A frugal war on waste

I’ve been thinking a lot about my bin this week, which sounds a bit eccentric now that I’ve written it down…Oh dear. Perhaps I should get out more, as DJ suggests. OK – what I mean to say is that this week’s activities have got me wondering if I can work harder to keep our rubbish bin empty and our recycling bag full.

On Tuesday afternoon I went to my first meeting of Billericay’s Greening Campaign. I was keen to get involved after hearing about it the other week and luckily I was asked to join the working party. The campaign is based on one successfully run by Terena Plowright in Petersfield and she is providing us with advice and support on how to get things moving. The idea is to get the entire local community involved in saving energy, reducing water wastage and cutting emissions, as well as running a green fun day in the summer. Billericay is the first community in Essex to run the campaign, so we feel a bit like trailblazers.

I was really encouraged by how enthusiastic everybody was at the meeting and how keen they were to get things moving. I also met a guy there who is responsible for recycling strategy at our local council. He’s offered to show me around the recycling unit to see what they do and tell me about the challenges they face, so I’ll be looking forward to that.

The meeting and reading about how much food and drink we waste each year has got me thinking about what else DJ and I could be doing to make our household greener and save ourselves some cash in the process. Although we recycle and compost, there’s still plenty of stuff going into our bin each week. You get so used to throwing the things away that you don’t even think about it. Paper tissues are one thing – I have a habit of keeping several in my pocket or by the bed which is a bit disgusting as well as wasteful. These could be composted or recycled if I took the time to separate them from other waste. If I got a compartmented bin I could do this quite easily. But maybe it would be cheaper and greener to buy some old-fashioned material ones – like the ones my Dad uses – and just wash them with the rest of the laundry.

I’ve also noticed how much cat food pouches get thrown away each day. I started buying pouches because Dougal is a fusspot and often won’t eat all the food in a whole tin. But now I’m wondering if I should start buying tinned food again, as at least you can recycle the tins. Plus there’s still lots of packaging that we can’t recycle, like vacuum packs. I need to make more of an effort to think about what I’m buying and avoid bringing home things that we can’t recycle or compost. At least we rarely throw food away now. Years ago we used to buy too much stuff and some of it found its way into the bin each week. We make more of an effort to freeze meat if we’re not eating it straight away.

Cutting household waste requires a new approach, but where do you start? Myzerowaste.com and therubbishdiet are two websites & blogs I’ve come across recently which have inspired me. Both are maintained by women who are making a huge effort to cut their household waste down to zero and I feel that I can learn a lot from them. Karen Cannard who writes therubbishdiet blog was just shortlisted for the coveted CIWM recycling champion of the year award. She includes a handy guide on her site on how to get started as a zero waster. I hope to start putting some of this advice into practice asap.

What are your waste or recycling sins? How do you think you could cut your household waste or is it too difficult or time consuming to do so? Leave a message and let me know.

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12 Responses to A frugal war on waste

  1. Christine says:

    I’m a rover and have lived in many different places and have hit lots of snags with regard to recycling.If you live in a town there are plenty of recycling facilities – so long as you can walk there or have transport to get to the recycling points. The community recycling facility here is a couple of miles away and means changing buses! And the bus won’t let me take empty or part empty paint tins on board anyway (fire hazard). It would also be an interesting journey with a broken kettle, broken toaster and broken food processor even. The council charges are quite high to get items removed – £15 for 4 items which could be just a kettle, an iron, a couple of empty paint tins and a bag of small household batteries – you can\’t put any of these in the general rubbish bin. You see you do not really get these small items delivered so you are not going to be able to ask the retailer to take them back are you? Please Mr Argos, Mr Tesco, Mr Asda, Mr Amazon take my bust kettle back in exchange for the one I’m buying now. I think not – whatever the powers that be think.If you live in a flat you will be jolly lucky to have any recycling facilities at the front door of your flat. Oh and there\’s a storage problem of course. If you live in a rural area – forget bottle banks, tetra pack bins, paper banks, textile banks and other such luxuries within walking distance – unless you have a car and can afford the petrol to drive to the recycling point which will be several miles distant (and which may not have all the facilities you want) you have problems. Now we come down to every day items of food packaging. Consider also the humble margarine tub and the small yogurt pot. These do not usually come within the remit of the recycling bin here. Hey ho – please don’t tell me to buy butter – grease proof paper doesn’t go for recycling here either.Nor does the packaging from around meat – the trays can\’t be recycled any more than the containers around fruit such as grapes nor the containers from the popular ice creams in the supermarket. There are only so many uses for yogurt pots even if you get really imaginative. And there are only so many sorts of vegetables you can buy naked and bare. Most of them are sold packaged in quantities that the supermarket feels will be profitable to sell. At present this packaging is cheaper and more robust for handing than the recyclable paper bag. But it is neither compostable nor recyclable. Fair enough if you have a decent greengrocer locally and can carry the weight home, you can buy naked and bare. But not all of us are so lucky – nor are all of us physically able to do carry stuff.

