Zoe’s Waste Free day for WRAP’s Recycle week

Filed in Blog by on June 29, 2009 17 Comments
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Zoe from Rekindled and her Waste free day pledge

Zoe from Rekindled and her Waste free day pledge

I met Zoe on Twitter and she pledged to go waste free for a day in honour of the WRAP’s Recycle week! She discovered some interesting things about the ‘green dot’ symbol, which we are sure has caught most of us out at some point.

Zoe lives near Canterbury with her husband and 2 cats. Her interests include environmentalism and crafts; which she blogs about on her Rekindled website. Zoe likes making things out of recycled materials to combine both of her interests.

Her belief is that we should all be focusing on the first of the three R’s and work on reducing our impact on the earth. In this guest post, she shares her experiences of her Waste Free pledge.

Recycle week

Zoe's council collection recycling bin and bucket used to collect glass bottles

Zoe's council collection recycling bin and bucket used to collect glass bottles

At the beginning of Recycle Week I made a pledge to go waste free for a day, or else I would have to make all the dinners for a whole week (although I don’t know who that would punish more, me or my husband!).   It was a bit of a spur of the moment thing, chosen by a process of elimination as I already do all the other suggested pledges.

You can see from these pictures of my kitchen that we are already pretty good at recycling.  The big black bin is actually our recycling bin (for council collection) and next to that is a bucket we use to collect glass bottles, which we take to the local bottle bank.  Under the sink we have a compost bin, which gets emptied into the big compost bin outside, and then finally a very small bin for everything else.   However, I knew that to throw absolutely nothing away for a whole day would be a bit of a challenge.

I have made two exceptions to the no waste pledge: cat litter and cat food packaging.

Zero waste Cat Litter

Usually we use clumping clay based cat litter, which has to be thrown in the landfill.  However I have just discovered a natural, corn based alternative, which still clumps but can be flushed down the toilet.  I ordered some online and it arrived halfway through the week, and we are in the process of switching the cats over.

When it comes to cat food, we have been using a mixture of pouches and dry food up until now.  Both my husband and I thought that the pouches were recyclable because it had the green dot symbol on.  However, we were shocked to learn this week that this symbol only means that the manufacturer has made a contribution to the cost of recovery and recycling under EU law.  So from now on we will be switching to cat food in tins.

Waste for a week

To help me work towards a zero waste day, I have kept a record of everything I have thrown away this week.  You can also add to this paper and cups at work, as we have no recycling facilities at all (although I am looking into this).

Monday: Plastic packaging from convenience food, packaging from disposable razors (I feel horrendous admitting to using something disposable!!), cleansing face wipe.

Zoe's compost bin and tiny bin for landfill waste

Zoe's compost bin and tiny bin for landfill waste

Tuesday: Plastic tags and elastic loop from a new pair of shoes, viscose loops from inside a top, cleansing face wipe.  We also went out for dinner so the restaurant probably created some waste.

Wednesday: Crisp packet, wrapper from printer cartridge, cleansing face wipe.

Thursday: Crisp packet, cleansing face wipe.

Friday: NOTHING!!!!

My collection of bins means I was already well set up for this challenge, but I have had to make some changes to my normal habits to get to this point.

Lifestyle changes

I have started putting cotton wool in the compost bin, instead of just putting it in the normal bathroom bin.  I have also started bringing home foil, fruit waste and anything else recyclable from my packed lunches at work.

I am also now an expert at spotting the plastic recycling symbols on packaging (my council will collect number 1 and 2 types).

To achieve zero waste on Friday, we ate all homemade food, including some new potatoes and salad from the garden, apart from a quiche which was in recyclable packaging.  We also went to the cinema but didn’t buy any snacks or drinks.  And at bedtime I didn’t use my usual face wipe and just stuck to plain old soap and water, which was horrible but didn’t create any rubbish!

A lot of these habits will be easy to continue, like composting cotton wool and bringing home rubbish from my lunches.  However there are still some more changes I want to make.

Landfill and recycled waste

The Green Dot - NOT a recycling symbol!

The Green Dot - NOT a recycling symbol!

Most of the packaging we threw away (or recycled) was from convenience food, which we tend to rely on in the week as we both work full time.  This is partly due to lack of organisation, plus the urge to collapse on the sofa when we get home, but with a bit more effort we could change this.

