What I hate most about a zero waste lifestyle

Filed in Blog by on November 18, 2009 34 Comments
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Mrs Green's plastic mountain for recycling

Mrs Green's plastic mountain for recycling

Most of our zero waste lifestyle is ok. It’s a little bit inconvenient to start with; you forget your bag or your container, you have to wash things up to recycle instead of throw them in the bin and you need to keep a tight reign on what is festering in your fridge or rotting in the fruit bowl.

It’s a bit of inconvenience with massive rewards and fortunately most things soon become habit so you don’t even think about them any more.

There is one thing, however, which I hate.

It’s my procrastination job.

It’s the job that has me dreaming of a black bin liner and rubbish lorry.

It’s the job that makes me sulk, I put off until I can bear it no longer and I’ve never found a way to make it easier. It’s the one, that if I wasn’t keeping myself accountable to you on this site, I would undoubtedly shove in a plastic bag and allow to be taken ‘away’.

I’m talking about sending off plastic pots and containers for recycling.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re thrilled that we have an option to recycle our plastics through companies like GHS and Polyprint and we’re really grateful for the services they offer but truth be told, I just hate doing the job.

I have to save these darn pots up until I have enough to post. Invariably the older containers or pots have got dusty and need re cleaning, then I have to find packing material, wrestle with them until they can be contained, cart it to the Post office, get it weighed and send it off.

It’s a real hassle and one which I could do without.

So there you have it. Ask me to clean out a Tetra Pak and I’m all yours. Need to make a meal with leftovers? I’m your woman. Want a home made card? Look no further than my crap, but full-of-love efforts, but ask me to recycle my yogurt pots and Mr Green’s curry trays and that’s quite another matter.

Yes I know what you’re thinking – make yogurt and make curry, but you know what? I think that would be even more hassle than packing up my plastic sometimes.

I guess I’d better get to it then.

Which aspect of zero waste do you hate the most? What is your procrastination job and how do you make yourself get over it?


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 (34)

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  1. I hear you Mrs G – especially on the procrastination 🙂

    Having shouted loud and proud about Zero Waste, I always worry that people with think I’m perfect, when actually I’m not. Take last week for instance. I’d rushed into town to pick up a Christening present. Popped into the bookshop…so far so good….a zero waste gift with no packaging whatsoever. As I was paying I realised that I’d left my rucksack in my car due to being in a hurry. And when asked if I needed a bag, I looked at the rainy day outside and at to say yes….knowing fully well there were people in the store who are aware of what I do and write about. LOL…picture the scene as I tried to leg it out of the shop without being seen, complete with carrier bag in tow!

    At least it was made from 100% recycled plastic and reused before it iwll be recycled. 🙂 x

  2. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    I must agree with your pet hate, and the recurring hassle of ‘doing the necessary’. The real reason for this problem, which I share (though am just glad that the landfill outcome is avoided), is the lack of proper household recycling for such items. As usual, we enthusiasts are well ahead of the game and looking for improvements.

    Commingled recycling should be countrywide, including for TetraPaks, since it is the easiest and most realistic approach to household, and business, waste. Developments are patchy so we have to keep promoting this system on our sites until the penny drops.

  3. You already know I think you should make your yogurt. lol

    In all seriousness, I would be loathe to recycle if I had to send it away too. We’re fortunate here in that we can throw all sorts of plastics and paper all together in one bin for curbside pickup.

  4. I’m with you on this Mrs G! I save up the plastics which my local council won’t take and when I have a bag full take them into work and give them to a v kind friend whose council will take them. I also have to save up Tetra Pak cartons until I next take a trip into town and go to the car park with the Tetra Pak recycling bin. No matter how much I shake them out after rinsing, I always end up with watered down orange juice or rice milk all over my hands!

