Monday, 31 March 2008

Ruby's Rubbish Audit


It's the moment I've been waiting for, a chance to delve into Ruby's rubbish. It's like being invited to have a nosey around somebody's house but messier!

She is very brave for inviting me to have a poke around her bins and reveal her rubbish to the world, so why has she done it?

It's simple really. She feels that she just has too much rubbish to cope with. Her bins are far too full on bin day and she's decided that she could do with some advice on how to recycle more. This is particularly important because when her recycling bin gets too full, her family ends up putting the rest of the recycling into the black bin, which means that stuff that could otherwise be recycled is wasted by being dumped into landfill.


So who is Ruby?

Ruby lives in Bury St Edmunds with her husband and two children, aged 8 and 10 and two guinea pigs. She and her husband both work full-time and mainly work from home, which might have an impact on the findings. Work is particularly busy at present because Ruby set up her own business 4 months ago and is ploughing most of her attention into getting her business off the ground, which leaves little time to think about other things.



Ruby's Rubbish Reveal

So what exactly does the Ruby household throw away?

In the blue corner, we have the 240 litre recycling bin. A quick peek showed that it was full of the usual suspects, plastic packaging, paper envelopes, newspapers, egg cartons and thin cardboard. When I saw the bin, it was full to the brim and had already been compacted down. The problem was that due to a fortnightly collection there was still another week to go, with no more space to accommodate any more recycling waste.


In the black corner sits the landfill bin, which can also contain 240 cubic litres of waste and is collected every other week. Every fortnight the black bin is full to capacity with things like aerosols, chocolate/snack wrappers, cooked food, crisp packets, fruit and vegetable peelings, plastic bags, plastic packaging such as meat trays, polystyrene, tea bags, tetra pak cartons, guinea pig bedding as well as blue bin overflow. The bin had been collected on Saturday and on that occasion it also included some DIY waste and an old toilet seat. Sometimes the Ruby household also puts out an extra bag or two to be collected. However on this occasion, it was just the one 240 litre bin.

The top nasties are generally food waste from takeaway packs, guinea pig waste and other rubbish such as tetra paks and food wrapping.

I can see why Ruby is concerned. That is a hell of a lot of rubbish to be dealing with every week and I am not sure whether it is any reassurance that her household is probably pretty average.

One thing's for sure, this particular project is going to be more challenging than my personal Zero Waste challenge, not least because there is double the rubbish that I had to deal with, but because of Ruby's intensive work situation and not having the time to focus on some significant lifestyle changes.

Ruby's challenge

It certainly isn't realistic to task Ruby with a Zero Waste programme. This is neither her desire, or indeed my aim.

Instead Ruby's Rubbish Diet needs to focus on reducing the amount of waste to a level that is manageable and that no longer causes her concern.

Ruby's diet plan will therefore include recommendations that should enable her to meet the following targets:

1. To reduce the black bin, so that it is only half-full on collection day. This will involve a 50% reduction in waste, which will be a tremendous result.

2. To reduce the blue bin, so that there is no excess recycling overflow spilling into the black bin. Ruby's challenge is to make a 50% reduction in recycling waste too and the results of which should mean that the blue bin will be three-quarters full on collection day, without any spillover into the black bin.

So what's the plan?

I am going to have my work cut out here, but the focus of Ruby's Rubbish Diet will be:

a) to consider composting opportunities (either to buy a compost bin for the garden or to get hold of a brown bin from the council).
b) to reassess shopping choices
c) to get bang up-to-date with the council's local facilities and develop regular recycling routines.

Ahhh routines...

This might be the hardest challenge. If you only take a look at Ruby's very own bottle bank, you'll get my drift.....


..... so the next task is to put together a list of rules for Ruby to follow...and the challenge can really begin. So watch this space.
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Saturday, 29 March 2008

Unsung Hero: Melanie Rimmer at Bean Sprouts

If you haven't come across the Bean Sprouts blog yet...where have you been? Go and visit now because it is fantastic. I've been following it for almost a year now and I'm always impressed with the range content.

Written by Melanie Rimmer, the blog offers a mix of wonderful wisdom and green goodness, that is inspirational to so many.

It was Mel who first inspired a non-domestic goddess like me to make lemon curd, which was remarkably easy and when I started my Zero Waste challenge, I asked her for some advice and she shone through with loads of ideas and even accepted my invitation to write a guest post.

In her blog, she demonstrates a high level of resourcefulness and self-sufficiency that I can only admire. She lives the dream of allotment-keeping and also keeps chickens as well as bees (which themselves have led to a few adventures).

If you get a chance, pop over today and wish Mel a happy birthday. Apparently she's thirty-mumble today and all she's asked for her birthday is for people to switch off the lights between 8pm-9pm to celebrate Earth Hour.

Now that's a nice idea. So Happy Birthday Mel and have a great day.

I'll be out partying and thinking of you. If our host doesn't let us switch off the lights, I'll certainly make sure my babysitter does.

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Friday, 28 March 2008

They're all at it!

They're all at it in our neck of the woods (officially known as the East of England).

Our Conservative MP, David Ruffley was at it last summer. Suffolk's Liberal Democrats joined in last autumn. It's been happening in Clare and there are intentions that it's going to happen in Newmarket, Bungay, Chelmsford and Aylsham.

The big news is that people in Norwich are also at it today.

So what are they all doing?

Don't worry, it's all legal and above board.

I'm talking about raising the profile of ditching plastic bags. Indeed, today Norwich is going plastic bag free for one day to help raise awareness in one of our region's largest commercial centres.

I'm impressed with the momentum that's been building, not just in the country but in our particular area. However, it's a shame that Bury St Edmunds retailers haven't appeared to have committed yet.

Even though our town hasn't stepped out from the dark side, I'd like to give a quick round of applause to the shops where it is customary to ask if a bag is actually needed. So, well done to Boots the Chemist, Rymans, Woolworths, WH Smith, The Body Shop and Butterworths. If anyone knows of any others, whether they are local shops in Bury St Edmunds or national chains across the country, please give them a shout-out here. The more that join in the better!

I am now inspired to encourage our little suburb of Moreton Hall to become plastic bag free. After all it shouldn't be difficult, as we only have a few shops including a chemist, a Tesco Express and a post office. I have heard that the little Tesco Express goes through about 10,000 bags in a week and that the people who use reusable shopping bags are in the minority. Come on people, what does it take to take along your own bag? Only a little practice that's all!

And if anyone is thinking that degradable bags are the solution, keep looking in as that's another topic worthy of its very own blog post.

Hmm, I think a telephone call to the Tesco Express manager is imminent. Ooohh, I always enjoy a challenge, don't you?

As they say, if you don't ask you don't get! So watch this space!


UPDATE at 5.40pm

Guess what...I rang the manager of Tesco Express, who is keen to pass my suggestions about going plastic bag free through their customer feedback system....so if you have a Tesco Express near you, why don't you try the same.

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Thursday, 27 March 2008

Opening up the Bokashi


Today was D-Day as far as the Bokashi was concerned.

It has been left fermenting for the last couple of weeks. I hadn't dared open it and thought I'd leave it for a few more days just to be sure.