I also use face wipes to take my make up off at the end of the day, because I am usually quite tired and can’t be bothered with the full cleanse/tone/moisturise routine by that point.  I did try a biodegradable brand once but I have really oily skin and it didn’t work for me.  I will keep looking at alternatives though.

I have learned a lot this week and will be making some changes to my usual habits to reduce my waste.  I am still shocked about the green dot symbol though – I know I’m not the only person who thought it meant packaging was recyclable. Overall I am pleased with how I got on this week, and very happy that I don’t have to make the dinners for a whole week!

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 (17)

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  1. Hi Zoe – WELL DONE – that’s absolutely brilliant. I always recommend having a huge bin for recyclables and a smaller rubbish bin, that way during those moments of weakness, there’s no temptation to bung stuff in the rubbish.

    What a fab week, especially Friday. You must have been chuffed. And as for that blimming green dot – that one caught me out for ages and is one of the first things that you notice when you start reducing waste.

    Enjoy your week – hope you have a relaxing time 😀

  2. John Costigane says:

    Hi Zoe,

    Great to see you try a Zero Waste challenge. The best way is to find your own answers to the various waste, but refer to other enthusiasts, Mrs Green and Mrs Average, for the experienced view.

    The pet situation is worth explaining for others to promote the best choices. That way good ideas can have a broader impact.

  3. Poppy says:

    Congratulations on really making the effort Zoe.

    Like you, my cats are a waste problem, but only with the food side of it now, as they no longer use a litter tray. I also found a litter that I could recycle via the compost bin (with solids going down the loo). At the moment, they have dry food all day and one sachet each of wet food at night. At the end of the summer, I will change them over to tins, but as they are only 9 months old, I haven’t been able to find a reasonably priced food that is suitable for them.

  4. Zoe says:

    @Poppy: Hi Poppy, thanks for your comments. Which cat litter have you found that you can compost? Are you sure it is safe?

    When it comes to kitten food I don’t think there is much choice if you want to feed them some wet food. I think it’s all a marketing ploy to get you (and your cats) used to the more expensive pouches.

  5. Zoe says:

    @John Costigane: Thanks for your feedback, John. I’ve now got Mrs Green’s and Mrs Average’s email addresses so I can get easily in touch with the experts for more advice!

  6. Zoe says:

    @Almost Mrs Average: I felt like such a dunce over the green dot, so I’m glad I’m not the only one! Thanks for the comment.

  7. Poppy says:



    According to the gumpf, it’s a 100% Ecological and natural cat litter. I wish I’d found it sooner. I think I used one bag and then have another half bag stashed away for emergencies.

    I bought it from Sainsbury’s.

  8. Charity says:

    My cats only eat dry food (on vet’s advice) so at least I don;t have the temptation of those oh-so-convenient pouches. However, I confess, I buy their biscuits in a plastic bag rather than cardboard. The reason is that it’s the Organipets brand, using only free-range “happy” meat. It’s often hard to decide which principle to uphold!

  9. Mrs Green says:

    @Charity: that’s so true, Charity. There is rarely a product that ticks all the boxes in the ethical world and many of us have the issue over which of our values we are going to support. I was reading some great sounding recipes on the Battersea dog and cat home website yesterday for cat and dog biscuits and treats. You know exactly what is going into them!

    Maybe a letter to organipets asking them if they would consider more environmentally friendly packaging?

  10. Layla says:

    WOW, Zoe, well done!! 🙂

    As for face wipes, organic-ally sells reusable pads you simply wash in the washing machine, no idea how okay that is for health & safety though, probably depending on the make-up one uses..?
    I do wish to learn more about this (ideally see a study or something?), as it’s something I’ve been personally interested in too..
    so far, I just use no make-up 🙂
    /I do have some older stuff to use up though, hmm../

    My Mum was fooled by the Green Dot too, & I’m sure many others too.. I think the purpose of the green dot is to be a bit misleading..!! 🙁

    I really love your big bin for recycling!!

    It seems our local council also as-it-is now collects mostly plastic bottles & plastic foil, so reusing #5 margarine tubs for homemade icecream was a brilliant idea (by Mum)! I hope that in future they will find new ways to collect other stuff too!!

  11. Jim Neave says:


    (Rather randomly I came across this while trying to find out how to recycle disposable razors.
    I read down and noticed the note about using ready meals in the week when you don’t have the time and energy to cook)

    The whole making a proper dinner and not living of expensive with fairly unknown nutritional values ready meals during the week stumped me for a while, but I got it in the end.

