Friday, 30 September 2011

Dear Mr Pickles

Well, sir.  You've stirred it up again this time!   Like Father Christmas bringing the promise of happiness to the masses, dropping down our chimneys weekly to empty our overflowing rubbish bins!

Nice one!

Oh stuff any chance of this being an erudite post.  I haven't got time for that. Instead I'll just say it as it is.

The weekly rubbish collection bribe that your department has announced amounts to nothing but backtracking on any other forms of common sense that has come out of this year's Waste Review, especially with regard to encouraging greater recycling rates.

Today's media talks about treating the public with respect.  How about treating us with intelligence as well as  respect and not just a herd of sheep who will welcome your proposals with a happy bleat.

Our country would not have a problem with overflowing rubbish bins if manufacturers designed out unecessary packaging\product waste and the government invested in proper nationwide recycling infrastructure of mixed plastics.  Really, I cannot believe that we are in 2011 and the majority of the UK can't recycle a bloody yoghurt pot! 

Voters complain about smelly food waste hanging around for a fortnight.  I empathise.  So did I a few years ago and to honest, it's not nice!  But I did something about it.  I followed the advice of and even though I'm still not the picture of perfection, most weeks are better than others.  Yes I've had a blimmin' good stab at not creating the waste in the first place and saved a small fortune, thanks to listening to some common sense.

Of course my best advice for your Chicken Tikka Masala test, is instead of letting it become fodder for flies stinking out your bin, cut down your order at your local Indian or invite some friends around and get them to share it.

It's hardly rocket science.

But recycling is...needing well designed  innovations and scaleable solutions that can serve communities and support our economy.

That's where our money should be going Mr Pickles, to actually help provide solutions that wouldn't create the problem of overflowing or stinky bins.  Separate out that food waste and if the councils don't have the infrastructure to collect the caddies weekly, invest in community projects that can, by creating new jobs and feeding the revenues back into the communities themselves. 

There are even solutions in the UK for now recycling nappies and other absorbant waste products, that you could throw some of your money towards or better funded campaigns to support washables.

What's that old saying?  Rubbish In Rubbish Out! Well that's what this country's going to keep getting unless policy and investment change in line with the sustainable future this country and the global society needs.

Today's statement was far too broadbrush. Yes there will be councils that will value the funds, and this money should be used to support and develop the infrastructure in those areas that it's needed, even if it's in certain enclaves of a local authority's collection area, but please don't consider it as a single opportunity for all.  Not all of us want to go back to the dark ages.

Personally, I think this is a lot of fuss about nothing and if one good thing's come of it, there will be much chatter about rubbish as people debate the other solutions that are out there.

Yours sincerely,

Almost Mrs Average!


As it's a Friday, I thought I'd dedicate this post to Kat's "Dear So and So" feature at Three Bedroom Bungalow.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Measure your recycling with the new Recyclometer

Coca-Cola Recyclometer

Measuring the impact of recycling is always a challenge, especially when trying to communicate the wider benefits of what is, let's face it, a pretty mundane household task.

However, during the summer, along with other bloggers, I was brought in to help road-test Coca-Cola's Recyclometer, a brand new stats-crunching tool, which has been developed in association with WRAP.   After a few tweaks, the Recyclometer has now been officially launched, on the company's website and at Recycle Now. providing consumers with a means of calculating the wider impact of their recycling activity, by simply translating the action into energy saving data.

Saving energy and fuel resources are one of the key beneficial outcomes of recycling and the Recyclometer tool demonstrates the savings across a wide range of materials that you'd find on your cupboard shelves.

For example, simply totting up the contents of my recycling actions today reveals that I've saved enough energy to power a lightbulb for 12 hours.   Widen the impact of this nationally and the figures highlight that enough energy would be saved to power over 84,000 lightbulbs for a whole year.   That's quite an incredible figure from just a few juice bottles, a can, our local newspaper, a breakfast cereal box and a loo roll tube.  It also demonstrates how wasteful it would be if I just bunged these into landfill.