  5. Deb from Boston says:

    My recycling procrastination is bags. Yes, I confess the occassional store bag makes it into the house, but those are easily returned to the market bin. Its the food packaging bags – those inner liners for crakers and cereal, chips, lentils etc. (those few grams a week that make it to the Green’s weekly weigh in)
    I’ve mentioned before that I’ve found an artist who will take them, but that means I need to package them up and ship them off. Right now we have 3 boxes worth in my daughter’s bedroom. She comes home in a week on holiday, and I’m sure won’t appreciate the fact that her room is for storage when she is away. But now the boxes need to be sorted before mailed because return/recycle at the market bags are co-mingled with the ones that can’t. So I procrastinate some more.

  6. Ben says:

    So far… I have nothing that I hate, but I know it is coming! As my chores add up, I am sure something is going to start to get to me. I hope it does not happen for a while.

  7. Mrs Green says:

    @Almost Mrs Average: Oh, the shock, Mrs A! I forget my bags and Mr G won’t let me take a carrier bag; he makes me carry it – which does work; it means I rarely forget now because of the discomfort of carrying everything in my arms LOL!

    @John Costigane: Hi John, glad to hear I am not alone; although things are looking better in your area now. 1 in 5 councils now collect tetra paks, apparently, I’ll be popping up a story about that soon.

    @[email protected]: Hi Kristen; it’s amazing how facilities differ across the world and within countries; I would love to have the plastics collected!

    @the green gal: Oh ewwwwwww; I’m totally with you on the dripping Tetra Paks; we take gloves now as I can’t stand the thought of old soya milk dripping down my sleeves!

    @Deb from Boston: Oh dear; 3 boxes LOL! I think you need to make it a priority this week. Best of luck!

    @Ben: Let us know when you find it Ben – we’ll be waiting 😀

  8. Poppy says:

    The thing I absolutley hate the most, is the attitude of people who won’t try ……. not even a little bit. The ‘not my job’, ‘I pay my council tax’ brigade, who steadfastly refuse to see the bigger picture, They don’t or won’t believe any of the climate change information (propaganda!) and think it’s all a great big con to get more taxes from us 🙁

    At the end of the day (gee, I hate that statement too), if it’s wrong and we’ve all been on a hiding to nothing, what have we lost by being a bit more careful with the earths resources? If it’s wrong, will they say “Oh my, ever so sorry, we got it wrong. Here you are, have your money back”, of course they won’t.

    Governments need to raise money to keep everything ticking over. They will tax us whatever, if they don’t say it’s because of Climate Change, they’ll just give it another name and still tax us!

  9. sandy says:

    well that job is one less for me, as our local recycling centre has started to take all plactic, hurrah. yogurt pots and all, muchless hassell.
    tetra pack cleaning I enjoy for some reason, a very satisfactory job, sad life I lead isn’t it

  10. Iloverecycling says:

    I’m with Poppy….the thing I hate most is other people’s attitudes.

    I’ve always recycled…it’s just what you do. So, I don’t understand (and am completely horrified) when people don’t recycle. I’ve even witnessed people put piles of paper into a bin, instead of walking ONE metre to a recycling bin!

    When challenged, people are defensive about not recycling…perhaps out of guilt. This is the thing I hate most about a zero waste lifestyle – fighting against other people’s attitudes….when it should be really easy!!!

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @Poppy: Oooo, steady on Pop Tarts; that was very soap boxish for a moment 😀 No, in all seriousness I hear you on this one – apathy really gets to me. Sure I have my moments, but they don’t last long. And like you say; what harm is there in caring and doing a bit more anyway?
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    @sandy: Great to hear you now have all plastics taken at your recycling centre – I think there are many people who are hoping for that. Glad you enjoy cleaning your tetra pak cartons LOL!

    @Iloverecycling: Hi Iloverecycling! Thanks for your comment; it sounds like you’ve met some people who have really frustrated you. I agree when it has been made simple it seems a shame that people don’t try. but then again, I’ve seen children throw litter on the floor when they are less than a metre from a public bin 🙁

  12. Layla says:

    Oh how I understand you!!

    Actually, I HATE cleaning yogurt pots or tetrapaks or such – ESPECIALLY as I now know they apparently aren’t recycled at all here in our area?!! (Still need to find out about other areas!)

