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family recyclingSurely it takes a lot of time, motivation and energy to commit to a reduced waste lifestyle? You have to change your shopping habits, take time selecting things carefully, cook everything from scratch and then there is all the washing and sorting of recycling.
it’s such a hassle and it’s the last thing you want to be thinking about after a busy day at work and fractious bedtime routine with the kids.

Or is it…….
I caught up with another Gloucestershire resident at the end of zero waste week. Tracy Millard lives with her husband, two children (8 and 10), their dog and two cats.

MZW: tell us a little bit about your lifestyle.

TM: My husband works full time on night shifts and I work 25 hours per week while the children are at school. We are a busy household; in between work there are school runs, out of school clubs, running the house and dog walking to do! In addition, my husband works shifts, so we don’t get much time together.

MZW: why did you sign up for the challenge?

TM: I wanted to support the campaign and increase awareness of what working families could achieve. I wanted to see if we could reduce our rubbish as a family.

MZW: What sort of level of interest did you get from your family?

TM: A few months ago, my family felt that they did enough and didn’t need to do more. But in the run up to zero waste week the children were asking about the challenge and were showing more interest. My husband sort of understands the reasons why we should reduce rubbish, but doesn’t embrace it entirely. I hoped that my kids would grow up with a better awareness because of reducing our rubbish during the week.

MZW: How did you handle zero waste week in a practical way?

TM: I told the children what items needed to go where. If they were unsure where to put things, or if they could be recycled, they left things on the kitchen work surface and I went through it all for them later on. Before this week, these items would have gone straight in the bin.
If I had time I would show the children what went where and why. If I didn’t, I would just sort it out myself.

I’ve changed packed lunch waste too. I wrap the kids sandwiches in clingfilm which would go into the bin after use. This week I’ve straightened it out, cleaned it and am going to send it off for recycling to GHS.

MZW: When I phoned you last week, prior to zero waste week, your husband was in the process of dumping a newspaper in the bin! How has zero waste week impacted him?

TM: His job involves a lot of printing at home. He has to print receipts and bills for customers. This involves a lot of paper and if he printed out things in error, or didn’t want them, he would put them straight in the bin. Now he is putting it all in the recycling and stopping to think where other items go.
Really though, I have been in charge of this. I think it’s fair to say that if I didn’t so these things, neither my husband of kids would, but I’m hoping to normalise things for us as a family over time.

Before zero waste week, a normal week for you was 3/4 wheelie bin of rubbish. How much did you create during the week?

TM: At the end of the week we had just two carrier bags. I’m really pleased with this!

MZW: If I had told you a week ago you would be producing just two carrier bags of rubbish with 4 humans and three pets in your house, would you have believed me?

TM: No! I couldn’t imagine at that stage what I would need to do to reduce our waste!

MZW: What was in your carrier bags?

TM: Packaging from meat that I bought before and during the week, crisp bags and biscuit wrappers. All non recyclable plastics.

MZW: What have you done differently to produce such a dramatic decrease in your waste?

TM: I realised that when you buy fresh joints of meat there is far more packaging than frozen. Fresh meat comes on a plastic tray and is wrapped in plastic. Frozen meat has just shrink wrap. This makes a huge difference to our rubbish because we use about three joints a week.

I’ve composted more too. All of our fruit and vegetable peelings, plus tissues are going into the compost heap now.

When I’ve decluttered the kid’s rooms, I would normally throw everything away. This week I had a couple of duvet covers to throw out that would have been put in the bin. Now they are put to one side for a textiles bank.

MZW: How have these changes impacted your life?

It’s made me more aware. Before I would have thrown everything in the bin. Now I’m stopping to think. We might have a pile of rubbish outside until we visit the tip but I don’t mind that; I can incorporate it in errands over the next couple of weeks.

MZW: You’re clearly very busy. How did zero waste week fit in with your lifestyle.

TM: It has not caused me a problem at all. What surprised me most was I thought I’d have to change my entire shopping and I don’t have time for this. But simple things like buying frozen rather than fresh meat doesn’t take me any longer when I shop.

This week I bought more loose items of fruit and vegetables. I’ve kept the plastic bags and will be reusing them. This has also reduced my food waste because I’m only buying what I need.

I use carrier bags to line the bin, but I keep them all and when I have too many I take them back to the shop for reuse.

All of these are simple things that anyone can fit into their lifestyle; no matter how busy.

Have you experienced any frustrations this week?

My biggest frustration is when you start talking to people and realise how different the recycling is in other areas. My Mum lives just 5 minutes away and they take plastic bottles and batteries. Why is this? Why are there so many differences? Our council should be doing much more to help people and stop confusion.

If people had more boxes for cardboard and plastic bottles they would do more recycling.

MZW: Now that zero waste week is over, will you continue with waste reduction?

TM: I will continue with all of it. I’d like to be putting out 2 carrier bags a week from now on. Now I’ve had a successful week and know I can do it,  I’d want to know why if it increases again!

What a great interview! My thanks go to Tracy and her family for sharing her experiences with me. I think their achievement is wonderful and I certainly feel that Tracy has shared how a busy family can reduce their waste.

I was just imagining what it would be like if every household across the county produced just two carrier bags of waste per week. What an impact that would have on our landfill!

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