To work out your own stats, just click on the image above.  Alternatively visit  the company's own website, where there are also links to the organisation's waste-reduction actions, including lightweighting innovations, implementation of recycled materials and, more recently, their usage of plant-based fibres in plastic packaging.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Almost Mrs Average gets to speak at waste exhibition

It was a real honour to speak yesterday at RWM, the UK's largest recycling and waste management exhibition, especially as I was sharing the stage with the very inspiring Joy Bizzard, chair of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC)

The context was very much how local authorities can engage with householders to help individuals and communities reduce waste.  Joy's presentation was packed with advice on how councils can raise awareness and find new ways to inspire new audiences, despite the current economic culture of squeezed budgets.

The area that particularly interested me was the subject of peer endorsement, i.e., the difference that can be made by engaging ordinary members of the public to share their own stories amongst their peer groups.  It's a subject that has fascinated me for a long time and certainly set the scene for me telling my own tale of the Zero Waste challenge that I undertook in 2008 and the events that have unfolded since.

It is an extremely surreal experience addressing an audience of waste and recycling professionals.  I've done it a couple of times before and it's very difficult not to feel like a waste geek groupie, especially when you know how hard officers are working to battle against the problem of waste, which comes with its own set of economic and contractual constraints, misguided government strategies and often divisive public opinion.

And as I said yesterday, I am no expert in behaviour change. I can only tell my own personal story.  However, since taking St Edmundsbury's Zero Waste Week challenge in 2008, I have become more aware of the challenges that exist, the opportunities that are available and the need for formerly disparate groups to work together in accepting increased responsibility, whether that's producer responsibility, local authority responsibility, individual responsibility or from further along the waste chain.

In context to yesterday's event, I really feel that to work towards the UK's 2020 Zero Waste goal, local authorities are going to need to work harder and smarter in engaging their immediate community groups and actively seek out more formal relationships with individuals, who are themselves happy to inspire others within their own communities.

Last week, I made this very point at the Making 2020 Zero Waste Work conference in Coventry.  So you can just imagine my delight, whilst returning home from yesterday's exhibition, I read news of a volunteer training programme that's been rolled out by Zero Waste Scotland.  It's fabulous news that the Scottish agency has already created a blueprint for this and are putting such ideas into practice, having itself been inspired by the Master Composter network.

And for any doubters, who might raise an eyebrow over the effectiveness of such action, I could highlight many examples of personal stories that I've received from my own community where I've seen the impact locally.  But even more significantly than that, I'd like to point readers in the direction of one of the most successful peer endorsement case studies of the last three years, and that's the story of  "My Zero Waste".

You may have to enlarge the photo below, but pictured at the centre of the presentation slide is the Strauss family, who were unknown to me four years ago.  However, thanks to St Edmundsbury Borough Council engaging me in a Zero Waste challenge, and as a result of me writing about it on the Internet and my story being broadcast widely on national radio, word soon got around.  Rachelle Strauss noticed and consequently felt empowered to reduce her own family's household waste.  Driven by environmental concern, she led the way in creating her website,, attracting a growing community of people keen to seek advice and share ideas about reducing their waste.  This year Rachelle hosted her 4th National Zero Waste Week, a simple grassroots campaign that received over 12,000 hits within just a few days of being announced at the end of August.

Yesterday's visit to RWM was most certainly an interesting one and my only regret is that I didn't get a chance to have a proper gander around the exhibition, but that's only because I was too busy catching up with some of the folk who spend their professional lives trying to inspire others.  I'll just have to make sure I visit next year.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Shedwyn gets her skates on for the end of National Zero Waste Week 2011

To celebrate the last day of National Zero Waste Week, I sent the 1000 Bins mascot Shedwyn, into Suffolk's  rollerskating venue CurveMotion, to check out their recycling.

They have great recycling facilities behind the scenes, but don't have any specific recycling bins in the public zones.  Consequently customers end up throwing their empty bottles and cans into the general rubbish bin.

