Weekly weigh in eight

Filed in Blog by on July 30, 2008 16 Comments
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weekly weigh in number eight
Gosh, it looks huge doesn’t it? But it’s only half full – it was just an easy way to store our rubbish.

This week the figures are a little high again, but there are two significant reasons for this. Firstly, I found out that I had been contaminating the plastic bottles recycling bank this week. Quelle horreur.

I was told that plastic vegetable oil bottles could go in there, which is what I had been doing. This week I had to call the council about a couple of other items and was told that, even though the oil bottle I had was the same number code as the milk bottles, it couldn’t go in.

<scratches head>

The vague explanation I had was that it is different grade or colour to the milk containers.

Geesh; no wonder people are confused about recycling!

Unfortunately, the Co-Op have stopped selling grapeseed oil in glass bottles. So I’m now buying it in Sainsburys in plastic. Little Miss Green can’t tolerate sunflower oil and we find grapeseed oil to be the best for roast potatoes and as a benign oil for things like carrot cake. It also makes for a decent massage oil at a push.

Ho hum.

We use olive oil in huge glass bottles if we want ‘raw’ oil for salad, but find grapeseed to be the best for all other cooking uses.

I’ve also switched to bulk buying my basmati rice fix. I mistakenly thought that the larger bags of rice were made from just paper, but they are plastic lined, from what I can see. I’ve sent three emails to Tilda to get the low down from the horse’s mouth, as it were, on how to recycle them, but I’ve not heard anything back.

This would indicate to me that they cannot be recycled.

It’s interesting about the weight issue too. In all my little experiments with bulk packaging; it has been much better for the landfill to buy larger bags or containers. But this 5kg rice bag is really heavy compared to the equivalent weight in 1kg bags. It has a zip and is a few layers of paper (or lightweight board, I’m not sure) with a plastic outer. It makes for a hefty piece of packaging, but then if it has to hold 5 kgs of rice, I guess it needs to be up to the job.

In addition there was a soft cheese container from Mr Green’s Birthday (cheese)cake. This isn’t something we use on a daily basis, but I think in future, I’ll try and get it from a deli counter in my own reusable container.

So, the contents of our bin this week are:

4 yogurt pots and lids
a piece of cling film
5kg rice bag
curry tray
cream cheese box
cereal bar wrapper
grapeseed oil bottle
sun dried tomatoes packaging
2 crisp packets
2 salad bags

We’ve come in at middleweight status again with 239 grams. I feel pleased with that if I compare it with the majority of people in the UK, but now I’m starting to get a bit anxious about our zero waste week; which is only a month away.

The past two weeks weigh in have not been great and we were decreasing at a steady pace at the beginning of our challenge. Now we’re flipping about all over the place with small increases and mishaps.

Putting our bin on a diet is a bit like putting ourselves on a diet: The first few weeks the pounds come whizzing off almost without effort and the motivation is high. Then when you start to see your target it takes longer and longer to shift the ounces and the novelty wears off. You start fancying a bit of this or a taste of that.

I feel a bit ‘stuck’ with things at the moment and I’m struggling to see what more we can do. I know looking at it on paper it’s obvious – I start making yogurt, we don’t ‘give in’ to crisps, we stop eating curry from a plastic tray and I bake instead of buying cereal bars, but you know, when you have life to get on with as well, sometimes those things feel like huge hurdles. [Recently, I’ve seen a lot of social media posts about people suffering from a huge amount of guilt relating to the environment. While it can seem insignificant, guilt can soon become a burden, resulting in stress or anxiety. If you’re feeling guilty about your contribution, then please don’t – the very fact you are reading this means you are doing your bit. But if things get too bad, consider an online therapist, like the ones here.]

I’ve been really tired this week and struggling with a lot of things, including my state of mind and enthusiasm; so just reaching for something easy has been an absolute blessing.

We really do live in a culture of consumerism and convenience don’t we? I keep telling myself that if I as born a hundred years ago, I wouldn’t have had these choices. But I wasn’t, I’m here now, with all the lures that the 21st century has to offer me.

