A couple of months ago I set myself a waste challenge to see if I could reduce plastic waste and pass the test. What test? Well, I knew my habits had slipped for one reason or another so I wanted to hold myself accountable. I was keen to see where the bad waste habits had crept in and what I could do about it.
So, I kept all my non-non-perishable waste for 30 days and here are the results:
As a plastic aware person, I am a bit embarrassed at the results and am now even more determined to do better at reducing my plastic waste. While I have areas for improvement, it is also not practical for us to all be zero wasters all the time. I am a firm believer that all efforts are meaningful. What I don’t want is for people to think the challenge is so big that it is not worth the effort to try. Or for small efforts to go unnoticed.
Having said that, there are some very simple steps we can all make to create less waste. Using my own waste for inspiration, here are 7 things that you can improve on today:
#1 Get Your Milk Delivered in Glass Bottles
Bring back the milkman. They are still out there if you search for them. To find out if milk delivery is available in your area type your postcode into Find Me a Milkman.
Alternatively you can try making your own nut or oat milk.
#2 Go On A Plastic Diet
Say What!!??? By giving up unhealthy snacks we give up a lot of unnecessary single use plastic. But, that is easier said than done. As you will see from my own waste I have a thing for biscuits and crisps on the odd occasion too. So if giving them up all together is not possible see #3 and #4 below.
Since this challenge I have changed my habits for the better. I now have a mid morning snack of nut butter and fruit. I then have a mid afternoon snack of dark chocolate that I generally find comes in foil and paper. Not the whole bar mind you! I am told by my personal trainer that these healthy snacks will help my body go into ‘fat burn’ mode. Fingers crossed!
#3 Recycle Your Crisp Packets
You can see from the images below, a packet that I found in the canal. Despite being 15 years old it is in very good condition.
Since coming under fire by the public, Walkers Crisps have taken a stance on recycling. They have partnered with Terracycle to recycle all brands of crisp packet, not just their own. They have also pledged to make their packaging biodegradable or compostable by 2025. I will be following this pledge with interest.
If there isn’t a local drop off point near you, why not reach out to your community and create a communal collection point? Schools and clubs are a great place to start. Once you have 400 packs Terracycle will send a courier for free!
More information about the scheme here.
#4 Recycle your biscuit and cake wrappers
There is a similar recycling scheme in place supported by McVities and other brands. Big brands must comply with Extended Producer Responsibility obligations. So these brands have teamed up with Terracycle to achieve this goal. Hopefully over time a longer term solution will be found. In the meaning this is a great way to avoid those treat wrappers ending up in landfill.
#5 Get Creative With Polystyrene
Much polystyrene washes up on the beaches and indeed I found loads of the stuff in the rivers on my kayak expeditions. Not many know that clean polystyrene is actually recyclable!
John Lewis take back any packaging from their electrical goods and recycle it. I am not aware of others so find your nearest factory and see if they will take it back? Or get in touch with the manufacturer and find out what they are doing about it. The more we demand circular solutions the more likely it is that we will get change. More information about recycling polystyrene here.
In the meantime, I learnt that polystyrene dissolves in acetone. It then solidifies back into a plastic like substance that can be remoulded. I might experiment with some of the waste I found to see what I can create. Of course the best thing to do is to only buy from places that don’t use the stuff!
#6 Do What You Can To Reduce Your Waste
Recycling is not the answer and bio-plastic is not the answer.
Reducing, reusing and redesigning is the answer.
There are plenty of folk out there trying to do the right thing and actually making it worse. Take plastic cups on the beach as an example. There is already a recycling system in place for single use plastic cups, but no collection for industrial composting. Switching to compostable therefore isn’t going to help. In fact it makes it a whole lot worse and costs more money! For some great reuse tips and advice check out the podcast episode with Cat Fletcher, the Reuse Goddess.
As an individual you can try to buy packaging free. I accept that it is not going to be easy all the time, the key is to not get disheartened.
Accept that we have busy lives and cant be perfect all the time. Do what you can. Talk about it. Encourage others. Write to your brands and supermarket to ask them what they are doing. Change will come.
#7 Follow Your Local Recycling Policy
I can not stress enough how important it is to not contaminate your recycling.
Our local recycling guru in Brighton, Melanie Rees told me her story about setting up the Green Centre. The idea is to recycle those things that the Council don’t and provide information for one planet living. You can read about her advice here.
Check out your local authority web site to check what is and is not recycled. Or you can check the Recycle Now website.
Contamination can lead to the whole batch being landfilled. So it is vital to spend that extra minute getting it right.
I hope these tips are useful. I am always keen to hear if you have any specific plastic issues you need help resolving. If so please do get in touch via my contact page.
Keep talking rubbish to your friends. The more we share the more we learn.