When I opened it today, I really didn't know what to expect.

However, what I hadn't quite expected was to see the food on top of the bin looking just like it did when I put it in two weeks ago. I suppose I thought it would be a bit more sludgy at the very least.

Hmmm. I wasn't sure whether I should leave it for another week, but without further ado, I thought it wise to ring Karen at Wiggly Wigglers and get some advice.

Much to my relief, she said it was normal and as long as I could smell something akin to pickle, it was safe to put in the composter or wormery.

Phew. That was a relief. It did smell like pickle, or even a bit like gone-off wine and it wasn't unpleasant at all.

So I ventured forth and started emptying the contents into the compost bin. As I dug deeper into the Bokashi, I could see how the food had started to break down into a more sludgy consistency that very much resembled a vegetarian shepherds pie.


I remembered that there had been some chicken at the bottom of the bokashi bin and even though I'd been reassured that it could also go into the composter, I thought I'd reserve it for the wormery. I don't know why, but driven by instinct I thought it would be useful to add some extra newspaper to both the wormery and the composter to help reduce the moisture from the bokashi contents.

I can't wait to see how it all turns out.

On a separate note, the wormery seems to be doing quite well and before too long I'll be ready to add an extra compartment to it. It's the equivalent of converting what is currently a worm bungalow into a two storey home. The worms won't know what to do with themselves!

Anyway, a quick visit to Jane Perrone's Horticultural blog reminded me that I should really be looking after the worms a little better than I have been and one of her latest posts prompted me to add some of the worm treats and anti-lime pellets (so thanks for that Jane, you are probably the worms' saviour). I also realised that I should also drain off any liquid that had filtered through into the worms' basement, before they run the risk of drowning.

So yesterday I drained off about two litres liquid, which I diluted in water and used as fertiliser on the roses and herbs in the garden. It was a little sad to see the rose of the watering can being clogged up with a few dead worms, but I am grateful that it wasn't the carnage that I'd been dreading.

In the end, I poured the dozen or so expired wrigglers onto the lawn as the dish of the day for the birds, who are probably delighted to get a change from the usual serving of bread.

So, fingers crossed, I think the combination of the wormery, composter and bokashi system has been a success.

And on that note, I'm off for a glass of wine to celebrate.
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Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Too much popcorn

Why is it that when you ask for popcorn at the cinema, you get given a bag that's not just full to the brim, but has popcorn piled in a pyramid, all balancing in a very precarious manner?

While you juggle your tickets, the kids, their drinks and the heavy "theatre" door, the excess popcorn is guaranteed to escape its pyramid form, littering the cinema floor.

What a waste!

...and why!

I don't normally have a rant but I'd urge cinemas to take a good look at their popcorn servings and do away with the excess!

The business process just doesn't make sense...deliberately piling popcorn so high that unless it's carefully balanced, the top layers just fall onto the floor, decorating the carpet. If ever you've taken a look at modern cinema carpeting, you'll see that it is designed in a way that you probably won't even notice the popcorn strewn all over the floor. But there are spillages and the carpet has to be cleaned, which itself incurs extra expense, both in labour and in energy.

I wonder if I am the only person who orders popcorn and asks them to fill below the brim, to make it easier to carry. I'm not particularly bothered about getting "my money's worth". I am just more concerned with avoiding waste.

If cinemas want to give people their money's worth, they could stop filling bags beyond their capacity and charge less.

That'll be the rant over then and I'd just like to emphasise that when I went to the cinema today I didn't actually eat too much popcorn. That's not my style and it was just a small bag........honest!

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Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Litter picking in Suffolk


I'd like to give a big thumbs up to Radio Suffolk's Mark Murphy for highlighting the issue of litter louts in Suffolk, with his Don't be a Tosser campaign. He's even put his money where his mouth is and has been out picking up litter that has been tossed around the county.

Now I really don't like the word "tosser", but I find it very appropriate in the context of all those people who drop bags of litter out from their cars whilst travelling around our beautiful county, or indeed whilst walking around our streets.

A report in today's East Anglian Daily Times revealed that an estimated 25 million tonnes of rubbish a year is dropped on UK roads. Apparently that's the size of 62,500 jumbo jets. With the amount of litter having increased by 500% since the 1960s, councils across the UK are now spending £500 million a year on cleaning up our trunk roads.

In Suffolk, operators are having to deal with anything from plastic waste and food remnants through to discarded underwear and bottles of urine. How horrible.

I'd like to reassure you that Suffolk is much more pleasant than this image portrays, but it is a problem that needs addressing in our local county and elsewhere in the UK. Not only does it make for an unpleasant sight, but it is a waste of resource both in manpower and in recycling opportunities, all of which leads to higher taxes.

The great news is that the organisation Suffolk:Creating the greenest county is raising awareness of the issue through its SUFFOLK SPRING CLEAN campaign, where it is inviting individuals and local organisations to organise a litter pick during the fortnight 31st March - 13 April 2008.

To get involved all you need to do is ring up your local council officers, who will be happy to help and will loan out relevant safety equipment. A list of officers can be found here. If you're taking part, remember that Mark Murphy at Radio Suffolk would like to hear from you. So drop him a line at mark.murphy@bbc.co.uk.

I'm up for a litter picking session in Bury St Edmunds, especially in Moreton Hall. So if you're up for joining me, just drop me a line at enquiries@therubbishdiet.co.uk. The more the merrier!
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Zero Waste Week: One Week On


After going "hell for leather" during Zero Waste Week, I just thought I'd reveal my rubbish one week on. I suppose it illustrates that just as a dog's just not for Christmas, The Rubbish Diet wasn't just for zero waste week.

Despite being a challenge, it wasn't a gimmick, or a indeed a one-off. It was a real learning experience, which I am happy to say has led to some major changes, which have somehow blended neatly into our lifestyle.

However, you will notice that this week's landfill rubbish is more excessive than last week's, which was just one plaster. As a pretty average family, we've been prone to the odd packet of crisps and chocolate bar this week and we're not going to get around to junk art modelling every time. So I hope that I get let off that our week's rubbish still comes to no more than a bag that's smaller than the wheel of the bin.

For readers who are new to this site, if you want to follow the story leading up to Zero Waste Week, all the links are shown on the right under "The Story so Far". However, I just thought it might be useful to publish a summary revealing the "highs" of slimming our black bin, the one that gets sent to landfill.

1. Food Waste

Food waste was the biggest problem for us. So I cut down on the amount of food I bought, the portion sizes that I cooked and have also tried to reuse leftovers. For anyone interested in tackling this issue, I can highly recommend the website www.lovefoodhatewaste.com.

The children were the worst offenders, so I changed the way that food was presented to them, not every time, but when I knew there was something that they might just sniff at, I gave it a new name. I found that Dragon Stew was more appealing than Chicken Stew, Pirate Island (with mashed potato surrounded by a sea of green veg and some fish) was more preferable than just fish with vegetables and it's amazing how a whole load of raw vegetables could be made to look like a rabbit.

If there were any scrapings left, these would normally have gone in the bin, but I decided to go the full hog and invest in a wormery and bokashi bin to cater for the scrapings. I am still "in training" with both these systems but can't wait to see the results.

