Reducing plastic waste and reducing landfill

Filed in Blog by on July 7, 2009 9 Comments
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Plastic waste created from food recently

Plastic waste created from food recently

We may well have been reducing our landfill waste for a year, but there is still a lot we have to learn and many more good habits to put in place.

As you might remember from last week, we had a family conference about the state of our bin.

We set ourselves a goal at the beginning of the year to see if we could go through the entire year without having our bin emptied.

It’s now the beginning of July and we’re 2/3 of the way through.

Things are not looking good.

Little Miss Green bravely suggested she gave up crisps. We compromised and suggested one big bag a week to reduce composite material waste.

This week I made a few simple changes. No brainer changes really; but little habits that had got back into a landfill layabout kinda way needed a overhaul.

I read through some of the recent weekly weigh in posts and could see some recurring dustbin demons:

  • Vine tomatoes bought from the supermarket on plastic trays with film wrap
  • Organic bananas in a plastic bag
  • Green beans on a plastic tray
  • Cut cucumber portions in plastic film
  • Mixed peppers in a cellophane bag

This time of year, when there is an abundance of fresh produce, I decided there was no excuse for plastic packaging. So with renewed enthusiasm I set to work in the local farm shop.

I bought fresh tomatoes in a paper bag, loose organic bananas, a handful of green beans sans packaging, a lone red pepper and a fat, juicy cucumber.

nwe habits - fresh food bought loose from the farm shop

new habits - fresh food bought loose from the farm shop

it’s not rocket science is it?

But recently, I’ve noticed a slip in my own habits. I’ve been erring towards convenience and can’t-be-arsed (CBA) syndrome has been kicking in with full force.

I’ve been buying the odd chicken on a plastic tray from the supermarket, grabbing everything in the trolley such as packaged cheese rather than remembering my own container for the deli. And I’ve been purchasing wrapped produce because ‘it’s easier to get everything under one roof’.

In short, I’ve been too busy to care.

There, I said it.

When you’re too hot, tired,  cold, hungry, too ,  depressed or having a bad hair day; supermarkets are blessed places. You just push that trolley around, fill it up and off you go to replenish your cupboards.

Thing is, you invariably end up replenishing your bin and the landfill at the end of it.

So I’m back on the wagon and I’m determined to reduce our weekly household waste even further. Like a woman renewing her wedding vows, I’m moving back to a loving relationship with my environment.

Who knows, we might even make it through the year with just one bin after all!

What about you – are there any good habits you have slipped out of that you could put back into place this week?

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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 (9)

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  1. I too noticed after nipping to Tesco yesterday that certain items were more of a convenience than if I had thought ahead.

    Tortilla wraps , – have my own press and a big bag of massa harina
    wafer thin ham – not sure about this one, at least it was british pork
    tube yogurts – these were yeo valley so in a box and then a PET 1 tray but its the individual tubes.
    crisps – same as usual outer bag plus inner bags

    even the cherry tomatoes this week in my veg box came in a PET 1 container wrapped in plastic, will have to look at that one.

  2. It must be something to do with the summer and all the tempting produce in supermarkets. I’ve been suffering from being busy too and have missed our Wednesday and Saturday markets. At least where I live I can recycle all the packaging, which is my safety blanket. However, I still prefer to avoid the packaging wherever I can even if I can recycle it. Good luck with the new push 😀 xxx

  3. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    I am glad to see that you have refocussed on the Zero Waste approach. Buying loose is ace and there will soon be a farmer’s market in Paisley for me, every second Saturday. This is welcome since these markets are found all over the UK and offer local choices. I definitely have missed out up to now. Paisley had lost a lot of trade to Braehead, the out of town shopping mall. This development is a good thing for several reasons.

    Best of luck with the full year attempt. I found that being absolutely set on plastic package avoidance helps. For instance in supermarkets, I do not look at the packaged goods, milk being the main exception.