Even if there were public recycling bins, there is a real issue that the number of unemptied containers that are often thrown away by the customers, would quickly contaminate any efforts to recycle properly. So Shedwyn was on a mission to think of ways that could improve recycling without having to rely on expensive and sticky recycling bins.

After a spell of whizziness with the laptop and a touch of lamination, a simple methodology was born.  A  sign advising customers to leave their containers at the servery counter instead of shoving them in the bin!

Whether it's an effective solution, only time will tell, but it is an idea that's worth trying and if response is low it's well worth testing out new wording or different poster designs.

So with the job done, Shedwyn was ready to do a few laps around the roller rink before scooting off home to put her feet up for the rest of the day, but the bonkers old bird got so inspired by CurveMotion's Charity Skateathon that she challenged herself to 50 laps, "Anything for charity", she said, knowing it would be a struggle to keep on her feet for even 25.

However, fifty laps later she was still going strong.

After a wobbly start, taking a tumble over a fallen-down child at lap 75, and peforming a spectacular forward-slide-and-knee-bounce herself during the 200th lap, our recycling bin champion knocked us off our chairs as she made it to 211 laps, the equivalent distance of a half-marathon!

The poor old girl couldn't walk for ages after she'd come off the rink and was soon caught napping when she should have been on binwatch.

211 laps eh!  Who'd have guessed that would happen this Sunday, rounding off National Zero Waste Week  with bruised knees.

So, could the moral of the story be that no matter what your goals, assumptions or expectations, Shedwyn has shown that it's possible to exceed these, even if obstacles and setbacks get in the way?  We just need to to keep setting our sights much higher and pushing ourselves just that little bit more whether that's about recycling, reducing waste or other ambitions (government and industry are you listening?)

Then again, as a friend suggested after Shedwyn's super-impressive tumble, perhaps the moral of the story is that she really should have worn kneepads! 

So, while the bespectacled roving reporter nurses her knees, I wish you a happy end to National Zero Waste Week. I hope it's been a great week for you.   Of course, if like me, you've enjoyed Shedwyn's expoits with the 1000 Bins Challenge, it would be fab if you could sponsor her for her charity skateathon today.  It would help her knees get better much more quickly and it's for a a brilliant cause too:  St Nicholas Hospice in Bury St Edmunds, which needs as much money as it can get to continue its great work.  You can find all you need at my Justgiving page or click the blue fundraiser badge at the top of the page.

So thank you all for your support this week and during the last three months's 1000 bins challenge.  It's been spectacular.  Here's to National Zero Waste Week 2011.  Special thanks go to Mrs Green at MyZeroWaste for organising it.  With another successful week over, who knows what will happen next year! Whatever happens, I bet your bottom dollar it will be exciting.


This post has been written in support of National Zero Waste Week 2011, which is hosted and organised by This year's theme is reducing waste away from home.  The photo competition for the 1000 Bins project, promoting "recycling on the go", ends at midnight today (11/9/2011).  See for details.  Huge thanks to CurveMotion for extending a very warm welcome to Shedwyn today.  More information about their Charity Skateathon and other events can be found at

Friday, 9 September 2011

Making 2020 Zero Waste Work: Coventry Conference

Professor Paul Connett, presenting at the Coventry conference

Today, representatives from central government, local authorities and universities gathered together in Coventry along with social enterprises, mulitnationals, waste management companies, the third sector and environmental bodies, to explore how UK society can create a proper zero waste economy in line with aspirations for 2020.

For many, zero waste translates as 'zero waste to landfill', but a strong message that was made clear at today's conference was that a zero waste goal should be exactly what it says...simply ZERO waste, achieved through innovations that design out waste during manufacture and a society that promotes reuse and technologies that enable precious resources to be properly recycled rather than the assumption that the simplest destination for residual waste is to be burned with no other opportunity for recovery.

Anyone who has any doubts over whether this zero waste vision could become a reality, should consult with American waste campaigner Professor Paul Connett, pictured above, who presents a strong case for product redesign, economic incentives, community empowerment and the development of separation & research facilities at landfill\incineration sites, as being vital components in making it work.

