How to reduce the amount of rubbish you send to landfill – day one

Filed in Blog by on March 2, 2009 28 Comments
FavoriteLoadingAdd article to favourites

daily rubbish oneOnto our first day then. Yesterday I shared that I was going to itemise our rubbish for a week. Geesh, this is real fly-on-the-wall fun, eh? Are you really ready for a week of this intrigue?

We have:

paper – 95g

outer from a bar of chocolate
scrap of paper from schoolwork
daily newspaper, given to us by our neighbour

metal – 2g

cap from beer bottle

glass – 389g

beer bottle

cardboard – 78g

outer from convenience curry
packaging from butter dish

Foil – 1g

inner from chocolate wrapping

tetrpaks – 39g

1 soya milk carton

Food – 560g

Fruit and vegetable peelings

plastic – 3g

3 x type 4 from butter dish
inner seal from beer bottle

Misc / mixed reusable – 1g

pack of silica gel from butter dish

Misc / mixed non recylable – 11g

plastic seal from milk bottle
2 multi packs of crisps


What happens to all the stuff?

  • Paper, metal and glass can be put out for kerbside collection. Find out what your council collect by contacting your local office
  • Cardboard, foil and tetrapaks will be stored for taking to our local recycling centre next time we are passing by. Find out where your nearest recycling centre is with Recycle Now.
  • Food is all raw food scraps such as fruit and vegetable peelings and eggs shells. These will be composted.
  • The 3 gms of plastic are all type 4, which can be put in with supermarket carrier bags in SOME stores. Alternatively, it can be stored up and sent off to Polyprint for recycling.
  • Compost woman uses silica gel sachets to keep her seed packets viable in her seed tins; which was mentioned on our ‘how to recycle your Christmas‘ thread. So we might be able to find a use for it. If not, I’ll put it in the landfill.
  • The non recyclable items (plastic seal from milk bottle and multi pack crisp outers) will end up in the landfill.

All in all it weighed 1.18kgs of which 11g (the misc / mixed category) will end up in landfill waste.

This should give you a feel for what is in store for the week. Every day I’ll be itemising what we would have ‘thrown away’ in years gone by and we’ll discuss how we deal with the stuff now. Please feel free to jump in with any questions or let us know about the niggly items in your own bin you are unsure about. Together we might be able to pool some resources and offer alternative ideas!

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 (28)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. That is not a bad amount even for a first day.

    The majority is recyclable and if you carry on your weekly total still shouldn’t go above your 100g target.

    My total this week was 260g so below my 300g target.

    I’m still looking into alternatives for some products especially cheese. We get through alot during a typical week and there must have been 5 wrappers in the bag today.

  2. Sam says:

    This is very helpful, but I have a couple of questions :

    1.You have “inner seal” from beer bottle – what is that? I found out that bottlecaps can be recycled (or upcycled!), but there is a little ring of plastic glued into the cap – is that what you mean? Do I have to take that out first?

    2. Are all tetrapak-type cartons recyclable, or only if they say “tetrapak”?

    Thanks for your help 🙂

  3. Katy says:

    Interesting stuff! As I put out the kitchen bin this morning (first time in over 3 weeks) and the compost caddy, I have a blank slate today and could do the same. Any comparison would probably not be to my benefit, but I think I could learn from it.

    An addition to Sam’s Q2 – should we remove the stupid little plastic spouts from tetra-style packs? (What happened to just cutting the corner off with scissors?) Hm, why am I asking you? I’ll contact the council! (Muppet!)

  4. Katy says:

    “not to my benefit” – I mean I would make you look even better than you already do 🙂

  5. LOL – darn that butter dish. Tell you what Mrs G, looking at your stats, already you’re demonstrating that it is possible to recycle beyond 60% of household waste, the figure that is often quoted. So go girl. 😀 x

    P.S. Sam and Katy, I spoke to Tetrapak ages ago and they confirmed they recover non Tetrapak cartons too. Their advice is to keep the caps on.

