Nil by Bin – Day 1 of my Zero Waste Week – cheating, learning and steaming goodie bags….

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So, its Climate Week 2014, and our waste bin is taped up with a home made poster on it to remind every person and dog in our house and offices that we will be producing no waste this week!  And by that I mean that we will not be using or buying any products which we cannot reuse or recycle when we have finished with them.   Easy peasy…..right?

First things first, I put the kettle on to make some cafetiere coffee this morning, and then realise with horror that the metal lined plastic packaging which my lovely organic and fairtrade coffee came in is not recycled by my local council.  If I choose instant coffee I could recycle the glass jar, or the 1kg tin I buy mine in, but what about those lids?!  Wandsworth council don’t want them, they told me that when I visited the mixed recycling facility (MRF) last week.  But luckily I remember that Kenco and Terracycle have a scheme up and running called the Coffee Packaging Brigade where they are setting up recycling points around the UK to collect coffee refill bags, jar lids, coffee bean bags and coffee sticks.  The reason I know about this is that at a fabulous Green Coffee morning in Wimbledon last month, they were collecting these for the Polka theatre in Wimbledon. So breathing a sigh of relief, I make a note to send the packaging to the theatre when it is empty, and make myself a one cup cafetiere of lovely coffee.  I then reach for the milk, safe in the knowledge that the plastic bottle can be recycled.  But then I realize the top cannot!  Wow this IS going to be hard!  When I look it up, it seems I can send my milk bottle caps off to this company so I set aside an old envelope to start collecting them in…..blimey.

I am now scared about what I might need to use this week.  I just hope it doesn’t give me a headache, because I know that those ibubrofen blister packs are definitely not recycled by my council!

So next stop, the bathroom.  First I have a shower.  I love a good massage sponge, but I suspect I am going to struggle to recycle mine.  I decide to give it the week off because although I do demote them to cleaning the house once they have done a good bathroom service, I then throw them away when they are really broken and filthy.  So I stick to my wooden back scrubber for a very invigorating shower.   My shower gel and facewash are in a fully recyclable plastic bottles, but what about their lids? I would usually have just put them in with the recycling, but I learnt last week that they can clog up the machinery at the MRF.  So, I set them aside, and opt for a lush shampoo bar instead.  Not great for washing your face, but there you go….this is already taking up too much time….

I then go to clean my teeth.  My brush is a rechargeable electric one, which I can recycle at its end of life, but the toothpaste is a problem.  I check with Wandsworth council, but they cannot accept metal or plastic tubes of toothpaste, even if I wash them thoroughly.  I check my zero waste bible – Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home book – and she uses Baking Soda…….blimey she is dedicated.  So I get myself a helping of baking soda (I have started making my own cleaning products, so I have a large 5kg tub of it already) in a  glass and give it a go.  Its actually quite good – a bit salty but my teeth feel clean! Not sure if I will switch permanently, but I could certainly save a lot of money using this…..

Once dressed, more beauty products come under scrutiny.  My plethora of glass pots of moisturiser cream are recyclable, but again what about those lids?  Wandsworth do not take rigid plastic (apart from bottles, tubs, trays and pots) so I know they cannot go in there.  Luckily for me I have a pot of Neil’s Yard frankinsense cream, which is not only the most wonderful stuff, but they will recycle their lovely blue jars and lids for you if you take them in.  I will also use this in the evenings too.   My tinted foundation is in a tube though, which I am not sure if I can recycle, so I email the council to check.  But horror of horror, the mascara………not to mention the eyeliner, I known they wont take them as they are rigid plastics.  Please don’t make me leave the house without those on…..

So I am desperate now, so what does Bea Johnson do?   She makes her own mascara which, as dedicated as I am, I am not about to do, so I trawl online praying for there to be a solution for me.  I find that MAC will recycle mascara wands, eyeliners and all other packaging – fabulous! Sadly the only MAC mascara I have is rather crumbly and old, but at this point I don’t care and try to sort of rub it around my eyes!  I will pick up some more tomorrow when I am in town, and at the same time drop off all of my old MAC packaging, and see if they will take any others at the same time.  Good, but I am realising for anyone with a full time job or who have people to care for, this is a lot of work to set up….