2. Packaging

The next thing I cut out from our landfill bin was packaging. I used to throw all-sorts in there (and not just the liquorice variety). However, I have since changed my habits, firstly refusing plastic bags in shops and remembering to take reusable bags with me.

At the beginning of The Rubbish Diet challenge I spent a couple of hours in the supermarket, taking a closer look at packaging and getting familiar with the recycling logos, some of which I have found to be misleading. I have since tried to reduce the amount of packaging that I buy, looking for alternatives, e.g. I now buy fruit juice in glass bottles from my milkman, which also works out to be cheaper than the supermarket. I've used the market more often as well as our local butchers, where packaging can be reduced drastically.

If I need to buy packaged items, I make sure that it can be recycled, composted at home, or re-used. In fact, if you want to join the campaign against over-packaged items, take a look at the website Scrap This Pack to get your voice heard. I found it yesterday at the Junkk Male site.

I found the best way of dealing with packaging was to become better informed. For example, I used to just throw meat packaging in the black bin. However, having researched our council's collection services I now know that all I need to do is wash it out properly and it can go into the recycling bin. The same was true of tetra pak and other waxed cartons. I just used to throw them in the bin, but learned that our local council now has a drop off point, which means that if I do need to get a carton of something or other it can be sent for recycling.

One of my other frustrations has been plastic bags. My bin used to be full of them. I don't mean carrier bags, as these can be recycled at home or dropped off at your supermarket. The bags that really bug me are the cereal carton inserts, polythene covers for magazines, grape bags, bread bags, you know, all those piddly little things that end up in landfill.

But there is another way. Our council has a drop off point for plastic bags at its local amenity site, so we now make a pit stop there, when we're passing and also take what few aerosol cans and other things that might have gathered over the previous few weeks.

So if you have to deal with things like meat packaging, tetra pak, aerosols etc, it is always worth doing a quick check with your local council to get the latest updates on kerbside collection or drop-off facilities. For things like polythene, if your council doesn't have drop-off or collection facilities and you still want to keep it out of the bin, you can always post it to Polyprint, a supplier of polythene mailing film, who will be happy to recycle the material for you.

3. Cleaning waste.

One of my biggest sins used to be cleaning materials, sponges that would be used for a week and dumped in the bin, reams and reams of kitchen towel that would be used for clearing up the mess and quickly thrown as well as whatever variety of anti-bacterial quick wipe products I could find.

The impact on the bin has been incredible since I ditched these products in favour of washable items, including sponges and cloths that can be thoroughly cleaned in the washing machine. Whatever little kitchen towel I now use, I just scrunch up and put in the compost bin.

I also supersized products such as washing powder, washing-up liquid and fabric conditioner, which I now buy in much larger containers and I also use them more sparingly. This has been such a bonus, as not only is less packaging used, it means that I don't have to pop out to the shops so often and don't get tempted by lots of other things while I am there.

4. Personal products

Despite being a bit shy at first, I decided to rise to the challenge of switching from disposable sanitary pads to rewashable pads. I found my shyness was soon resolved, when I ended up promoting them on Irish national radio during a live interview with Sean Moncrieff.

One thing's for sure, I wish that I'd switched years ago and can't believe it's taken me so long. It's a much nicer way of dealing with the monthly inconvenience that we'd all like to forget and with a fantastic range of modern products out there, this type of switch comes highly recommended.

I'm also eeking things out, to make them last a bit longer. Take the toothpaste that was due to expire during Zero Waste Week. I rolled up the tube and squeezed and squeezed to make it last a few more days longer. It eventually expired last week, but undeterred, I slit it open and managed to get one more use out of it. I still haven't thrown it away though, because it got snapped right from under my very nose by my 3 year old who wanted to use it as a boat.

5. Buying less stuff

Now this one is a no-brainer! I've found that the focus on trying to slim my bin meant that I reduced the amount of stuff that we've bought as a family. I've also tried to rethink what presents I buy for other people, minimising packaging and waste. This doesn't mean that it's less fun for others. They haven't really noticed the effect at all and have still had great presents such as books.

I suppose that my old habits of "Retail Therapy" have now been replaced with "Rubbish Therapy"....ooohhh I can see a future in that .... what about "The Rubbish Therapist"? We've already had "The Bin Doctor" and "The Rubbish Consultant"... ha ha...where will it stop?

However on a serious note, since starting The Rubbish Diet blog, I have noticed the development of a sort of "Rubbish Pride", amongst folk who have been delighted to tell me about the status of their bins as well as almost "Bin Envy" from those who feel the need to sort out their own problems with rubbish.

I hope that this summary has been useful. Even though it doesn't capture all of the insights that I gained from the experience, for the dedicated, there are many more links in the side-bar, which will provide a lot more detail.

Other tips can be found on The Rubbish Diet recordings, which were featured on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour. The quick links to the "Listen Again" feature are as follows:

Mon 10th March: Intro & Tip 1, Get Some Comfy Shoes
Tuesday 11th March: Tip 2, Learn to Become a Rubbish Cook
Wednesday 12th March: Tip 3, Get Some New Pets
Thursday 13th March: Tip 4, Get Everyone Involved
Friday 14th March: Tip 5, Weigh In


If regular readers are wondering about the status of Ruby's Rubbish Reveal, Ruby will be doing her own Rubbish Audit this week, in preparation for slimming her own bin and I will post the results of her audit very soon, that's if I can find my way out of her rubbish pile. So watch this space for more info.

And don't worry. I'm not going to post up pictures of my rubbish every week. That would be like watching paint dry. However, it will be interesting to see how life is one month on. Please remember that suggestions are still always welcome, so please feel free to share your stories.

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Monday, 24 March 2008

BBC promotes Plant Pot Recycling


I've just been listening to BBC Breakfast's item on plastic plant pots, which have been described as the "carrier bags of the gardening industry" and quite right too.

Apparently 500 million plant pots are made every year, most of which are sent to landfill.

But at last, the gardening sector is waking up to the value of recycling them. What I wonder is why it has taken them so long.

I don't know about you, but it's something that we can't put in our kerbside collection in St Edmundsbury. However we can take them to our local amenity centre. I'm not sure quite sure what happens to them after that, but it doesn't look like they get recycled.

The great news is that it appears that help is now at hand. According to the report on this morning's BBC Breakfast, a number of Wyevale garden centres are offering to take them off your hands later this year. So if you are busy planting your new plants over Spring, don't throw away your plant pots, but take them back to your local participating garden centre in May, together with your seedling trays and they will send them off for recycling.

Please check to ensure that your local Wyevale is getting involved. If there isn't one near you, you could always pester other garden centres to do the same....now there's an idea!

Alternatively, you can just keep them at home and grow your own moss (chuckle), but that's not the most useful method of recycling. We also use them in the children's sand pit, junk modelling activities or good old hats for teddy bears. Of course if you haven't got kids, you could always put them up for re-use on your local Freecycle site.



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Sunday, 23 March 2008

Happy Egg White Easter


Easter Sunday in the Almost Average Household has surpassed itself. We've certainly not had an average day, especially when we woke up to a blanket of snow which just kept getting thicker and thicker.