    On Sunday I cook an 8 person meal of the one pot kind (spaghetti bolognese, chilli, veg curry, etc.)
    And Monday night I split it into four plastic containers and freeze them.
    You just have to remember to take one out in the morning to defrost and keep your store cupboard full of rice and pasta.

    My remaining obstacles are:

    1) Side veg, I use frozen because fresh doesn’t last a week and I don’t have a local greengrocers (Thankyou Asda et al.)
    2) Washing up. I have a dishwasher. It’s a little one, AAA rated mini in a cupboard and uses 8 litres of water but I just can’t keep up without it and I get depressed.

    Anyway, I can recommend some good cook books if you like.



  12. Zoe says:

    Jim, you sound very organised. I have got as far as making 4 person meals and having the leftovers the day after (sharing with my husband of course!). I have never tried freezing homemade food before though, and I don’t really know anyone who does so I am a bit nervous! However I have a huge tomato glut at the moment so at the weekend I might make a huge batch of pasta sauce and freeze some of it. I just got the Kitchen Revolution cookbook for my birthday which has loads of recipes designed for this type of cooking so I will be giving them a whirl as well.

    We use frozen veg a lot for the same reasons as you. Is it worse to buy fresh veg and end up throwing half of it away when it goes bad, or buy frozen and end up with non-recyclable packaging? Hard to decide, especially if you are trying to eat healthily and get your 5-a-day.

    With regard to your dishwasher, if you only run it when it is full and don’t rinse your dishes before you put them in, then it is probably lower impact than hand washing. I need to make the switch to a green dishwasher detergent, at the moment I am still using all-in-one tablets which are so convenient, but not so great for the environment. This site has more info: http://planetgreen.discovery.com/go-green/green-dishwashers/

    Layla, I have recently found that Tescos have an natural beauty range with some organic products, including face wipes made from 100% cotton. Yes, I was as shocked as you are, but they are Soil Association certified so they are proper organic! Anyway I am experimenting with putting these in the compost bin. I did try a cream cleanser (which I could have used with reusable cotton wipes) but it just seems to gunk my skin up. Because my skin is oily I have to cleanse even if I don’t wear make up so I can’t even get away with ultra-laziness, unfortunately. So this is my best compromise for now.

    Poppy and Charity, with my cats, I am switching them over to dried food (as one seems to prefer it and the other is getting fat from eating all the wet food!) and am also trying out a flushable, compostable litter.

  13. Mrs Green says:

    @Jim Neave: Hello Jim, welcome to the site and thank you for sharing your experiences. It sounds like you have batch cooking down to a fine art 🙂 You could do the same with vegetables if you felt so inclined – buy them when they are cheaper and in season and then blanch and prepare them for the freezer.
    Some studies show that dishwashers are MORE environmentally friendly than washing by hand. Personally I think it needs more clarification, as I can wash up in one washing up bowl, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it.
    Why not join in next week with zero waste week; just take one more tiny step such as using your own reusable bags for example (if you don’t do so already)

    @Zoe: Hi Zoe, lovely to see you again. What do you make the kitchen revolution? I hated it! I waited for ages to get it from the library and was so disappointed and uninspired.
    Good luck with the tomato glut; I make brushetta with ours

  14. Zoe says:

    @Mrs Green: I’ll be honest, I have barely looked at it so far, I was given 10 books for my birthday so I haven’t got around to reading it yet!

  15. Willi Paul says:

    @Almost Mrs Average:

    Hey! Recycling is cool but maybe the deal is to barter the good stuff?

    Have you looked at htt://favorpals.com?

    Easy to sign-up and the members are national….


  16. @Willi Paul: What a great idea. We have a local bartering facility where I live, but it’s a Local Exchange Trading System which allows folk to create a local economy based on bartering favours and things and offers an attractive social network too. Bartering is fun and I’d recommend it to anyone.

  17. Mrs Green says:

    @Zoe: 10 books; how lovely; my daughter would be in her element. I hope you enjoy the book and get lots of inspiration from it 🙂

    @Willi Paul: Hi Willi Paul, welcome to the site and thank you for sharing information about a great resource. It looks very new though, with little activity at the moment.

    We have similar schemes over here, as Mrs Average mentioned, such as LETS and other time banks. We also have Freeconomy; which is very popular.
    Its’ great to see what other countries have, as many of our readers are from the USA and Canada; so thank you for sharing

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