    SO I just never buy one and rant against buying them whenever I can! I even made peach juice just to not have to see a bloddy tetrapak!! (and the peaches were very poorly!) But the juice was yummy! Wish we made more!

    So… yup, voting for make your own yogurt or such too! And Mr Green can make his own curry? 😉
    I hate the smell of curry but Sis absolutely adores it! She’s also the yogurt-pot and tetrapak bringer-in of the family! (I rant so much that I think now she even washes them! not sure.. Or Mum takes mercy.)
    You can freeze and re-heat: make once-a-month or even once-a-year curry? 😉
    Or make curry-less curry and he just puts the curry on it when he wants to eat it? (What we do with sis. She’s the only one in the family that ever eats the yucky curry!!)

  13. Layla says:

    lol Sandy – GO you!! 🙂

    You can come clean our tetrapaks (the very occasional one/s anytime!)
    I’m anti-tetrapak otherwise, they can be at most 70% recycled, and often aren’t.

    Poppy, I don’t give an F….. if climate change is real or not (in fact am a bit sceptical myself) but nano particles from incinerators are real and can cause cancer, and filters for them haven’t been invented yet!! Also, it just seems so horribly wasteful & uhm, STUPID to use up resources and ‘eat up’ mountains and pour toxics on native families in far-off lands to mine for stuff we need, and just burn it or landfill it, and thus cause more toxics in air or water or land?!!
    So this is maybe something like what you can say to climate-sceptics! 🙂

    With rising cancer rates all over the world it’s everybody’s business to minimize any influences (because these things add up!), climate change or not!

  14. John Costigane says:

    @Layla: Tetra Paks are simple to clean. You only have to wash out any remaining liquid, under the tap, and then tilt to the most dependent point, slanted. Finally, leave to drain dry.

    The company’s sustainable aspirations are most welcome to Zero Waste enthusiasts, simply because they accept back the whole package. With recycling optimised, yet to realised, they will achieve Zero Waste for all consumers. The beauty lies in the example this sets to other companies, since we can only do so much ourselves.

    I was anti- Tetra Pak once, but now they are first choice.

  15. Mrs Green says:

    @Layla: Hi Layla, well you might be interested to know that for the past couple of weeks, I have in fact been making curry. I’m storing it in old yogurt pots in the freezer, funnily enough! Making yogurt, however, is something at the moment, I will not be considering again. But never say never 😉

  16. Layla says:

    lol! Mrs Green, great to hear you’ve been making curry! (And re-using yogurt pots!)

    John, maybe I wasn’t specific enough – I really hate cleaning empty yogurt tetrapaks, which my sister has put on the wrong side of the kitchen and they have been there for days (or forgotten in fridge & not quite empty), getting moldy or such! 🙂

    I am happy that the tetrapak company has done efforts to go greener and committed to collecting and takeback of tetrapaks, I simply do not believe a totally ‘green’ and 100% recycling of them will be discovered (any time in near future) as the ‘mixed’ packagings are most difficult to separate and recycle, so efforts of zero waste enthusiasts need to go into ‘as little mixed packaging’ as possible! And into accurate labelling: there need to be separate labels for ‘100% recyclable’ and ‘70%’ or less – why not just put it on the product, so customers can decide more easily? (As it is, the labelling is greatly misleading in many countries!) And if there can be separate info in each language, why not also put the info whether they are recycled in that country (& where) on the tetrapak too?

    As for the yogurt, which methods have you tried?
    We finally discovered that heating the milk initially caused the final product to go funny/runny, so we’ve been making ‘sour milk’ from raw milk unheated, and it was yummy! (You do need to trust the milk producer to keep adequate hygiene standards etc!)

  17. Charity says:

    I too find other people infuriating. Take my ILs for example – my mother in law uses bottled water for cooking, including boiling veg! And the nephew is only ever allowed to drink bottled water from child-sized bottles that of course ae never recycled. His mother does PR for said bottled water company… It drives us crazy, especially as they constantly make fun of us for our peculiar ways.