  2. Kerri says:

    Christine I totally agree, it is a mine field. I work on the basis that I recycle as much as I can which is a lot more than some other people (not that it is necessarily their own fault). There is also a mine field that some councils will accept some items for recycling while others do not. I live in a flat and have two boxes that the council collect (yes, you must remember what goes in which – despite the fact when they collect it all gets slung in the truck together – go figure???)Piper, as for cat tins, that would deff be less frugal in our household, Guinness wouldn\’t even consider anything other than pouches and even Skip (who will eat most things incl chocolate and skips) doesn\’t like tinned cat food – think it must taste of the tin. The last lot I purchased ended up being given to the local cat charity where moggies are more greateful and less spoiled 😉

  3. piper says:

    Too true. There are not enough recycling facilities in easy to get to places. We have plenty of rubbish bins everywhere, so surely it would make sense to have small bottle & paper recycling units on the high street too? Kerry – I agree. I stopped buying tins as Dougal would only eat half and then refuse to eat the rest if it was in the fridge for half a day. And supermarkets don\’t seem to sell many of the small tins anymore. I looked the other day and there was only the choice of one type of tinned food anyway which was annoying. Christine – sounds like we\’re lucky here with our recycling. I checked our rules yesterday and we can recycle yoghurt pots, meat trays and margarine tubs in our pink bags. Although previously I\’m pretty sure we couldn\’t as I\’d been throwing them away for ages in the belief that we couldn\’t. But supermarkets, retailers and food producers need to get their act together and stop covering everything in packaging that we can\’t recycle. And as for recycling electrical goods, I was reading something in Which! magazine last week saying that most people have no idea how to recycle broken electrical items and just hoard them in the shed instead. I\’ve got at least one kettle in there now. If people who are really keen to recycle find it tough to do so, then we\’re hardly encouraging the people who don\’t want to be bothered in the first place!

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Hi – Lucky you for getting to see how the recycling facilities work at your local council (the same council as me), I wish I could accompany you as I have a few questions I would like to ask them. My main gripe, and something I will be really interested to hear about when you\’ve had your visit, is how on earth they separate all the different recyclables – plastic, tin, paper, cardboard – once they\’ve been collected as I have grave reservations that some of this doesn\’t end up in landfill anyway. My other gripe is why oh why do we have to put our recycling out in plastic sacks – plastic sacks that don\’t bio-degrade for heavens sake!! And don\’t get me started on the black plastic waste sacks either – another appaling way of collecting rubbish. I have contacted our local council about this several times but, sadly, have never got much of an answer from them. Hopefully, you\’ll have a bit more luck.Loving your blog by the way.

  5. Bill says:

    Returning from Germany in \’95, after 17 years residence, I don\’t remember seeing any black, or other, sacks, but do remeber household waste in large 560kilo wheelies, as most live in flats, & these bins serve many people each. Quick & easy for the bin men. Bottle, paper & nylon recycling collection points on almost all suburban/rural rail stations, complete with park & ride, also for bicycles, & bike-hire.I have worked with these large 560 kilo bins, with 2 contractors, on trade waste in this country, which all ends in t\’ landfill. It is quick & easy. Simply "swept under t\’ carpet".Bicycle hire, as also some car hire in Germany, is owned & run by the Benefit Office, at a small profit, as a Social Enterprise. It combines nicely with the Federal rail network, who host most of the hire shops. It also "recycles" retrains/rehabs many long term Benefit Scroungers, including those in wheelchairs. They are over 1 year unemployed, & receive double Benefit for 4hrs/day, 20 days/month, in the workshops, renovating old wheelchairs, bikes, & motorised vehicles of any description up to 3.5 tonnes gross. They also service & maintain the entire fleet after commissioning. Those in wheelchairs spend most of it in the office, plotting, planning, taking bookings etc.They serve a max of 1 year in the system, & are expected to seek employment asap. Some are found employment by the workshop master, dependent on the ability of the individual. They go into various private/commercial workshops in the industry. Some go into full time excternal employment in only 3 months, a roaring success.The British civil service do not have what it takes. The car hire is a form of sharing, nationwide annual membership + mileage = just above cost. It is the most affordable vehicle hire. All consumers are a form of shareholder, almost "captive consumers". The entire system is self-financing, with a small profit being ploughed back in.