And the key to success is everyone in the chain working together to drive the results forward, an example of which was announced in Coventry today, where Coventry University, which already runs 50 courses in sustainability and the environment, revealed plans to create a Zero Waste research centre, working closely with the local authority.

Today's programme also presented examples of industry's approach to creating zero waste through manufacturing processes and facilities management as well as examplers of community-based programmes and waste stream development.

The presentation by Garden Organic's Myles Bremner particularly struck a chord, as it was one of the strongest case studies  for how individuals can make a difference, not only regarding reducing their own waste, but by empowering their communities.  Through the Master Composter scheme, Garden Organics has been successful in creating a peer-to-peer network, where members of the public are able to help others, by sharing their expertise locally.

Of course I couldn't leave the conference without highlighting my strong belief that a similar peer-to-peer network is needed to nurture recycling champions across the UK, where trusted and enthusiastic members of the community are empowered to share their knowledge through local groups and at key events.  Social-networking has already demonstrated the power of word-of-mouth. If this could be replicated throughout local communiities, this greater awareness could bring beneficial results to not just recycling rates but to waste arisings too.

Although this event was organised independently of National Zero Waste Week, it was a welcome coincidence and well-timed for this week's calendar.  It would have been news to most of those who attended today's conference that this week is indeed the 4th national awareness week of its kind.   And with reference to my earlier point about community champions, National Zero Waste Week, as organised by Rachelle Strauss of MyZeroWaste is an excellent example of how a positive role model can engage with the community around them, allbeit a virtual one.  With over 12,000 visitors to the campaign page, it certainly has proven its wide reach.

The Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was in attendance today and stayed for a short while following her keynote speech.  Although the government is placing waste prevention high on its agenda and has created a path towards a zero waste economy, today's  conference demonstrated that it needs to work harder and be tougher on manufacturing to design out waste and solutions for maximising the waste that remains.  I hope that government now shifts its expectations to fit more closely in line with the visionaries we saw today, who are passionate about better use of the world's resources and the socio-economic opportunities of managing them more effectively.

Mal Williams, CEO of the Welsh community recycling network Clych, who also spoke at today's conference, really couldn't have put the point more bluntly.

"Waste is a mistake, not a resource," he asserted and referring to how society goes forward, he added that it is time to move from a "Careless system to a CAREFUL system".

And I have to agree, this should be the barometer against which a sustainable zero waste strategy should be measured and judged.


This blogpost has been written in support of National Zero Waste Week 2011. More information about the awareness week can be found at  Further details about the Making 2020 Zero Waste Work conference are available at, where the speakers' presentations will be published very soon.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Can you recycle plastic film at your supermarket?

Whilst shopping today, I noticed that the carrier bag recycling bin had a new label on it, announcing that the store is also now collecting plastic film, you know the stretchy stuff that you get around loo rolls, multipack shrink-wrap as well as the bags inside cereal boxes.

So as it's National Zero Waste Week, I'm setting you a mini challenge.

Next time you're at the supermarket, it would be great if you could check if yours has got a similar facility.

If you've not spotted it before you may be surprised as this should now be available in over 4,500 supermarkets nationwide.  If you don't believe me, take a look at this press release that was published by the British Retail Consortium in April.

Of course the next step is to check the recycling information on packaging.  If you see a label like the one shown above, you'll know that you can add it to the carrier bag collection as it's made from either LDPE or HDPE plastic film.  If the labelling's not clear, which is still often the case, you could always check with customer services.


This post was published in support of National Zero Waste Week.  For more information about the grassroots campaign, please visit

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

What happened when Shedwyn ran out of recycling bins

Shedwyn, the campaign mascot for the 1000 bins challenge, has been a bit quiet of late, despite the news that this IS THE LAST WEEK of the campaign and what with it being National Zero Waste Week and all, it was a bit of a shock to catch her putting her feet up in a cafe in town.

Sipping coffee, while everyone else is sending in photos. What a cheek!