For the first time ever, the Easter Egg Hunt took place in the snow. Yes, the above photo of the eggs against the snowy background is for real and hasn't been superimposed!

Doesn't the packaging looks pretty? However, I feel the urge to shout a huge "shame on you" to Marks & Spencer, because even though the lid and the egg foils can be recycled, the plastic tube can't and if it wasn't for a last minute purchase and lack of alternatives, I would have just left it on the shelf in favour of a product with "waste-free" packaging. The saving grace is that I will reuse the tube for storing some of the kids' craft materials. But how many of these tubes are going to go to landfill?

M&S - I know you're following your Plan A but I really hope that you'll do better next year, especially as you're my favourite source for Easter Eggs and I don't want to go anywhere else as I am a creature of habit with discerning taste! Please, please, please give us recyclable packaging or even better no packaging at all.

Anyway, get ready to fall-over in in sheer amazement, as there's also been another first for Almost Mrs Average today! While the children were playing in the snow, I took some time out to make my very first Easter Cake.

Yes, I've been baking again!

I had been tempted to buy a cake in the shops, but the temptation to make my own was even greater and I was able to use some leftover ingredients from Christmas.

It was pretty easy but I can't take all the credit. Thanks to the Easter Cake recipe in the Gorgeous Cakes book by Annie Bell and the sheer capacity of my ever-faithful blender, the cake came out a treat. All I had to do was add the ingredients and bung it in the oven.

The one downside was that the recipe needed 4 eggs and 1 egg yoke. Yes, I had to read the recipe twice.

Why on earth did it need an extra egg yoke, it had four already!

Anyway, being a novice cake-maker I complied dutifully, which meant I was left with a spare egg white and there was no way I was up for making meringue as well.

So what on earth do you do with an egg white?

I searched and searched on the Internet, thinking that composting might be the answer, but it wasn't looking good. On previous occasions I might have just poured it down the drain, but the Zero Waste challenge has taught me to be more resourceful.

So...I eventually found a fabulous site, which was full of top tips, including how to use egg white, mixed with lemon juice to make a face mask.

It sounded a bit odd, but as The Rubbish Diet wasn't just for Zero Waste Week, I thought I'd give it a try and indulge in a bit of the old pampering.

So, I've slapped on the egg white and while I sit here with a face that feels like a chicken's bottom, but thankfully without the feathers, I'm going to delve deeper into the website which is called Extraordinary uses for ordinary things.

There are some interesting tips and the site is a surfer's paradise. I am now pondering what I can do with other things including my teabags. It looks like I'll even be able to get rid of a few grey hairs. Where will this beauty regime end eh?

And on that note...Happy Easter everyone and with all those chocolate eggs about, don't forget to watch your waist...

...and of course ....your waste!

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Friday, 21 March 2008

Where to put it?

It appears that these days I can't go anywhere without talking about rubbish. I popped out to our local Tesco Express today and bumped into a local web designer I know. When asked how things were going, I couldn't help but drop The Rubbish Diet into conversation. After all it has been a huge part of my life recently, so it was hard to ignore it really.

So with one question following another, there we were stood in an aisle discussing the attributes of packaging. I couldn't resist highlighting the misleading german green dot and almost felt the temptation to conduct a whole consumer survey...ha, ha, it was very tempting indeed. Even if I don't, I think someone should.

One pertinent question that came up was,

"If I'm not sure what to do with a piece of rubbish, should I send it to landfill or recycle?"

GOOD QUESTION!

So what should you do?

My top tip would be to ring the council and check. You'll get the right answer straight away and they'll probably thank you for being vigilant.

But what if it's 7 o'clock at night and you haven't got the Waste Officer's mobile number?

You could leave it in a holding bay, store it temporarily until you get the answer. Alternatively, you could check the council's website.

This is all well and good for the keen recyclers amongst us, but many people out there may have much busier lives and a lot more on their mind than researching a piece of trash! So, where should you put it when push comes to shove and you haven't got a clue.

If you really haven't got any idea, then the only option is sadly landfill because your little bit of rubbish might just lead to the contamination of a whole batch of recyclates, which means the whole lot might end up in landfill.

Wow, that's one hell of a responsibility.

If you don't believe me, just check out the following policies and news stories. They just highlight how seriously councils take contamination and how expensive it is to manage.

Contamination advice and policies
www.berwick-upon-tweed.gov.uk
www.oadby-wigston.gov.uk
www.midbeds.gov.uk
www.wirral.gov.uk
www.camarthanshire.co.uk
www.pkc.gov.uk

Contamination stories
Bedfordshire On Sunday
Liverpool Daily Post
Mid Sussex Times
Portsmouth The News
Southampton Daily Echo
Swansea Waterfrontonline
BBC Online - Recycling ended up in Landfill

The best bet is to make sure you are armed with the right knowledge and know the right person to ask.

As with everything, preparation is the key!

So if you haven't got your info to hand already, ring your council and ask for it. If the information isn't sufficiently explicit, then have the confidence to suggest a few improvements!

Call me an old troublemaker, but we all know it's worth it, especially if it helps slim your bin and promotes effective recycling.
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Thursday, 20 March 2008

What a load of rubbish...

...I've had to deal with over the last couple of months!

I know, I know. It was my own choice but I am so glad that I made the decision two months ago to have a go at Zero Waste. It was hard work but the results have been worth it. Last week needed extreme action, but having implemented all the changes in the run up to Zero Waste Week, I am pleased to say that even now, all that's left in the bin are a couple of crisp packets and chocolate bar wrappers from this week's celebrations.

I'm pleased to say goodbye to the moments where a huge "heave-ho" and brutal attempts to stabilise the kitchen bin with every limb could not even relinquish the bag of trash that lay within.

The beast used to be excessively heavy to drag to its position on bin day, where it joined the neighbourhood queue, almost resembling sentry guards alongside the driveway. Ooh! I'd needed the strength of Samson!

(A new game: like spot the ball, but with black bins)

However, for the first time I made the conscious decision not to put out the bin this week as its only contents was the small bag of waste from the week before. (Its rightful position is indeed the bottom corner of the photo). Yes, in the past I have forgotten to put it out and then two weeks later, I've struggled to fit the rest of the rubbish in and have sometimes left bin-bags down the side of the house. Not any more!

What I can't believe now is that I used to throw so much away! Blimey, what a makeover I've had. I feel somewhat lighter, both in spirit as well as in waste. Bizarrely, I am also 19 lbs lighter in weight, but it's hard to know if that's down to blogging as well or my healthier lifestyle.

But guess what, I've now had a serious request to check out someone else's rubbish and trust me, I've already seen her bins and her family can create a truck load of it! I've a feeling that this time it will be even more challenging.

So watch this space for Ruby's Rubbish Reveal, as she puts her own bins on The Rubbish Diet.

LOL....it's catching!

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A recycling interlude with Oliver Heath




Hooray for Oliver Heath, my hero. While I am still taking a breather, I invite you to have a quick peak at this fantastic video and please feel free to share!

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Monday, 17 March 2008

ZERO WASTE WEEK: The FINAL Weigh-In

Today is Monday 17th March, which marks not just the end of St Edmundsbury's Zero Waste Week, but the end of my personal 8 week challenge to reduce the amount of waste that my family sends to landfill.

