Mrs Green’s late night ramble on zero waste

Filed in Blog by on October 12, 2009 10 Comments
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The Green's enjoying our beautiful countryside this week - let's keep it that way for a while longer ...

The Green's enjoying our beautiful countryside this week - let's keep it that way for a while longer ...

Zero waste is big news at the moment.

What with the Government’s announcement due tomorrow about reducing waste by 50% over the next ten years, a story in the Guardian yesterday stating that English district councils spend £1 in every £3 of council tax revenue on gathering and disposing of household rubbish , and the Daily Mail covering a story about the possibility of £1,000 fines for putting any food scraps in the dustbin, things are clearly getting a bit hot under the collar on how best to dispose of our waste.

In the UK we are currently sending 62 million tons of rubbish to landfill each year. The Government want to halve this with their ‘zero waste’ strategy and only items with ‘absolutely no other use‘ will be landfilled. The UK currently landfills 57% of its waste, recycles 34% and incinerates the rest.

While the wars rage between the ‘anti waste brigade’ (I guess that’s us) and the ‘Not in Our Front Yard campaign’ (those opposed to multiple wheelie bins and recycling boxes blighting Britain’s streets) along with the Not in our back yard’ (people who don’t want incinerators), we shall continue to spread our zero waste message along with some other wonderful garbloggers.

We have shown a workable solution to the waste issue which we believe almost anyone can achieve. Even if everyone halved their weekly landfill waste, we would be well on our way to resolving this issue with no need for incinerators or increased landfill tax.

If we start to view our rubbish as a resource and think carefully before we vote with our money we can put a stop to the issue of landfill and incineration. Far from taking away money and trade from waste, we can shift the focus into a more sustainable way of living where cradle to cradle products are manufactured and consumed.

If we all think before we buy something about the end life of the product and packaging and start showing manufacturers we don’t WANT waste then things will start to change. Manufacturers are driven by consumer demand, not the other way around.

As the waste debate continues, have a think about all you have achieved with your own ‘zero waste’ journey and give yourselves a pat on the back. We have a diverse range of visitors to Myzerowaste each at their own stage of the journey.

We met some new faces on the site during our zero waste challenge and many picked up the baton and started to make small changes. Lots of people making small changes is all it takes to begin a collective shift in awareness and to see meaningful, positive action take place.

Other visitors are old hands at the recycling game and have been with us since the start, but continue to amaze me with their integrity and support of our vision. Some are branching out into their communities to spread the word, while others do not settle for what they have achieved and always strive to do more.

We are looking forward to see what the Government have in store for us tomorrow, but know it will come with opposition and debate.

In the meantime, we will continue to work towards our goal of only putting our dustbin out once this year and if we achieve it, who knows where next year will take us!
If someone had told me 18 months ago I would be producing less than 100 gms per week of landfill waste I would not have believed them. My goal, my dream, my ultimate vision was to put out one carrier bag per week. So never give up hope or think you are not doing enough. Just as a baby puts one foot in front of the other and learns to walk, you can soon be running along your own path of zero waste…

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 (10)

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  1. Julia says:

    I think what you’ve started is wonderful and I’m so glad to I joined the no waste bandwagon!

  2. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Your reading of the waste situation is spot-on, with various political and non-political aspects. Politics does not belong in the Zero Waste trend as it divides people, and confuses the issue. Far better to encourage everyone to join-in, and even incentivise the process for uninterested householders.

    Fining should not be part of this judging by previous events where for example a family were prosecuted basically for the large number in the household.

    Scare stories from the Mail are worth very little. Their food waste ‘scare’ hides the fact that AD can use this waste product to produce local biogas, a valuable asset. Admittedly, AD, for food waste, is a recent development but the potential landfill/EfW reduction should inform people’s opinion on the subject.

  3. My council has decided to suspend the “green” waste collection from November to April. Siting reduction in carbon emissions from too many lorries not being used to full capacity.

    Needless to say I had a very heated phone conversation with the department, girl telling me to put all my “green” waste into the landfill bin or drive the 30 mile round trip to dispose of it at the hwrc. She couldn’t answer me when I asked about the extra landfill space required for this extra waste and for the gases produced because of the organic matter in the landfill waste.

    I also fired off an email stating same as phone conversation, I have received a response but not a very satisfactory one, so I will be looking at this again.

  4. Well said Mrs G and all who hang out here. I’ve been pondering on this a lot lately and yes it’s already getting very lively and the headlines can’t fail to depress, because I do believe that newspapers have enormous power to rally the war-cry against efforts made in this area, usually pressing civil liberties buttons amongst our society.