  6. Carole Blake says:

    @maisie dalziel: Hi Maisie, do what some of us do, take your own container and get them to cut you off a lump that will fit into it. You’ll get some quizzical looks the first time, but if you just explain what you’re doing, they’re usually ok with it.


  7. Carole Blake says:

    It’s interesting, Mrs G, to see exactly what other people buy. I found out that the nearest Tetrapak recycling place is in the next county, Exeter!! Something else to email North Cornwall District Council about. Time we had one here. I stopped buying Tetrapaks ages ago because we can’t do anything with them here.

    Anyway, here we go, it’s raining out which means I don’t want to walk around the local shops tussling with an umbrella, jute shoppers and containers, getting my newly washed hair all frizzy.

    So I’m driving off up to Tesco, containers ready, for a onestop shopping experience where I’m challenging myself to keep unrecyclable packaging to the absolute minimum. (I need milk, so that’ll mean an inner seal probably).

    Wish me luck…

  8. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    What A Waste – Tonight, exposed the hopeless lack of organisation in UK recycling of mixed plastic waste from government down. As I have often said only consumers can lead the change by following the Zero Waste trend. Positively the worst moment was when an icinerator rep spoke about the “sustainability of EfW”. A FoE guy explained about toxic fly ash. Thank goodness for a balanced reference.

    A local Gloucester family, mother and 3 young children saved about half of the usual bin waste during the recent Zero Waste Week. Their busy lifestyle made it impossible to shop outside the supermarket, so options were limited.

    The coverage of Zero Waste was very superficial with no mention of containers or of buying loose produce. Plastic free towns got a mention but that is small scale.

    One woman had an emptied fish tank full of mixed plastic waste. The main problem is that she uses plastic packaging as we did before taking up the trend. She should ditch the packaging altogether as soon as possible.

  9. Carole Blake says:

    Admittedly my boys are staying at their dad’s this week so I’m only shopping for me, but I think I’ve got away with 1 plastic milk bottle inner seal and 2 of those tiny thread like label attachers for a new track suit which was on sale.

    I got the guy behind the loose fish counter to stick a label on my container with a wee bit of a treat (salmon). II swam 64 lengths of my local swimming pool after work today, which is a wee bit more than a mile so I think I deserve it.

    I also shoved 1 loose seedy bread roll into another container and spoke nicely to the guy at the checkout explaining my zero waste policy.

    Thought I was going to have trouble at the cereal counter but Scott’s Porridge Oats came up trumps as I shook the cardboard container and couldn’t hear any sign of plastic inside. Then I saw the instructions with a tab opening on the side like our budgie seed Trill!! So I reckon that’s fairly safe too.

    Next week tho’, I’ll have my lads back and they really like ccrisps and chocolate biscuits. Any ideas anyone?

  10. Carole Blake says:

    @John Costigane: Hi John, I just watched this, was posting about it, but accidently clicked on another link and lost the lot!! (The incpen link on the What a Waste/tonight website)

    The whole thing was in places, postive and depressing. However, thinking back to my Tesco experience, it IS possible to shop practically zero waste.

    My downstairs neighbour has just told me she thinks the container idea is brilliant (I’ve been spreading the word.) I just hope she does what she said and tries it for herself.

    I really think the groundswell of opinion is beginning to grow..

  11. John Costigane says:

    @Carole Blake: Carole, you are doing an amazing job. If enough people use containers they will become the standard. Not only that, supermarkets may adapt to allow commodity tranfer to container (rice, coconut, dried fruit, etc). There is a lot still to do but momentum will build to a better sustainable lifestyle.

    Good to see your Zero Waste purchases. I too buy that style of brown bread for slicing. Containers are my main way for loose food (fish/meat/some diary/coffee beans/home cosmetics). I just say that is reusable packaging, something that business has lagged behind in using. It just shows that we are at the forefront. I am on good terms with all shopping staff and always explain my ideas, rather than force my opinions on others. Make them feel part of it.

  12. Carole Blake says:

    @John Costigane: Hi John, thanks for the support. It did take me slightly longer to get around the supermarket this evening as I kept debating the whys and wherefores, but in the end I’m glad I rejected several options. I have posted a new topic on skynews forums, under “Being Green, Even When It Seems Hard”, feel free to comment lol.