So after eight weeks of buying less, learning new habits, double-checking recycling opportunities and being ever mindful of what I'm throwing away, here's the moment I've been waiting for........


CUE DRUM-ROLL FOR THE FINAL WEIGH-IN......


So without further ado .... the contents of this week's black bin are.....


1. One Plaster (from my finger injury on day 1)


And that's it....Just one itty bitty first-aid plaster (band-aid), from when I cut my finger last Monday! If you look carefully at the photo, you can see it sitting on wheel of the bin!



...and that really is the total amount of landfill rubbish that our family has created in one whole week!

BUT PHEW....IT WAS CLOSE!

There was almost my tube of toothpaste, which Mr A tried to bung in the bin, but I rescued it, rolled it up and gave it some extra squeezes and I reckon I've got another day before its contents are exhausted.

But there have been some other candidates too. When I looked in the bin yesterday afternoon there were:

1. Two Butter Wrappers (teetering on the edge, awaiting their fate)

2. A small length of scrunched-up sellotape (thanks to my renegade 3 year old)

3. Some used cotton buds (thanks to Mr A. I suppose he's not done badly, but I knew there would be something to contend with)

As it's Zero Waste Week and I possess the tenacity of a dog with a bone, I was determined that nothing else was going to be thrown away. I have already declared the plaster, despite a couple of suggestions to burn it or run it down to the local hospital, but with my sense of fairness its only fate is landfill.

However, I needed to do something with the rest of the stuff, which called for extreme measures.

I discovered I could tear off the plastic film that coated the inside of the butter wrapper, but I was still unsure whether either of these components are recyclable. As for the cotton buds, I thought the best bet for those would be to stuff them in an old sock and bung them in with the next load of washing. They came out clean and I tore off the cotton wool and put it in the compost bin, which only left the thin plastic tubes.

Hmmmm, not bad, but I said I was tenacious!

I knew I needed some back-up and my secret weapon came to mind...

...a-Ha...

No, not the 1980s Norwegian pop-group with the dulcit tones of Morton Harket, but my three year old who constantly begs for opportunities to make things.

"Mess to Impress" is his tagline!

So, I called him to my rescue and gave him some paper, glue and the little bits of rubbish that I'd rescued from the bin.

He couldn't believe his luck and got to work on some junk art, combining the plastic tubes, sellotape and butter wrappers with other bits that he's collected, all following the principles of "Reuse". It's a bit abstract, which could be appropriate when I think back to my challenges with recycling.

He couldn't think of an appropriate name for it, but I'm going to call it "Unburied Treasures". One thing's for certain, I daren't ever throw it away but I suppose I could always put it on eBay and hope for a fiver.

And that's where the story of my own Rubbish Diet challenge ends....at the end of Zero Waste Week, with our black bin containing just one plaster!

Personally, I am amazed at the results.

Even though it set out as a challenge to reduce my rubbish, the effects on other areas of my lifestyle have been incredible. I now spend less on food and am more thrifty. I am more organised with shopping activities and have got into a routine of using a range of outlets, which provide more eco-friendly options.

What has been great is the immense enthusiasm and support from the Internet Community. The comments have been fantastic and inspirational and it is the advice from our "unsung heroes" from across the globe that has led to the success of my own personal challenge. I would like to thank all contributors who have made suggestions, sent comments of motivation, shared their stories and have helped to promote the wider issues. Big thanks also go to Woman's Hour, Radio Suffolk, Ireland's Newstalk, Sustained Magazine and East Anglian Daily Times for promoting the blog and the challenge. I never expected it to get such attention, but it's been great and I owe a big thank you to Cybele at Freecycle for that. Thanks also to Wiggly Wigglers for helping with my composting queries and inviting me onto their podcast, which is coming up this week.

I would also like to extend special thanks to Melanie Rimmer at Beansprouts for her great tips at the beginning of the challenge as well as Kate McFarland at Edmundsbury Council Council for her advice along the way. As well as to all my friends, thanks also go to Tracey Smith at International Downshifting Week for being a fabulous mentor and to my good friend Christina Surdhar of About Bury for sticking by me, allowing me to extend my deadlines and letting me bore her with my talks of rubbish! I'm sorry if I've omitted a mention, but it's beginning to sound like an Oscar speech!

However, I would like to make one last thank you. The biggest thanks go to Mr A and the Junior Posse, for putting up with my ideas and my nagging over the last few months. Thank you guys for the big effort you've made and long may it continue. You know it's worth it.

So what's next? Well, Mr A has been so bowled over by the results of The Rubbish Diet, that he now wants me to move onto tackling our Clutter, Energy use and Spending, but first things first Mr A. We've got to make sure the rubbish is kept down before we go onto the next challenge, which means The Rubbish Diet is here to stay for a little while longer. I know I said it would be just eight weeks, but there's so much that's been left unexplored and I am now officially hooked!

So what can you expect from here-on in?

Well there's going to be less about me and more about others, much to the relief of some. Here are just some of the things I'm planning to take a look at:

  • Waste Management in Switzerland, a country which has the reputation of being one of the top recyclers in the world.
  • How restaurants cope with food waste?
  • Getting the low-down from packaging companies, how do they see the future?
  • What happens at a materials recycling facility?
  • More solutions for recycling some of the tricky little things.
  • Some fabulous products made from recycled materials.
  • Indeed profiling anyone in the production/waste stream that is making interesting progress in the right direction.
  • I might even ask Gordon Brown about his own rubbish! Strange, but I'm now finding the idea of rummaging through the trash at No. 10 quite appealing.
I am also going to include a series on our "unsung heroes", profiling stories from people who are already making the effort, no matter how long they've been doing it or why. Whether it's down to a generational difference, lack of money or concern for the environment, it's other people's experiences that are truly motivating, so please send me your stories as it would be great to promote case studies that illustrate best practice and which help to inspire others.

The site will also feature the progress of other people who decide to take up The Rubbish Diet and attempt Zero Waste for themselves. So, if you would like to rise to the challenge, get some help and feature your story here, then please get in touch. All enquiries and information should be sent to enquiries@therubbishidet.co.uk.

And now I'm off to celebrate...but not with champagne .... oh no!

Today is Bin Day and I am going to celebrate by NOT PUTTING THE BIN OUT...

because for the first time in my life as a responsible adult...there's no need to.....HOORAY! Indeed, if I keep this up, I won't have to put it out for weeks or months!

So I'm now going to take a few days off and enjoy the celebrations, but please come back in a couple of days time for the next update, or sign up for the RSS Feed at http://feeds.feedburner.com/TheRubbishDiet

In the meantime, I am going to leave you with a final message in the form of an illustration that I commissioned from the brilliant artist Ray Smith of www.thegreenpen.co.uk. For best effect, click on the picture to enlarge it and enjoy!

(The Rubbish Diet, copyright Ray Smith. Please do not copy without permission)

There are more great cartoons at Ray's website, so if you're in need of a distraction, I recommend that you go and have a look.


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Saturday, 15 March 2008

Zero Waste Week: It's not over yet!