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (16)

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  1. Mal Williams says:

    Dear Mrs Green,

    Your efforts at achieving Zero Waste are an inspiration and your frustrations, as expressed so succinctly in your blog, are pretty universal I feel. Would you mind if I asked all my Zero Waste International Alliance colleagues around the globe to feature your website so that others can share – and perhaps comment on – your battle with packaging and our profligate way of life.

    Whether or not you agree to this, I am following your exploits with great interest, so don’t get too disheartened if you fancy a curry now and then – those really are the hurdles we face like it or not. I will also circulate your details to members of the Campaign for Real Recycling, of which I am the chair, I am sure they will offer support also,

    best regards

    Mal williams
    Cylch-Wales Community Recycling Network http://www.cylch.org.uk
    Chair – Campaign for Real Recycling http://www.realrecycling.org.uk

  2. Hi Mrs Green,

    Sorry to hear about these setbacks. The paper/plastic bag is a common type of package. Water can soften the paper leaving the plastic whole as I found with milk labels. The horrendous glue smell also disappears with the water wash. I recycle sunflower oil plastic bottles without any difficulty. Maybe you should find an alternative recycling site, at a local superstore. As you rightly say this lack af clear standards of practice causes no end of confusion and should be addressed. WRAP may be the best people to contact as they seem to be “on the ball” compared to councils, for example.
    Good to see a Welsh contribution as well!


  3. Mrs Green says:

    Thank you Mal; your supportive words mean a lot. Please, go right ahead and ask your colleagues to feature our site. The more exposure we can get in this, the better. The sites you are involved with look very interesting and informative. I’m looking forward to reading those properly later and will be adding them to our links section.

    Hi John, I’ll contact WRAP – thank you for the suggestion and I’ll perhaps take a look at a new recycling centre that has been put up fairly locally to us. Maybe I could work at separating the layers on the rice bag next time 😉

  4. Separating the bag layers is another big hurdle though isn’t it? I’d rather see Tilda respond and change the packaging. Does rice need to be in plastic? If so, then how was it transported and stored before plastic was invented?

    It’s great the more and more of us are tackling this issue in our homes but wouldn’t it be even better to get global movement on not creating this hard to recycle packaging in the first place?

    Sorry, on a soap box today.

  5. Sarah,

    The problem with plastic packaging is that it is in universal use. Not only that, useful aluminium is combined with plastic and paper, difficult to separate except by putting to a flame. Avoidance is the current best way. Either taking items unpackaged or insisting on paper, card, glass, steel and tinfoil only, as they are readily recyclable.
    Alternatives for everyday commodities suitably packaged(salt,coffee,tea,dried fruit etc) should be posted on blogs for consumer information.
    The more people shop using ZeroWastePackaging the quicker the superstores will get the message. Have you noticed the large unpacked spuds available in stores? They are adapting.
    Also baked bread products can be taken unpackaged. My concern is commodities and this morning I purchased a 3kg bag (plastic of course) of salt. There is no alternative yet, apart from other plastic items.


  6. You can’t recycle cream cheese boxes, huh? Here ours come wrapped in foil(which I can’t recycle) and then in a paper box(which I do recycle).

    Go make yogurt, go make yogurt, go make yogurt. (hee-hee)

  7. Lacey W says:

    What you say about living in the 21st Century is so true. You can’t get on with daily life if you’ve got a lot of things to manage.

    I wonder if it would help to have friends or family over to make yogurt with you? If you could chose a few hours on a weekend and make it a social event, or trade off watching and feeding the yogurt, it might help.

    The problems I’ve run into with making my own foods is that sometimes the ingredients generate more packaging trash than a storebought finished product would.

  8. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Sarah,
    You ask a question that intrigues me too – just how did we transport this stuff before the days of plastic. I’m guessing that we didn’t for a lot of items. I mean, how long have we been eating rice in the UK? I’m just too young to remember LOL!

    John, regarding dried fruit – we can get it in bulk bags (1kg +) from Suma and it comes in polythene; at least this type of plastic can be recycled. Regarding salt; we use Maldon and that comes in a cardboard box. Yes, it has a thin plastic inner, but it’s better than a big plastic table salt container.

    It’s amazing how different things are across the globe, Kristen (well, even district to district here in the UK). Recycling foil is one of the easiest things to do over here. Good to hear your cream cheese comes in paper.