  6. Christine says:

    Personal sins include: tea light holders because candles are cheerful in the winter evenings and useful if the power goes offwrappers off cheap packets of cream crackers and biscuits – low grade plastic that\’s not worth recycling by the powers that bethe wrappings off posh herbal teas – think cellophane outer wrapper which can\’t be recycled, box which can be recycled, packet of low grade plastic that can\’t be recycled and then tea bag which can be compostedthe plastic outer bag from cheap sliced loaves I use for toast – but you try to buy a loaf of bread anywhere without a wrapper even if it\’s from your local craftsman bakerOK so I could use ordinary candles rather than tea lights and buy supermarket own brand tea bags which have less wrapping but are all the boring flavours. Now if you go really upmarket and but Teapig teabags, the teabag cover is nylon so it\’s not compostable but the bag in which it\’s sold is 90% recyclable – allowing for the cellophane window which has to be removedNow you do realise that if you receive an item from the postman in a window envelope, you need to take out that window before you recycle the envelope because the darned things impede the recycling?And you do realise that a lot of the bags that hold your everyday teabags in the supermarket are again cheap plastic that isn\’t worth recycling?Complicated on an everyday level innit?

  7. Bill says:

    The old style cellophane, used to wrap First-aid/wound-dressings, was basically pure wheat straw, but was a rip-off. Elfandsafety said that the entire dressing was unhygenic, therefore unsafe after just 6 months, therefore the entire kit had to be replaced. They believed that the cellophane wrapping became porous after 6 months, due to bio breakdown of the cellophane. I would say that this was not strictly true, & was simply to sell more. I believe that if the wrapping is still airtight when squozen in the hand, it is still yet hygenic. There was an upside. We had a plentiful supply of "condemned material" from the wholesalers free of charge for "educational purposes". I also beleive that much of the condemned material which is returned to the retailers, out of date, for exchange, is simply re-wrapped by the wholesalers, & resold at full price, despite them being covered by the insurance.Another good one is meat, including expensive steak. A catering pack of 5 steaks, or a full size rump/strip-loin/filet, in a nylon vacuum bag, is sold as safe for 1 month in a fridge, or 2 years in the deep-freeze. There is no light, & therefore no uv in a fridge or deep-freeze, therefore no risk of ware or damage to the bag. On the deadline, they have to be ripped open, the contents emptied into a new bag , & revacced. Such a waste of expensive nylon, which is at the least extreme difficult to recycle.Again, I believe that this is another job for the hand-squeeze-test.We do not have this elfandsafety problem/expense with meat in cans. It is all cooked in the sealed can, in S. Amercia, on contract to the Pentagon, as US Military stock. When they are broke, they sell the oldest to the British MOD, who at ca. 30 years old, sell on to the British schools catering system.British school kids love their Bully, Spam, Ham & Beef Burgers when the stuff is fully ripe.The cans are also easy to recyle, at only half the expense of new ones from new raw materials, a great energy/carbon footprint saving.

  8. garry says:

    We recycle our plastics, glass, paper etc, but the last few years there has been a big change round here, which really bothers me! I recycle and therefore my waste bin has quite a bit of room in it now, but someone has started filling my dustbin with their rubbish. Not just the stuff that should go in but glass, cardboard etc, one day there were some big plastic toys stuck in. My neighbour had a sack thrown in with beer bottles in and with the lid up in the air, the bin men didn\’t empty it, so he had another two weeks to wait, after putting his own rubbish in sacks, and sorting the other persons recyclables for them. I have heard cars pulling up in the early hours, and the bin lids going. It\’s made life hard now, because I can\’t put my bin out on the morning of collection, and have to put it out just before they come to empty them. I don\’t know what to do?

  9. hewitt says:

    There must be a way ofe making you\’re own cat/dog food. I read Nella Lasts war which said she gave for dinner – a soup, stew and sweet (the 3 s\’s) they fill you up the best! I was brought up by my Nan who lived through the second World War and she taught me thrifty tips which the girls at work found hillarious – until the recession that is Cook veg in a a small amount of water it retains the vitamins. I buy old fabrics and sew my own Historical clothes a dress underskirt and top all made from used duvets. I have half a bin a week of waste but I aim to cut it down its trays from meat and veg mainly we have bins for green. cans, plastic bottles and paper. good luck Jannine

  10. piper says:

    Thanks for the tips, Jannine. Must find a copy of Nella Last\’s book. You are an inspiration to us all on the frugal and eco-warrior front. Very impressive! Keep up the good work!

  11. caren says:

    Thankyou Piper for all the good work you & others have been good enough to share. I have a little more time on my hands now & would like to impart some tips myself, if that is ok. Thankyou everyone for sharing & giving me some usefull tips. I hope i can be of some help myself in the very near future, Your friend, Caren…

  12. piper says:

    Hey Caren. Great to hear from you again. You are very kind. Looking forward to hearing your useful thrifty tips, so do get in touch & pass them on. Cheers, Piper

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