    However with that said, society too has changed over the last couple of years as has awareness of global problems and people’s acceptance and desire to do more for themselves and their families. The trend towards “waste-not-want-not” is becoming more prolific whether it’s from the angle of necessary or voluntary thrift, a rising appreciation of local and home-made goods or action to satisfy efforts for dealing with climate change.

    The clever thing about reducing waste is that it has the ability to take the heat off in more ways than one. It can be a silent protest or sensible way to declutter or an opportunity to simply save money.

    I remember when we were first encouraged to recycle. It seemed an intrusive demand at the time, but most people are now used to “doing their bit ” with the usual materials. This is just the next step, a hard one for many, but one that will see positive results.

    Maybe it’s time to bring back The Wombles! 😀

  5. @maisie dalziel: Maisie, I agree this is very disappointing news indeed. Is it a seasonal issue, given that they expect less tonnage due to people not tending their gardens through the Winter? If so could they adjust collection times in relation to the changes or change their rounds to where they are likely to get the most capacity. I know this could be easier said than done when it comes to logistics, but you’d hope there could be some kind of solution available. What is particular worrying is if the collection includes food waste, especially with regard to the current trend of reducing food waste to landfill. If so will they be rolling out a food waste awareness campaign during this time? I would like to think that someone has done the maths and worked out the effect of methane against the CO2 of the lorries and that the latter isn’t just a factor on its own. Anyway good luck. 😀

  6. sandy says:

    I have heard on the grapevine that my local council are about to introduce food waste bins, and yogurt pot disposal, hopefully this is true, I will try to purchase everything this week with waste in mind, I am working on the fishmonger to let me bring my own pots. but his is mostly paper, I have increased the veg and fruit order, so no more plastic. Can anyone tell me about tea packaging, I can’t find any without cellophane wrapping?

  7. John Costigane says:

    @sandy: Loose tea leaves, in card boxes and paper lining, are available in superstores in Scotland, ie Scottish Blend and ASDA Loose Tea. If these are not available elsewhere in the UK, you could always ask at Customer Services.

  8. @Almost Mrs Average: The seasonal issue was one mentioned in the email response.

    But my point to them was that for people like myself who have a full green waste collection bin every month (don’t put it out fortnightly), then the service even if reduced is definitely needed.

    Home composting was also mentioned, but I have found that even with a council subsidised bin we were getting mice because of the fruit and veg peelings, which is what most of mine is.

    I did also state that I would now be having to put my landfill bin out every collection because of the food waste element rather than 3 monthly as at present.

    I also pointed out that there are alot of landfill bins with extra bags at the side and then the green waste bin goes out was well, so how many extar extra bags will these households have.

    We will see

  9. John Costigane says:

    @maisie dalziel: Maisie, We also have a winter gap in green waste collections due to lack of growth which results. However, when food waste is added to green waste the waste output continues all year round making the council decision a poor one. An alternative would be separate food waste collection but this adds costs to councils.

    Home composting has been my practice for 2 years without any invasion by rodents. Maybe you could firmly base the compost bin into the soil and then add several inches of garden soil, as a base lining, to seal in the peelings. Composting liquid/powder helps the composting process and could deter unwanted visitors of all types. Another factor might be the heat produced in composting. If you use a slightly damper composting method, heat is minimal but the process is a lot slower, taking over 6 months to fully convert.

  10. Mrs Green says:

    @Julia: Thank you Julia; I’m loving your Bash the Trash challenge and the pic of your boys playing games without electricity was just lovely!

    @John Costigane: Hi John, I agree we should make this easier and less daunting for people to join in. Have you seen the excellent video on Jen’s Clean Bin Project this morning, highlighting the fact that if you make something fun 66% more people are likely to join in? It’s really inspiring and has got me thinking in a new way!

    @maisie dalziel: Oh Maisie, what a disappointment. One of our local councillors is pro getting rid of the green waste scheme around here. I *can* see his point because we all have large gardens, but we would still struggle to deal with our waste unless we set up about 5 large compost heaps.
    Maybe lots of residents will complain and you’ll get the service back 😉

    @Almost Mrs Average: Love your mini speech Mrs A 😀 And I love your take on the fact that there are positive side effects of zero waste, no matter what angle you come from – thanks for sharing your thoughts …

    @sandy: Hi Sandy, your collections get better and better! We covered tea on the site before and I have another post coming up about it soon.
    You could have a browse through the comments on this thread and combine that with John’s suggestions to see what you come up with: http://mzw.wpengine.com/2008/11/the-perils-of-the-british-cuppa/
    The trouble is, packaging keeps changing!
    Let us know if you find anything and I can keep the site updated with the latest news!

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