Day 5 of Zero Waste Week pretty much passed without incident, with the exception of a couple of butter wrappers, which I'd set aside for washing.

We generally use unsalted butter as it's useful to have in the fridge for making cakes. I'd made a batch of fairy cakes earlier in the week and by Friday, we'd used up the remaining butter and are now left with the wrappers.

So....to bin...or not to bin...? That is the question.

The council website doesn't say I can't, yet there's no info on the packaging to say I can!

My natural assumption based on other similar products that I have researched is that it can't be recycled and previously I would have thrown it in the bin. But it's Zero Waste Week, so I thought I should make the effort and make one final check, but everyone's off for the weekend.

So the jury's out until Monday, when Zero Waste Week actually ends. I know it's not quite the most interesting cliffhanger, but eh at least we've got a cliffhanger should one be needed!

So with the butter wrappers left teetering on the edge, the only thing that's actually in the bin is still that plaster that fell off on Day 1. But watch this space...as there might be another contender in the waiting! It's only Day 6 and I've still got another day to go! Oh, the excitement...!

Anyway as it's the weekend and I know that we've all got better things to do than watch paint dry, I'm off to enjoy myself with the family.

If you live in or near to Bury St Edmunds and you're looking for something to do this weekend, I can recommend a visit to the Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery, where amongst other delights, if you're an arty type you'll find another way to recycle your paper bags!

I hope to see you on Monday for the final Weigh-In. Have a great weekend.

Comfort Zones exhibition at Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery, 15 April -to 26 April
Artist: Anka Dabrowska

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Friday, 14 March 2008

Zero Waste Week: Saving more waste from landfill



"Zippahdeedoodah, Zippahdeeyay....


It's still just one plaster that's been thrown away!"

Hooray!



And that was how Day 4 of Zero Waste Week ended...

...but it was close!

I went into our bathroom after my husband, the 6 yr-old Union Rep and his little side-kick had gone off to Work, School & Nursery (I am so glad I got the order right).

There, placed on top of the loo was a can of shaving gel.




I knew what that meant.

Even before I picked it up and gave it a shake, I knew it was empty, because that is Mr A's code.

If it's placed on top off the cistern, it means "throw it away and get me a new one ... (please)".

Of all the weeks! No pressure then!

The aluminium can is something that we used to dump in the black bin, even with the plastic lid intact. However, with Zero Waste Week upon us I had to make the effort and check.

So I rang up the council! (My apologies if that's beginning to sound like a catchphrase).

The lovely Kate in the waste department, must have been wondering what I was going to hit her with this time!

I asked her about the can and she confirmed that it can be taken to the local recycling centre, which is brilliant, especially as I've now got into the routine of collecting the odd loose item that can be dropped off when we're passing. Of course, I can take the lid off first and just put that into our normal recycling.

I wonder whether the recycling centre can take aerosol cans too, if so it means that our local authority would be amongst the 75% in the UK that can process them. Even though 75% is good, I am intrigued why it isn't 100% and would love to find out more about the inconsistency of recycling facilities across the UK. In the meantime, if you want to find out more information about recycling aerosol products, take a peek at the British Aerosol Manufacturing website (BAMA).

My other recycling query yesterday was to Cereal Partners, who manufacture Shredded Wheat, which Mr A bought on his way home from work one evening.

When serving breakfast, I'd noticed that the Shredded Wheat portions are wrapped in paper packaging, unlike other cereal products that use plastic bags or film. It looked like it could be recycled as normal paper, but I decided to ring and check.

I was right. The whole of the Shredded Wheat packaging can be recycled! That was fabulous news and I really think Cereal Partners should include that as a unique selling point in their marketing campaign, as it's a major plus point when you're following The Rubbish Diet!

Now that would start a trend don't you think. Maybe a "TOTALLY RECYCLABLE" label could follow in the footsteps of the ORGANIC, FREE-RANGE & FAIRTRADE markets. It is becoming increasingly evident that consumers who care are wanting proper labelling like this and agree that it would help to influence their purchasing decisions and this is a market in waiting.

However it has also become apparent that as there are so many differences in the collection services that local authorities offer, a "TOTALLY RECYCLABLE" type of label might be misleading if local facilities are not be available for that product. If you have a look at some of the plastic film packaging, you might see the phrase "Recyclable, where facilities exist", which highlights the problem perfectly.

Products are often labelled with recycling logos such as these, which are listed on the Wasteonline site. They were developed by the Society of Plastics Industry (SPI) in the US.

Recycling Logo

PET

Polyethylene terephthalate - Fizzy drink bottles and oven-ready meal trays.

Recycling Logo

HDPE

High-density polyethylene - Bottles for milk and washing-up liquids.

Recycling Logo

PVC

Polyvinyl chloride - Food trays, cling film, bottles for squash, mineral water and shampoo.

Recycling Logo

LDPE

Low density polyethylene - Carrier bags and bin liners.

Recycling Logo

PP

Polypropylene - Margarine tubs, microwaveable meal trays.

Recycling Logo

PS

Polystyrene - Yoghurt pots, foam meat or fish trays, hamburger boxes and egg cartons, vending cups, plastic cutlery, protective packaging for electronic goods and toys.

Recycling Logo

OTHER

Any other plastics that do not fall into any of the above categories. - An example is melamine, which is often used in plastic plates and cups.



I don't know about you but it can be pretty hard work as a consumer to keep on top of these labels and the system is prone to confusion, which can lead to contamination of waste, as people get frustrated or indeed have lazy moments.

I think the problem lies in that the industry uses labels and codes to communicate if the item can be recycled, (but even this appears to lack consistency in usage) and local recycling facilities communicate the extent of their facilities by using descriptive terminology, e.g. cardboard, plastic bags etc.

Perhaps it's just me and my need for simple systems, but wouldn't it make things much easier if the manufacturers and recycling services spoke the same language?

It's almost like the packaging/waste management process could benefit from a very simple classification system, you know, the kind of thing that you see in libraries. A librarian knows exactly where to shelve a book, not just because it is about Art, Literature, or History, but because it has a classification label, e.g. 700, 800 or 900 respectively. These numbers also help library users find an item. It's an age-old system that was invented by Melvil Dewey over 130 years ago. When a book is printed, its classification number is often included in one of the front pages, so that librarians across the world know how to deal with it in a standardised fashion.

So what if such a system was applied to packaging and waste management information? If the packaging industry developed a simple Consumer-friendly set of standardised codes across the board and if every council used these codes as part of their communication processes, the consumer might find the recycling process a lot simpler. I know I would.

It would almost be like a game of snap. e.g. if you see a "5" on plastic packaging, all you need to do is check your council's recycling list for a "5" and it would tell you if and how it could be recycled. As we've seen, codes are explicit in a way that descriptions sometimes aren't.

Now I admit to being on unfamiliar territory here, as I have no experience in the packaging industry whatsoever or indeed waste management, but I do have a background in information management and data standards, as well as information dissemination, which is probably why I get so frustrated with the inconsistency and confusion that exists.