But bless her. She's only gone and run out of recycling bins to photograph in Bury St Edmunds.  I suppose there's only so much you can stretch your imagination with just two bins in the very centre of town, and with the car in for repair and having run out of train money, what else could our roving reporter do?

But this is Shedwyn we're talking about.  When there's just nothing to be done, she's a woman who thinks of something!

For starters, how about emailing the local council, politely asking for a few more bins?  Here she is getting all serious about the very serious issue of installing some serious recycling bins in very beautiful Abbey Gardens.  A serious subject indeed.

But Shedwyn's not very good at doing serious, so having exercised her fingertips at the keyboard, she couldn't help but get back out on the streets, where she managed to grab hold of a handsome man to brighten up his day and praise the virtues of "recycling-on-the-go"!

Yes that is really BBC Radio Suffolk's reporter Luke Deal pictured with Shedwyn.  It's a shame you can't hear her rabbiting on about where to find recycling bins around Suffolk.

Meanwhile, whilst that cheeky woman was busy chatting up men by bins, I took the opportunity of catching up with Radio Suffolk's Lesley Dolphin, who was broadcasting her show from Bury St Edmunds market this afternoon.  Well, someone has to do the hard work and it's always lovely to talk to Lesley.  It was great to have the chance to spread the news about National Zero Waste Week and to promote reducing waste away from home.

Of course the next challenge after the interview was to hunt down Shedwyn in the busy marketplace.  I really should have known.  I managed to eventually track her down having a chinwag with her old pal Sandy at the other recycling bin in town.

So I think the moral of today's story is that Shedwyn really does needs to get out more, especially if she's going to meet the 1000 photo challenge by Sunday.

And after today's antics, what with going AWOL, emailing the council and harrassing men at bins I think it might be a very good idea to send her to Coventry.

Actually sending her to Coventry's not a bad notion, especially this Friday when there's a Zero Waste conference going on.  I might just have to loan her the train fare.


This post was written in support of National Zero Waste Week.  More information about the campaign can be found at   Further details about Shedwyn and the 1000 bins campaign can be found at

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Moreton Hall café helps customers reduce waste with their Keep Cups

Meet Lucy and Jess, business partners at The Coffee House, a popular café in the heart of Moreton Hall, which itself is a busy housing development on the edge of Bury St Edmunds.

When I dropped in with the family on Day 1 of Zero Waste Week, I warned them that I'd start talking to them about ways in which they help customers reduce waste. I was particularly interested in the success of the Keep Cups that they sell, i.e. the reusable coffee cups, as shown in the photo below.

I noticed that they'd been selling these since the café opened in October last year. Priced at £7.99 for a small cup and £9.99 for the larger one, whenever a customer brings in their reusable cup, they receive 10% off the price of their drink.

The reusable cups have been a real success for the café.  Jess confirmed that they've sold approximately 250 since they opened last autumn and normally have around 10 customers popping in with them each day.  As we were chatting I realised that I was holding up one of their customers who'd dropped in for coffee and when I turned around, I couldn't help but notice that there in her hand was one of the reusable cups that we'd been discussing.

(Charlotte, a Keep Cup customer)

Of course once the coffee discussion was over, my seven year old naturally brought my attention to his Zero Waste choice of the day....a selection of sweets from the sweetie jars on the counter.

The rest of his purchase wasn't quite ZW though.  Even though he declared he'd try and reuse the straw from his small carton of orange juice and that'd he'd be sure to recycle the little box, there's not a lot you can do with the protective plastic wrapper. However, that was negligible compared to the Capri Suns that he bought at the weekend and all round was pretty much of a success.  I'm not sure about his older brother though, who insisted on the plastic straw to go with his favourite chocolate milkshake. Unless he reuses that a few times over, he's already behind in the rubbish stakes.

So if you're ever visiting Moreton Hall, whether it's during Zero Waste Week or another time, be sure to pop into The Coffee House, where you'll always get a very warm welcome and a discount if you've got your own cup.  And if you're a keen gardener, you can take away some free coffee grounds for your compost too.  Now that is a bargain!