    Mrs G,

    Breaking down the amount of waste we all produce is a VERY SCARY THING!! Every little thing starts to weigh on your shoulders, talk about guilt, and as I’ve found, it can take shopping time a lot longer as you try to find alternatives.

    Had to bite my tongue with a will this evening in supermarket, watching guy buying small amounts of veg, and every different veg picked up loose but he’d bagged it in plastic. How did I restrain myself???? I’m sure the suppressed adrenaline isn’t good for me.

  13. John Costigane says:

    @Carole Blake: Hi Carole, well done. Your post on SkyNews is a very good start. We can reply to each others efforts and write more posts. This will generate more interest, particularly among the ladies.

  14. John Costigane says:

    @John Costigane: Carole, If you wish we can pass emails to help coordination. My email address is [email protected]. Please send me a message to confirm. That would allow quick updates of news or forum stuff.

  15. Mrs Green says:

    @maisie dalziel: Is there a nearby shop which will put cheese into a container for you, Maisie? our local convenience store – just a small village shop, buys large blocks of cheese from the cash and carry and she cuts it up into small pieces and clingfilms it. However, she is willing to cut pieces off and put them into our containers. I find that some small shop owners are more eager to please than large corporations.

    @Sam: Hi Sam, the inner seal from the beer top, is indeed the small piece of plastic from inside the lid. Whether or not it is necessary to remove it I don’t know; but we err on the safe side. I’m sure when you think about it, it isn’t necessary to remove as the lined cans have plastic in them too.
    To my knowledge, all cartons can go in the tetrapak recycling, such as those used for soya milk, fruit juice, tomatoes, soups etc.

    @Katy: Katy, you don’t need to remove the plastic caps – that is outlined on the tetrapak recycling FAQs:
    “Do I have to remove the plastic cap from the carton before recycling?
    No. The caps can be left on. They will be removed in the recycling process.”
    Good luck with your challenge and well done for getting involved with Love Food hate Waste!

    @Almost Mrs Average: Hey Mrs A – you wait until next Monday – my maths is not the best, but I had a stab at what percentage we are recycling and it’s pretty hip 😉

    @Carole Blake: exeter – that’s miles away. I hope you get a recycling centre soon. Do keep checking the locator site as they just spring up overnight – That’s what happened to us.

    Well done on the successful shopping trip (and for biting your tongue in true British fashion!) and I hope the salmon was good. For crisps, there is little alternative unless you can make use of old Pringles containers.
    For chocolate biscuits, you’re gonna have to get your pinny on! unless you have a market that sells loose.

    It’s great to hear that you are spreading the word amongst your neighbours.

    @John Costigane: I’ll be watching the programme later; I think I have to wait 24 hours to watch it.

    You have highlighted one area of our site that is missing and that is the ability to pass PMs to one another. We did consider adding a social networking area to the site, but it will require a lot of set up.

    For now, if people wish to swap details but don’t want them published on the site I can step in and exchange them for readers, privately.

  16. The shops closest to me only have pre-packeaged cheese, and as I’m trying to avoid the big supermarkets it is difficult.

    Maybe I will have to bite the bullet and buy a big block from the cash & carry next time then it would only be one package and just grate and freeze.Will have to check origin though.

    I do also try to buy only British cheese which Co-op sells and my corner shop, but they come pre-packaged.

    I’m not trying to make excuses here, just having to go with my principals as well as ethics and finances.

  17. Mrs Green says:

    What a good idea about buying from the cash and carry. Once it is frozen, can it only be eaten when defrosted and cooked, or can you defrost it and eat raw?

    I understand what you are saying – there is rarely a product that ticks all of the ethics boxes **sigh**

  18. @Mrs Green:

    Cheese can be used frozen or you just let it defrost and then use as you would fresh.Grated is ideal.

    It is one of those ideal foods which if you can get hold of a glut at a very cheap price will keep for ages if frozen.