    Mother in law also constantly showers us with unwanted toys and other gifts, often complete with shop gift wrap. It makes things much harder. When we complain she just tells us to throw old things out to make space for the new ones! Two teddies, a rag doll and a box of biscuits so far this week…

    Aside from the in-laws, I am very cross that we can’t seem to keep our worms alive. Bad worm parents 🙁

  18. Mrs Green says:

    @Layla: Oh yes, once things have mould in them, then the cleaning gets difficult. It’s all about short accounts and we’ve found ourselves getting better and better at this as our challenge has progressed. Once you know what your personal ‘can’t deal with this’ point it, you take steps to ensure you don’t find yourself in that position.

    I heated the milk first; my two loved the yogurt I made; it was me that didn’t 🙂

    @Charity: Hi Charity; it is difficult when people give us things we do not want and even harder when your appeals are met with such disrespect. I don’t know how to get over this one unless we all get a bit more out spoken and confrontational about our ways, which isn’t really my forte 🙁
    Sorry to hear about the worms; I have no experience of them, but perhaps an email to Wiggly Wigglers could help sort things out for you? http://www.wigglywigglers.co.uk/

  19. kiki says:

    I’m not even close to your level of waste-reduction, but I’m very interested in going zero-waste and I have to say that unfortunately you are not living a zero-waste lifestyle by simply recycling your plastics. I hate arguing over technicalities, but the energy spent in creating and shipping the plastic that you recycle, the water (and potential heat) that you use to wash it, the energy spent transporting to a facility that can recycle it and the actual energy and toxic fumes wasted and produced in the process of turning it back into a useable material (a process which weakens the plastic, making it less desirable for purchase by a manufacturer after several runs of recycling, if it even makes it that far) annnd again more shipping to the manufacturing facility is still INCREDIBLY wasteful.
    Not having to take out your garbage more than every six months is still amazing, and I know the feeling when you just want to pick up take-out on the way home or throw that super-greasy container in the trash, but recycling is truly the last resort in the chain of actions to take.
    As for your curry and yogurt, it sounds like home-making in huge batches and freezing is the best way to go about it, and will also be a lot cheaper. You can even freeze your yogurt pre-portioned in stainless steel ice trays or freeze it blobs like you would bake cookies on a tray. As I said, I’m new to taking this next step in my environmentalist lifestyle, but it seems like there are a lot of relatively easy ways to get around the plastic issue. And then you won’t have to wash those annoying containers again!

  20. Mrs Green says:

    @kiki: Hello Kiki welcome to the site and thanks for leaving your comment.

    I totally agree that recycling is the end of the line and that reducing and reusing are far more beneficial to reducing the usage of valuable resources. Since this article, which was written over a year ago, we do now cook all curries from scratch and my yogurt consumption has dropped a lot – this is because I’ve been looking into all the other aspects surrounding the manufacture of yogurt.

    As we continue with our journey we learn much more and make even more conscious choices, but we do it one step at a time so as not to fall into the trap of overwhelm. And we are continually looking for plastic-free choices.

    Thanks for sharing though, it’s important to come back and evaluate what we are doing. Without people like you to highlight these topics again, it’s tempting to fall into lax habits and forget to continually reassess where can can contribute even more …

  21. Jane says:

    Have you started making yoghurt yet? It is ever so easy and with half-term around may be another project? (Remembering student life in shared flats with pots of yoghurt under rugs on the floor, visiting foreigners, evenings in the pub, disasters and recriminations!)

  22. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Funny, I woke up thinking about it this morning; isn’t that weird! I MIGHT have another go, but ya know, I don’t want to stress myself too much 😉 (can you sense the procrastination is still full on?!)

  23. Poppy says:

    @Mrs Green: Do you ever look back at your previous posts in amazement? Did I really say that! Blimey! I really was on a soapbox that day wasn’t I 😉 I write better than I speak!!