Anyway, before I get charged with teaching grannies to suck eggs and how to label the egg-carton, I'll get back to a much lighter note with my other news from yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon I popped up to my son's school, to see how the Zero Waste lunch was going. In fact, the children were doing brilliantly. Very little packaging could be found in the lunch boxes and most of the trays were going back empty. All those who made an astounding effort received a certificate. So here's a big thumbs-up to the Zero Heroes at Abbots Green.

It was a proud moment to see my own son's tray being returned empty, but before he took it off to the washing-up pile, I called him over for a photo opportunity with the East Anglian Daily Times photographer. My 6 year old looked slightly bemused, but played his part beautifully.

The school is indeed an inspirational place for learning opportunities such as this. It already promotes environmentally-friendly schemes, has its own kitchen garden area as well as composting facilities and we've now got hold of a Green Cone food digester, which allows cooked food to be processed. The cone is just waiting to be installed (i.e. to have the waste basket dug into the ground), but it should be great for getting rid of the odds and ends at lunchtimes. Once it's installed, I'll update the site with its progress.

So after an extremely busy week talking rubbish, today's focus will be catching up with overdue work deadlines (after recording the Wiggly Wigglers podcast, which was postponed from yesterday). It will be strange to get back to something that's not connected with the subject of waste, which has of course taken precedence this week.

But I couldn't leave you without pointing you in the direction of this You Tube video, set to the music of Jack Johnson, the same track that Woman's Hour used on yesterday's column for The Rubbish Diet.

Turn up the volume, press play and enjoy!





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Thursday, 13 March 2008

Zero Waste Week: Thinking about the Young and Old

Life has become really crazy this week.

It's been very strange getting used to the daily "appearance" on Woman's Hour and juggling the various interviews that have been arranged for various radio stations and newspapers. It's almost as though I've stepped into someone else's life.

When I first started The Rubbish Diet, I hadn't quite expected the attention that the blog would receive. I'm now beginning to think that I've really gone and opened a can of worms, but have been glad to have raised the issue about how much waste we generate as a society.

What really brought this home to me was the front page story in yesterday's Daily Express, highlighting that people are paying as much as £200 each year to private companies to take away their rubbish. Apparently, households across the country are creating too much waste to cope with the fortnightly waste collection routine that many councils are now adopting.

Does that sound like Britain's gone mad? I'm beginning to think so. But who's really to blame? It would be so easy to blame the households, wouldn't it, or even have another pop at your local council? However before the fingers are pointed in either direction, we need to take a good look at our culture and how this situation has arisen.

I am still trying to get a handle on how our country and indeed how Western Society has reached a point that we are locked into this long-term relationship with this big ugly monster called waste. It's like an impossible divorce. We don't want to live with it, but we find it difficult to separate our lives from it. While humans have existed and consumed products, waste has been a by-product of society. It's nothing new and you can see for yourself. Wasteonline has some excellent information about the Chronology of Waste. But what's worrying is why do we have so much today?

When I was a child in the 1970s, we had just one bin, which contained the ashes from the fire and all the household rubbish. Of course, we didn't have to deal with so much packaging back then, so all the empty tins and other similar offenders all went in together. But even then, we didn't really throw much away.

However, fast-forwarding to modern life in the 21st century, I now feel part of a generation that has somehow lost its way and which now needs to get back on track. I suppose, all I have been doing over the last few months is revisiting some of the skills of our forebears, who were more sustainable than we are today, mainly because they had to. There was no other choice. However in what appears to be today's land of plenty, sustainability has dropped off the agenda of mainstream everyday life, and only makes a guest appearance on the latest wave of green initiatives. Just like food was organic back in the old days, people were also "greener", even if they didn't quite know it back then.

It is interesting to see that writer and broadcaster Tracey Smith, of what is now International Downshifting Week. is petitioning the government to bring sustainable living lessons into schools. This would be a great way of introducing the much needed skills that our future generations will need to help us create a more balanced sustainable society in the 21st Century. I wish her well.

On a separate note, I touched on the conveniences of the 21st Century very briefly during yesterday's interview with James Hazell at Radio Suffolk, when we talked about how we should be able to enjoy many of the conveniences of contemporary life, while adopting "best practice" from decades gone by, for example being able to buy things that aren't so heavily packaged.

We also chatted about the general problems of waste and how The Rubbish Diet can be adapted to many situations, where even if people are able to make just one small change, it would be something to be proud of.


It was great to have the opportunity to visit the studio for the live interview yesterday. The subject of No Smoking Day was the main topic on the show and with that in mind I couldn't help but mention the fact that it can take up to 15 years for cigarette butts to decay down to what becomes a plastic powder (thanks to St Edmundsbury staff for that info). What this has made me aware of is how difficult the Zero Waste thing must be for smokers, unless they've got a fire into which they can throw the cigarette ends. I now wonder if anyone has gone as far as giving up smoking as part of their Zero Waste challenge. That would be one hell of a commitment.

Anyway, I am amazed that at the end of Day 3 of Zero Waste Week, we still only had one plaster in our bin and that's even after I had been out for the whole day (don't forget the rules are, that any rubbish I create I have to bring home for disposal)!

So... what excitement is coming up today?

Well there's a photo session lined up with a regional paper and I've also been invited to do a telephone podcast for Wiggly Wigglers.

However the big event of the day is the Zero Waste Lunch at our local primary school, where all the children at Abbots Green are going to attempt to be Zero Heroes, by eating all their lunch and making sure that their lunch-boxes contain no packaging.

Now that will be amazing!

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Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Zero Waste Week: Worms worms everywhere


"Worms worms everywhere,
under the flowers
and under the chairs.
Slipping and sliding
around on the ground,
just how many worms
can you see and count?"


I love this poem . It's called Counting Worms. This is only a snippet, but you can read the rest at the Reading is Fundamental site, where you will see that it has been penned by Sophie who is just 6 years old (yes only 6). My favourite part is :

"There's one in the soil
where he spends the day
munching a big leaf
someone threw his way."

Cheers Sophie, I couldn't have said it better myself. In fact if you look more closely at the photo above, you can see lots of the wriggly creatures nestled in the matting of their cosy wormery, where they had been busy munching on our kitchen waste until I disturbed them to throw in some eggshells. How rude of me!

They have been pretty easy to keep and when I looked in on them yesterday I noticed that some of them are growing nice and fat.

The wormery has been brilliant in helping us to avoid putting food waste into landfill. However, they can be as fussy as the kids when it comes to their diet. They don't like citrus fruit and adding meat products is also out of the question, which is where the Bokashi comes in, which takes most forms of cooked food including meat and fish.

After two weeks of use, we have now managed to fill the first Bokashi bin. As well as the odd piece of cooked chicken, we have also added vegetable peelings, loads of banana skins, apple cores, sandwich crusts and some cooked pasta and rice. I've even thrown in some cat food, although I should really check whether that's actually allowed. I don't see why not! All I need to do now is just leave it sealed and unopened for a couple of weeks and then I can add it to the wormery or composter. In the meantime, the liquid can be extracted and used as plant food or poured down the sink to clean the drains. You can read more about the Bokashi system in a previous blog post here.

It's thanks to the Bokashi and the Wormery that Day 2 of Zero Waste Week has proven to be a complete success.