As for deodorants, I am sure that they will not take any roll ons, even my nice glass bottle one, so for this week I will have to keep calm,  and use a body spray which comes in a plastic bottle with a hand pump on.  I will reuse the bottle to spritz my plants when it is empty……..

And now to breakfast, which was planned to be porridge with hemp milk and a banana.  I know I sound like a leaf eating hippy when I say I use hemp milk, but it is really rather great.  It tastes nice, and is very sustainable.  Anyway, I digress, but it comes in a tetrapak which Wandsworth council will now accept, and the lid, well that goes in the envelope with the others when I have finished it.  However, the porridge itself comes in a thick plastic bag, which I have been using, once finished of course, as dog poo bags, along with all the other plastic food bags which are hard to get away from – such as bread bags, salad bags and crisp packets (only for the experienced!) and other vegetable bags.  These then go in the dog waste bins on our walks.  But just where is this going?  I do a bit of research, and find that of course it is going to landfill.  It’s interesting how because someone takes it away, I just hadn’t given any thought to where it went.  This is of course why waste is such a problem in general – we don’t see where it goes, so we don’t care.

There is a company called StreetKleen who produce clever bins which use dog poo to make energy, but sadly these have not made it to Wandsworth yet.  So I am faced with a dilemma!! Technically my dog bags (even though a clever secondary use) and the poo in them are all going to landfill.  So this week what I must do is encourage my dogs to poo in our garden, where I simply use a trowel and pop them into a ready dug hole, where they can decompose naturally. Or pick them up whilst we are out in some lucky reusable recepticle and bring them home with me, to go in aforementioned hole! Oh joy.  So that is what I do on our walk this morning, whilst listening to the Today Show, and hoping no-one notices my bag of steaming goodies as we trudge home!

Back to my breakfast, I still need to find something I can eat, as my porridge is clearly out.  So I have eggs, tomatoes and avocado instead, as the paper egg carton can of course be reused or recycled, and the avocados, which came from Abel and Cole, happily came to me naked but for their own clever packaging, and the tomatoes came in a paper bag.

Ignoring my pile of mail, knowing there will be some challenges in there, I get on with my work for the morning and then set about lunch.  I sort of cheat by eating up some left overs from the fridge, in a Tupperware box, as I really can’t face another lengthy dilemma!

Walkies time again, I play ball with the girls in the garden before we leave, so that I don’t have to take the receptacle out with us again! And that works well.  The ball however, I realise will need to be disposed of at the end of its life.  So much to the girls disappointment, I put the ball away for this week……..now that is a big sacrifice for them.

Tea and nibbles, consist of loose leaf tea from Steenbergs (that 1kg packet can go off to the Polka theatre when it is finally done) and an orange.  Yawn.  The mango slices I had bought, in their plastic packaging, will have to wait for next week.

Some good news.  I have found this very helpful little website which tells me I can recycle various plastic packaging – including plastic bags, cling film, pouches, crisp packets and a host of other difficult to recycle plastic packaging. This could make my week a lot easier…….

With this new knowledge, supper is a little easier, and consists of jacket potatoes (they came in a paper bag from Abel and Cole), salad which came in a plastic bag (i can recycle at a local facility which I have never been to before – exciting), avocado (no packaging) and cheese which also came in plastic packaging (as before), and olive oil (recyclable 5l can) and balsamic vinegar (recyclable glass bottle, and cap with the others).

And to make it even better, that website, told me where I could recycle the aluminium foil from my chocolate bar……happy days.

I was prepared for bath time with a bath bomb from Lush, which someone had given me years ago but which I had never used, but it was perfect as it had come wrapped in paper.

Day one over, and a lot learnt.  My realisation is that it is very challenging to not produce waste, and it takes a lot of thought and diligence to avoid it.

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