The Coffee House, Moreton Hall, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

More information about The Coffee House can be found via their Twitter stream @thecoffeehouse5 or their Facebook account.

If you're a regular coffee drinker who's looking for a replacement to disposable cups or run a café and are interested in saving landfill waste too, check out the reusable cups that are available at as well as the BYOcups that are sold by Onya. 

This post was written as part of National Zero Waste Week 2011, that's taking place between 5-11 September. The theme this year is Reducing waste away from home.  For further details visit

Monday, 5 September 2011

What's in store for National Zero Waste Week 2011?

I've just realised that the title of this blogpost makes it look like I run a shop.  So apologies to anyone who thought I might be doing a stock-check or reorganising my merchandising cabinets with a special twist for Zero Waste Week.

Sorry, this is more of a talking shop than a retail space, but if there are any stores who are applying innovative ways of reducing the amount of rubbish they stock, then please do share your news here. After all, the theme of National Zero Waste Week 2011 is "Reducing waste away from home", so if you're doing anything to help reduce the amount of trash that you pass on to your customers, then your comments will fit in nicely.

So what is happening at Almost Average HQ for Zero Waste Week?  Well, unlike my very first attempt back in 2008, I've had diddly-squat planning time.  Not that I'm good at planning anyway, but I suppose five minutes preparation would have helped things on the homefront, as would actually being at home, instead of zipping around the country on a secret mission.

Of course it would have also been useful to have reminded my husband and kids last week, particularly to avoid the surprise of arriving home this weekend to much excitement that they'd treated themselves to a huge multipack of crisps and 20 blimmin' Capri-Suns.  Someone must be having a laugh!  We never normally have such things in the house, not necessarily due to being pedantic about packaging, but we've got no room in our cupboards for starters, and besides I don't trust my willpower!  But great timing eh!  Bought just in time for Zero Waste Week.

So things on the homefront will be more of a challenge than usual then!  That's why the kids have gone into battle against my husband to see who can create the least rubbish this week!  Personally,  I think I'll leave them to it.

But of course the focus of this year's NZWW  is reducing waste away from home, so whilst head-to-head challenges are taking place behind closed doors, I'm more interested in opportunities to reduce waste while out-and-about and will be keeping my eyes peeled for good practice as well as being on a personal mission to avoid superfluous bits of plastic that commonly pop up in the catering trade.

I'm travelling again at the end of the week, so will make sure I'm appropriately kitted out to avoid all the rubbish that typically gets thrown at you when on the road.  Having read that sentence again, it sounds like I'll be wearing protective shields and defending myself with some form of waste-busting laser gun.  I'm sorry if that makes the reality of a refillable coffee cup and water bottle sound far less exciting.

This week I'm also on a mission to get more recycling bins on the streets of my local town.  I know we're pretty lucky to have two, but for the size of the town that's pretty pants, especially as there's not even a single recycling bin in the town centre's Abbey Gardens.   So this week, I'm taking the attitude of  "if you don't ask, you don't get" and proverbially speaking, getting off my backside to wing over an email to some local authority officers and councillors.  I'll also email my MP, asking him to look at the wider picture at a national level.

And on the subject of bins, I'm still on the hunt for photos for the 1000 Bin Challenge.  It's the final week, so I'm going to have to do a tally soon of the number of photos that I've collected over the summer.  I've got a sneaking suspicion that I am nowhere even near the 1K target, so I'm going to need your help more than ever.  To find out how you can help, pop over to and send in photos of any recycling litter bins that you spot in your town.  You may even be in with a chance of winning a georgeous ring pull clutch bag by Bottletop or a fabulous Waste-busting kit from Onya.

So I think it's safe to say National Zero Waste Week 2011 is officially launched at Almost Average HQ.  Huge thanks to Mrs Green at My Zero Waste for organising it.  To find out more about how you can get involved, visit, where you'll get more tips than you can shake a stick at.  And if you want to get up-to-date with what you can recycle in your area, pop over to for the official lowdown.

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