    Lacey, I just need to get off my butt and do the yogurt thing. It’s not even time consuming really and doesn’t need watching once it’s all happily fermenting. I know it’s something I need to get into place as a new habit and then I’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.
    Luckily, this won’t generate any non recyclable packaging once I’ve made the first batch, as all I will need to buy as a raw ingredient is milk – that comes in recyclable containers over here 🙂

  9. Hi Mrs Green,

    Christine Jeavans is doing a month without plastic on BBC News. I welcomed her to the sustainable challenge and mentioned The Rubbish Diet and My Zero Waste as good reference points for questions etc. I just feel this is taking the Zero Waste campaign to a new level. There were a couple of negative posts, packaging industry Types?


  10. Mrs Green says:

    Brilliant – thanks for bringing that to our attention, John. I’ll be following her progress too. Did you contact her privately or through the blog? I saw your comment, but it might have been edited.
    There will always be negative posts – we’ve been really blessed on here to receive so many positive and supportive comments. I hope she does well and some change comes from it. All inspiring stuff!

  11. Hi again,

    As usual on the BBC there is a lot of negativity. I contacted her on each comment page, where I felt able to contribute,and unedited. It is not person to person like here which is a pity. We all should give her advice based on our experiences. My first post was not published. I think only a few were placed in her main page. My advice there was more personal rather than a general comment. The comments page also allows you to introduce ideas of your own to a wider audience. Some comments were too specific and off the trend of her discussion. It is a worthy effort.


  12. Mr Green says:

    Hi John, I posted a comment against this story on the BBC website, so I hope they will publish. Of couse we want to support Chris Jeavans and I think we can offer something to help from our resources here. It would be good if the beeb could stretch their moderation skills a little further into filtering genuine support for their stories, as opposed to suspecting that every link is just spam.

  13. Mrs Jackson says:

    Hi there
    I know this is an old post now but wanted to say when you’re feeling disappointed in your efforts try and focus not only the postive and wonderful thing you have done so far yourselves and landfill but the inspiration and help you have provided for so many others which has reduced the landfill far more than anything you have ever put into it.

  14. Mrs Green says:

    Thanks Mrs J – I appreciate your comment. I guess we all have our despondant days and it’s lovely to be able to come back and read all the positive and encouraging comments left by people such as yourself 🙂 It helps to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get on with things.

  15. Mal Williams says:

    Wales has set a target of 70% recycling of Municipal Waste by 2025 and everyone thinks this is massively ambitious – some deem it impossible. ALSO a target of 150 KILOGRAMS per person per annum as a residual waste target.

    On the basis of the figures you have just posted to the website (which is causing you some guilt it seems) your family recycling rate is 98.5% and your residual waste per person per annum is 4.17kgs.

    You are demonstrating the possible and making all those that are touted as “waste management experts” look completely out of touch and very ridiculous.

    Wales has a Zero waste village in St Arvans near Chepstow Racecourse. It has achieved a 77% recycling rate within six months of trying, with help from some enthusiasts like yourself.

    Please – nil desperandum – whilst people like me spend all our time talking about the possibilities of Zero Waste it is people like you that give the essential evidence that we rely on,

    bless you and have a great 2009 – you thoroughly deserve it.

    Mal Williams
    Cylch – Wales Community Recycling Network
    Chair – Campaign for Real Recycling
    Zero Waste International Alliance Planning Group.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    Hello Mal, it’s good to see you again and to hear of the recent recycling target in Wales. Looking at the figure of 70%, it will seem overwhelming to many, but it’s a case of ‘how do you eat an elephant’. Well, one mouthful at a time of course.

    That is the key, we feel, to successful reduction of home waste. it’s all about taking baby steps, which is the very message we promote on our pages. Only this afternoon, Mr Green and I were discussing that we could not imagine HOW we would FILL one bin in a week. A few months ago, we could not imagine being at the place we are now. So it shows that within 6 – 12 months, one can really change habits!

    I have heard of St. Arvans; and it would be good to hear more about that; especially as they are so geographically close to us. Have a wonderful year yourself and keep up the great work with all that you do to promote recycling.

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