It’s national recycling day and I thought I might do a follow on post about the ‘war on waste’ that I posted in December. In my borough of Hounslow we have three large plastic bins, a general waste, a food bin and a garden waste bin. Because we have to sort this all out ourselves I have six bins sequestered around the kitchen. It’s not great if a dinner guest wants to help clear up and I normally find the odd napkin in the plastic bin or food scraps in the general waste.
The aim of the game is to reduce your waste to as little as possible before it even gets to a bin. But how, I hear you ask?
First, adopt some closed loop systems. I already said that we order milk and the weekend treat of a fruit smoothie from Milk and More. I order very large bottles of Bio D washing liquid and take the containers back to my local refill shop.
Reduce the amount you buy. I made the new year’s resolution not to buy any new clothes this year. One of my daughters asked to go veggie for January, I decided it would be easier if we all did. We were dry-ish. And finally we reigned in non-essential spending after the excesses of Christmas. And we had so little rubbish. I couldn’t really work it out as we don’t drink that much, eat that much meat or buy that many clothes but I suppose it all adds up.
Reuse! Before you chuck or add anything to the recycle bin see if you can use it for something else first. I read a lovely blog post by Lindsey Miles who runs a site called Treading my Own Path. She wrote about the ways you can be eco without spending money. She talked about reusing jars in so many ways, use them to go to your refill shop, for your leftovers, for freezing, for takeaway coffee cups, for glasses, for vases. To be honest I had always felt a bit guilty about recycling my jars, for years I had stored them up to take to my mum’s as she is a master jam maker but recently she said no more. So reading Miles’s post made me rethink mine and find more uses for them. I now treasure them and their different sizes and uses.
Reuse your cereal bags. I had never thought of it. It seems so obvious now. They make great freezer bags. Reuse your bread bags. They make great sandwich bags, freezer bags, scraps bags, even homemade bread bags. And they are free! And we are encouraged to buy bags for each specific use by the powers that be… I have also become a magpie for large bags that can be reused as bin bags, dry cleaner bags tied at one end, those charity bags that get posted through your door, the large dog food bag that I used to resent putting in the rubbish now holds the rubbish.
While I’m on the lovely Lindsey Miles she says ‘it is always better to refuse, reduce, re-use and repair before recycling anything.’ We may remember to refuse the plastic straw or the offer of a drink of water in a plastic cup but we also have to refuse to buy some of the things that lead to waste and recycling in our homes, those nice pods of stock come to mind, I have reverted to stock cubes (when I haven’t made my own). Hopefully the big manufacturers will move on from convenience products to sustainable products as their unique selling points.
When it comes to repair, we are all still relearning. I’d love there to be a repair café near me but sadly I’m too far from the wilds of Dalston for this to have happened, yet! But my sister repaired a pair of my jeans, that had developed a rather large, unsightly hole on the front, using the Japanese art of Boro; placing a rag or scrap behind the hole and using simple stitches up and down the scrap to fill in the hole. It’s lovely and I treasure them even more than before. And masking tape, the catch all fixer, by brother in law, who works on film sets using it for everything from ski gloves to cupboard doors.
And finally recycling. Oh there is so much more than your kerbside recycling. Make Terracycle your friend. They have made it their business to make products out of hard to recycle stuff. I tested it when my husband decided to go back to contacts for a while. I helpfully put a jar by his side of the sink, labeled contact lenses. When it was full I took it to Boots, found the Terracycle box and deposited the contents. The box was pretty full so other people do this too. (and while I’m on it, no contacts down the loo please, only the 3 ps, poo pee and paper!) There is a Terracycle scheme for crisp packets, for tubes of toothpaste and Deliciously Ella suckie packs. You can even recycle your corks, send them to Recorked UK, they sell them and donate a portion of their profits to charity.