You see, I made one of my infamous Dragon Stews yesterday, using the remnants of meat from Sunday's roast dinner and if I hadn't had the Bokashi to hand, it would have meant quite a few slops going in the bin.

Even though it was delicious, there were a couple of teething problems, which didn't meet with Mr A's approval or indeed that of the Junior Posse. I think it was my flirtation with Celeriac that did it, an ugly vegetable, which I'd never used before but on a whim decided to experiment. In fact, it's been sat in the fridge for a couple of weeks, awaiting its fate. So Judgment Day arrived yesterday in the form of Dragon Stew. Adding some fresh ginger made it very flavoursome, but it didn't appeal to the kids (and I thought I was being kind, having left out the chillis)!

Anyway, Day 2 was a success all round, with no rubbish created, which is brilliant.

What's been amazing is that so many people are keen to share stories about their own rubbish. As well as the lovely comments that are coming in on the blog, a lady in the playground told me how she has been encouraged to reduce her waste this week thanks to a letter I'd put together for my son's school to send out to parents. She is tackling packaging and food waste in particular, which is great news.

A friend also told me how she played the recording of Monday's Woman's Hour broadcast to her 10 year old daughter and when they went out shopping that afternoon, her little girl refused the carrier bags offered to her in the shops. How inspirational is that!

I also had a great time on Newstalk's Moncrieff Show yesterday. It was a giggle, especially when one listener suggested I should get a pig for our garden. I mentioned that I had worms instead!

When asked by Sean Moncrieff to suggest a specific item that we should stop putting into our bins, I suddenly got nervous, scrambled around for an answer and blurted out "Sanitary Pads", yes indeedy, a topic which had previously left me feeling so awkward, it took me a whole month to even find the courage to blog about it! Yet it was the first thing that came to mind during a live interview for the Emerald Isle.

That's live radio for you and I guess now that I've tackled that topic in such a public fashion, I should be able to handle almost anything!

The unoffical "Rubbish Diet Radio Tour" continues today, but this time closer to home with a live interview on Radio Suffolk. If you tune in sometime around 11.15am, you should be able to catch me talking Rubbish to James Hazell. I hope James knows what he's letting himself in for!

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Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Zero Waste Week: The First Hurdle


ARRGGHH!


That, my friends, is the sound of major frustration!

It might sound petty, but yesterday's bin was empty, yes EMPTY... until a plaster fell off my finger during the afternoon. Its only fate was the bin, bringing a very short conclusion to my Zero Waste attempt...

... and all by 4PM on Day 1.

Something so simple eh! A small first aid plaster!

Hmmm - Lets rewind back to yesterday morning.

We were running late for school. It was blowing a gale and there was a heavy downpour of icy cold rain to contend with during the short walk to school. With freezing cold hands, I hadn't noticed a cut on my finger until I took my eldest into the classroom and saw the blood oozing from my knuckle...

...and then the pain started!

"Would you like a plaster for that?" asked the Learning Assistant.

My automatic reaction was "Yes please" and I returned home with no afterthought, well not until later in the afternoon, when the plaster fell off my finger and I felt thwarted!

Yes THWARTED!

It can't be recycled....or composted...and it certainly can't be reused (eurgh)...It has to go in the bin.

So, unless there are any other suggestions, I'm afraid I've created a bit of an anti-climax. In fairness I do feel the innocent party though. Maybe it won't count because after all I didn't buy the plaster and by the look of my cut, I didn't have a choice.

However, the good news is that the only item to have been thrown in the bin on day 1 is just one plaster. Hooray!

After such a minor incident, the day finished off on a real positive note with a LETS meeting at one of our local pubs. For anyone who hasn't heard of a LETS group, it is a Local Exchange Trading System, which enables people to swap favours or unwanted items for points. This means that it is excellent for recycling things. It's a bit like Freecycle, except people actually meet up at a social gathering and you get points for anything that is traded.

Our local Bury LETS group has been going for donkeys years and meets on the 10th of every month. At the moment the group's membership is small and compact, so we can meet in places that are small and bijoux. Despite its size it is a very effective.

Take last night, I took along a few glass yoghurt jars and one of the members thought they would be great for storing her spices that she gets from a local health food shop. Result! You can see Val happily modelling them! I think they've gone to a good home, don't you?

After sorting out the jars, the discussion got on to websites and before too long she had also managed to sort out Web Hosting with one of our members who is a developer and knows about all things techy. As for me, I picked up some very interesting books, including a copy of Semi-Detached by Griff Rhys Jones.


Of course, the evening wouldn't have passed properly without any talk of rubbish, especially as another member is also participating in Zero Waste Week.

Remembering that we had to create minimum waste while we are out and about, we were extremely proud of the questions that we fired off to the staff, including my fellow rubbish dieter's request for loose sugar instead of the pre-packed sugar portions that are normally provided with teas and coffees. The evidence can be seen in the photo, after the member of staff attentively returned with a small cup of sugar, which was used instead of the packets.

Why is the country obsessed by small packets? Is it for the look, the convenience or health and safety? If it's not the latter, surely it is time to go back to loose products in favour of reduced packaging. Sugar's not the worst offender. I've got my eye on those little packets of sauces, which you squeeze and squeeze until the cows come home but so little comes out of them that a second packet needs to be opened. What's wrong with ketchup bottles. I ask?!

So if the council are looking in, please can we overlook the plaster in favour of the tremendous efforts made at the pub last night? We really did our bit you know!

On a final note, I'd just like to thank everyone for popping by yesterday and to all those who left comments. Thank you so much for your support and for your enthusiasm. I've had some fabulous feedback following the Woman's Hour column and I hope you enjoy the rest of the broadcast, which is being aired throughout the week.

Also, I'd like to extend a very warm welcome to listeners of the Moncrieff programme on Ireland's Newstalk channel. I'm scheduled to take part in a live interview this afternoon at around 2.45pm, which means The Rubbish Diet is going International! I know it's just over the water, but it is still overseas!

How did this happen? I only meant to sign up for a Zero Waste challenge and write a blog!

Anyway, if you get a chance, you can listen live on the Internet at http://newstalk.ie/newstalk/index.html.
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Monday, 10 March 2008

The Rubbish Diet hits the Airwaves

I have some exciting news folks. Remember I said something BIG was happening. Well it's happening this week. During our Zero Waste Week I am not just talking rubbish on the blog, I'm talking rubbish on the radio too, and not just any Radio programme. Indeed it's BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour.

Woman's Hour is broadcasting my guest column throughout the week, which includes a series of tips on how to work towards Zero Waste with The Rubbish Diet.

I am delighted to have worked with WH on the column and I would like to extend a warm welcome to listeners who have hopped over to The Rubbish Diet site as a result. I hope you find the site useful and entertaining.

If readers want to listen in, Woman's Hour is broadcast between 10-11am, weekdays. Don't forget, if you're overseas you can always listen via the Internet at www.bbc.co.uk/womanshour and if you miss it, there's always the "listen again" option.

As for an update on my Zero Waste progress. It's great news as there's nothing in the bin yet! Yes, Yes, I know it's only 6.30 in the morning. Pop by later and hopefully you'll see the same message. Hmmm. Perhaps I should set up a "web cam" (chuckle). No, perhaps not!
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