  24. Mrs Green says:

    @Poppy: 😀 yes I get that too; I read back and think ‘Did I really write that?’… Lovin’ your rant

  25. Teresa says:

    Hanging on to things I no longer want in case somebody wants it and then they don’t. Saving up torn plastic bags to take to the supermarket for recycling as the council no longer accepts them in the green bag scheme. Only one store I know recycles used Brittas cartridges.

  26. Teresa says:

    Kiki and Mrs Green: I made the stupid mistake of taking things home such as handouts at conferences that I didn’t want so they could be recycled. By leaving them behind I make it known that they are superflous so hopefully the speakers won’t be printing out so much.

    Refusing, reducing, repairing and refilling comes before recycling because even recycling and manufacture of goods from recyclates takes energy even if it does cut down on the energy involved in the extraction and production of goods from raw materials.

  27. Mrs Green says:

    @Teresa: Hi Teresa, I think one has to put a time limit on things held onto for other people, otherwise they continue to be our ‘clutter’. Shame about the Britta recycling too – it might be worth a call to them to see if they can encourage more stores to recycle them. I think actually talking to the conference people would be beneficial. If people aren’t thinking, superfluous handouts will be taken mindlessly and possibly dumped, (but hopefully reused another time or recycled)

  28. Teresa says:

    I don’t accept other people’s clutter into my home and “friends” use to try and palm stuff off on me. I do keep unwanted stuff in case other people want it but not for long as I try to find out if anybody wants it first rather than waiting to see if they do as I’m taking a more active rather than passive stance now.

    I found out three shops where I live that take used Brittas cartridges thanks to a link from this site.

    I did try talking about the superflous handouts but nobody was listening so I think that the best thing is to leave them behind in the room where the meeting took place and people will copy. That way the speaker has to deal with the rubbish and would hopefully think twice about printing out so much.

  29. Mrs Green says:

    @Teresa: Glad you found some more options for your Britta cartridges, Teresa and I like your more ‘active’ stance on holding on to things!

  30. Teresa says:

    My more active stance didn’t come without a bit of a struggle and I ended falling out with a couple of people over it but they weren’t worth keeping as friends anyway. I was brought up to be quite passive and have had years’ of counselling on and off to learn to stand up for myself though some counsellors prefer to keep their clients in their passive positions because they believe too much in the status quo and getting along with people at the expense of getting along with yourself first.

  31. Mrs Green says:

    @Teresa: sounds like you’ve made great progess; if we can balance being passive with being more active then that’s a good thing. The secret is not to sway too much in any one direction but to be flexible and choose our battles wisely.

  32. Teresa says:

    Keeping a balance is the hardest bit but needs to be learnt.

  33. Grandma Green says:

    Mrs Green, I am sooo excited about yogurt pots! This morning I stored some cardboard for recycling and noticed a flash on the sleeve of some Yeo Valley individual fruit yogurts: it read ‘NEW & recyclable’. On the base of the pack was the enticing promise, ‘These 4-pack pots are the first to be fully recyclable’. I washed an empty pot and sceptically scrutinised its base for a PET symbol – a few incomprehensible hieroglyphs. Then I saw what I sought: embossed on the side was the PET triangle containing the magic number 1 and underneath the words ‘please recycle’. Oh the joy!!

    I rushed (well, trotted) down the drive as the recycling lorry worked round the corner and triumphantly placed the pot in full view, on top of the papers, inside the green box. And… the pot was taken with the other plastics. Hurray!!

    Now then – what about the smooth plastic pot lids??? AND: do other firms use recyclable pots AND: do recyclable pots come in the large sizes??? I shall be doing a little sleuthing in the supermarket! Off to find my magnifying glass.

  34. Mrs Green says:

    @Grandma Green: Ooooo, fantastic news! I’ve switched to Rachel’s Dairy and they too use PET for the pots; did you notice it was much thinner than the original material with Yeo Valley? I have a job to wash these pots without it crumpling! Let us know what you find out about the larger pots. I believe the pull off tops used to be RPET, but don’t quote me on that – we’ll have to get the latest details. So can I confirm then that you can put any type of 1 or 2 plastic in your kerbside collection bins over there? We can only put bottle shapes in our local bring banks!

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