    I do this to a certain extent with the stronger mature that I use in cooking ( a little goes along way) and have it in pre-weighed tubs which are the right amount for sauces etc.

    Just hadn’t really thought about doing it for the day to day cheese, only thing I have found is that it is better grated before freezing as it will crumble when it is cut.

  19. Mrs Green says:

    you’re a wealth of knowledge, Maisie – thank you 🙂 I’m going to try it (not that I ever seem to find cheap cheese anywhere!)

  20. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Thanks for the offer of PM type transfer. Carole contacted me and this will be fine. Obviously, relevant stuff will be still be posted here for everybody’s attention. The forum is a bit quiet after the recent TV posts. My hope is that Carole will attract the other lasses on the forum. Carole’s first topic was a good one, about living in a flat and the recycling/composting challenges.

  21. Carole Blake says:

    Thanks for that John, sorry I’ve not been around too much today, getting ready to paint my lounge, urgh.

  22. just Gai says:

    Thanks for the tip about the silica gel packets. I’ve often wondered how best to reuse them. Keeping seeds dry sounds the ideal solution.

  23. Just to add my two bits – isn’t is fun to see exactly what other people are producing as waste. Very revealing. Almost as fun as judging people based on what they are buying the supermarket lineup 🙂

    Great job. We can recycle many more types of plastic than you can, and we still have a hard time of it! I also like seeing how the packaging differs from Canada.

  24. Marie Phillips says:

    I find it’s the little things that give most trouble when it comes to recycling. In my waste bin (as well as a few items that shouldn’t be there) there is a silver strip with a plastic innard that has held plastic capsules containing inhalation powder that I take for asthma. Then of course there is the plastic capsule when empty. Destined for landfill I fear. But it is small things like this that I don’t know what to do with.

  25. John Costigane says:

    @Marie Phillips: Marie, the drug industry lags way behind in Zero Waste aspirations. My own experience is collecting the aluminium combination waste you see in blister packs. Removing the foil is worth doing to save it from landfill.

    Highlighting the issue is worthwhile. I have contacted drug companies in the past, without success. That is something you could try, offering your views of a Zero Waste alternative.

  26. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: John, recycling in a flat is an important topic to be discussed. I’m all too aware that I am extremely lucky with the amount of space I have here.

    @Carole Blake: Hope the painting is successful, Carole!

    @just Gai: Hi Just gai – good to see you. I can’t take credit for the tip; it was shared by another of our readers – i’m glad you find it useful 🙂

    @Jen from clean bin: Hey Jen; I found your tiny bin on the news programme yesterday amazing. I think we produce in a week the same as you have produced in your 200+ days. It IS fun to look in other people’s bins LOL! I never thought I’d be saying that 😀

    @Marie Phillips: Hi Marie; good to see you again. John’s right – the pharmaceutical companies have a long way to go. Most things are packaged in combination materials or plastic bottles.

    I know they have to take the utmost of care with preserving and non-contamination, but maybe there is a better way. Keep writing to manufacturers and let us know if you get any favourable responses.

    And most of important of all – don’t feel bad about it. You need your medication and the choice of packaging is beyond your control. You are doing so much in other ways; focus on that 🙂

  27. Shellie says:

    What a great site! I just stumbled on it today. I am in the states, and we lag behind you in the ability to recycle. We are currently only able to recycle #1 & 2 plastics in my state, and non-combo plastic. Aluminum is cans only, not foil or wrappers. Glass is non-broken only. Cardboard is corrigated only. So many restrictions that I find myself with way too much trash. I try to watch what I buy as to not end up with too much garbage, but sometimes it’s unavoidable, like with my daughter’s nutrition drink. It comes only in #5 plastic containers. It used to come in cans or plastic, so I bought the cans. But no more. I will keep reading to see what ingenious ways you find to recycle!

  28. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Shellie – great to see you and I’m glad you found us! It sounds like you have many restrictions with recycling in your area, so like you say, you have to watch what you buy. That must be quite challenging with a family, but it sounds like you are doing your best.
    I look forward to seeing you again. 🙂

Leave a Reply