?” “What waste products does this product generate and how will I deal with them?” “How long do I expect to use this product for?” If we all did this, then the amount of waste we produce would reduce, and the land we have be kept for housing, for green spaces, for farming and forestry, not filled with 31 tonnes a year of consumer waste!

So, this Zero Waste Week, what steps are you planning on taking to reduce your waste?

 

Categories
environment recycle reduce reuse

Waste Free Lent – Week 4

Copy of Copy of Waste Free Lent

Another week has gone by, and the lessons I have learnt again are that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I really do have to get more organised and remember to take food and drink with me when I go out! I have, however, got into the habit of taking a reusable cup with me everywhere I go and find most places are more than happy to use it. In fact, one place I got coffee from offered me a discount on my coffee for providing my own cup – win!

I’m not going to give you a day by day breakdown this week – last week was so manic I can barely remember what I did when, but I will share some wins and some dilemmas!

Wins: I had both a 40th birthday and Mother’s Day to negotiate this week, but didn’t do too badly on the waste production. For the 40th I bought a couple of knitting pattern books (the birthday girl is obsessed with knitting!) and put in a bottle of my home-made redcurrant gin. For my Mum, I bought a selection of posh tonic waters in glass bottles, and again put in a bottle of my home-made red currant gin. So very little waste. I then reused gift bags I had received for my own birthday a few weeks ago.

The bright spring days have highlighted that I have neglected cleaning my windows over winter! The reason for tIMG_20160304_150848his became clear when I tried to find some glass cleaner and discovered I didn’t have any. Now, in a perfect waste free world, I would use white vinegar and water to clean my windows, but I didn’t even have a spare spray bottle to use to do it. I did, however, have some old stock of Eco2Life spray bottles and refills from when I was a Wikaniko rep. Some were glass cleaners, so I opened one and used it. I was impressed and it smelt better than white vinegar too. I have added the rest to my website at a knock down price, in case you want to try them yourself!

Fails: I am really struggling with buying bananas and coffee. My local supermarket only does Fairtrade bananas in plastic bags. I could drive for half an hour to visit a Sainsbury’s, as ALL their bananas are Fairtrade, the loose ones, the value ones etc.. The only low plastic coffee I can find is also not Fairtrade (although I buy most of our coffee in bulk, the lids of the tins it comes in are still plastic). I am passionate about Fairtrade, I believe those that grow my food and drink should earn a fair wage and have access to education and healthcare. Any tips?

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environment reduce reuse

A scatterbrained woman’s thoughts on plastic bags

CREDIT: REUTERS/PETR JOSEK
CREDIT: REUTERS/PETR JOSEK

Just after Christmas I went up to Glasgow to stay with family and went out sales shopping. I was a little surprised when, in Marks and Spencer, I was asked if I wanted a carrier bag for my clothing purchase, and even more surprised when I was charged 5p for it. Surprised, but not cross, quite pleased really.

When I got back to my parents-in-law, I mentioned it to them, and had to smile when both my mother- and grandmother-in-law produced small reusable bags from their handbags. I was impressed. The 5p charge was obviously working.

It made me think. I have the best intentions not to get carrier bags, I have a huge collection of reusable shopping bags. I also have a mountain of single use plastic bags from all the times I have forgotten to take my reusable bags.

The Government estimates that 8 billion carrier bags are given out in supermarkets each year. That equates to 130 per person per year. That’s 57000 tonnes of carrier bags ending up in landfill every year*. Yikes!

In October of this year England will see the introduction of a 5p charge for carrier bags at the supermarket, to bring it in line with the other countries in the UK who already charge this.  The introduction of the charge in Wales resulted in a 79% reduction in carrier bag usage.

My biggest problem is remembering to take bags with me.  If I have a carrier bag with me, I will happily use, and willingly give plastic bags back to retailers in favour of using a bag I already have. Hopefully, a 5p charge will encourage me to make sure I always have bags with me – if not the new legislation could get expensive!

What about you? Do you have any tips on plastic bag reusage for a scatterbrained mum?

*Source – https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/reducing-and-managing-waste/supporting-pages/charging-for-single-use-plastic-carrier-bags