  4. Carole says:

    Mrs G,

    Don’t be too hard on yourself, it is very, very difficult to keep focussed when you’re hot, tired, hungry and busy! More often than not, the job that I’m supposed to be able to leave at 2.45pm each day keeps me there till after four. Not because I HAVE to, but because if I’m in the middle of something, I’ll finish it rather than clock off when I can. Hence, I get back home, and by the time I’ve thought about food, the only shops open are the supermarkets, and not all of them are keen on you bringing in your own tubs etc (and lets face it, when you’re in a rush, it’s in, grab what you can, and out again). That’s not to say I don’t do it when I have the time…but it doesn’t always happen.

    It’s hard, well done on what you have achieved so far!!

  5. Compostwoman says:

    It is very hard if you want to buy Organic stuff…as unless you have an organic shop handy as we do in Ledbury….you are condemned to buy packaged stuff from supers….so as to keep the organic and non organic stuff separated…………..

    I would have a zero waste bin ( yes really!) if it wasn’t for the packaging we have to endure to buy organic stuff………….

    The stuff I throw into the landfill bin is all packaging from organic stuff which is not recyclable around here…but if I want to eat organic….what else do I do? I already buy as much as I can from the local shop…grow a huge amount here ….and buy as much in recyclable packaging as I can….

  6. Sarah says:

    Yes, my hand is in the air here. It’s been cold and wet and this wee we did the “Oh sod it, let’s just do the shopping in tesco.” We did buy pre-packed pizza in far too much plastic but we did choose loose fruit and veg and we didn’t bother putting it in those daft little plastic bags they provide.

    However, the quiche we bought was a surprise – card outer box, foil tray and NO PLASTIC AT ALL!! Yeah, I know, I should be making quiche but we only have one hen laying and I can make excuses all day but I couldn’t be bothered….

  7. Mrs Green says:

    @maisie dalziel: Hi Maisie; plastic gets us everywhere doesn’t it! I’m still reolved to make changes though. Yesterday’s weigh in should house the last of the remaining items such as plastic trays for tomatoes, chicken packaging and cheese wrapping. I’m off to the shops this morning with containers and bags in tow!

    @Almost Mrs Average: The recycling facilities in your area are amazing, Mrs A. But like you I wouldn’t want to fall into a comfort trap. I hope things ease up for you soon and you get to enjoy a relaxing summer.

    @John Costigane: Enjoy your new farmers market John; it will be a haven for you and thanks for the good luck wishes. We will have to be very determined and disciplined for this to work now!

    @Carole: Thanks Carole; I guess it’s not like it used to be with a shopping day for the housewife, eh? LOL! We’re dashing in between the 101 other jobs we do in a day which is why the supermarket, with all its packaging is leading the way.
    How are the house moving plans coming along?

    @Compostwoman: Combing these values is so tricky isn’t it? I too find that the organic stuff in supermarkets is more packaged than non. Fortunately we have the farm shop and I am making more use of that; buying things in there I would not normally buy. I’ve been doing this for a fortnight now, so I’m hoping this will continue.

    @Sarah: Sarah, we find quiches to be pretty safe on the packaging front too. The Co-Op sell a great range AND they are half price at the moment. I’ll be stocking up as one of the things I hate making most is pastry. Blah.
    Hope you enjoyed the pizza 🙂

  8. It will be easier for me once the school hols start after next weekend as the tube yogs will no longer be purchased, and the wraps and ham were for packups as well.Althouigh I will make wraps and maybe get some different ham for the boys lunches during the hols.

    Come Sept both boys will be buying lunch in the school canteen which operates a recycling policy on certain items, they add a deposit onto the cost so when the kids take the item back they get the deposit back, plus some are entrepreneurs and collect excess to get the extra deposits back.

    Dh lunches will be easier as he will continue to take leftovers with the occasional sandwich day thrown in.

  9. Mrs Green says:

    @maisie dalziel: Hi Maisie; I used to find that too – packaging reduced once there were no more packed lunches to think about.
    I love the sound of the scheme in your boy’s school canteen; that’s great – keep us posted on that and how it works. It would make an inspiring story for the site 🙂

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