We all know how bad waste and particularly plastic waste is for the environment and so I have been interested in reducing the amount I produce for a little while now. I heard that one of the best ways to go about this is to do a ‘waste diary’ where you write down everything that you have thrown away during the course of the week. So, a couple of weeks ago, that’s exactly what I did. I decided to categorise it into recyclable and non-recyclable. (I categorised compostable’s as recyclable). In total I had 20 non-recyclable items and 16 recyclable items, so that’s 36 items of waste overall. I think it’s important to keep in mind that although many items state they are recyclable, when they actually get to the recycling centre they are often never actually recycled. This being said, recyclable items are still better than non-recyclables.
I don’t know what the average amount of rubbish a person produces in a week is, but I didn’t think 36 items was too bad.
So what did I learn from the diary?
- I realised a couple of days into the week that tissues and kitchen roll can actually be composted, which I never knew before. However, it would still be better to invest in reusable versions of both these things.
- I drink almond milk every day, which comes in a Tetra Pak carton. Ever since I started drinking almond milk, I have been putting them in the recycling bin once I’ve finished them. However, this week I found out they actually can’t be recycled in the normal recycling. In my area they have to be taken to a separate centre. In some places they are recycled normally, but it’s worth checking your local councils website in order to see if they will be recycled or if you have to take them to a separate drop off point.
- Most of my waste comes from convenience foods. With a bit of planning and time put into to home make things, I could probably reduce some of my waste.
- At my house we get a home delivery for our food shopping. Annoyingly, they like to put almost every item of produce in a plastic bag. However, I found that if you request on the notes section of the item for it not to be in a bag, they actually don’t. I thought it was some kind of requirement, I mean, why do bananas which have a perfectly protective thick skin need a plastic bag round them?
- Food packaging that is contaminated with food cannot be recycled. In the past I have definitely put a lot of items which still have food all over them in the recycling bin. All it takes is a rinse and then its fine for recycling. Unless it is totally contaminated, for example you cannot recycle pizza boxes as the grease is pretty much stuck to the packaging.
- Things differ hugely depending on where you live. Like I mentioned with the Tetra Pak’s, some area’s take certain items whereas others don’t. It’s definitely worth a look at your local councils website to get clear on what should be in what bin.
What am I going to change in future?
- I am going to start a separate bin for Tetra Pak cartons as they are used heavily in my house and I will take them to the correct place for them to be recycled.
- I am going to plan better in order to reduce waste while I’m out. For example, I bought a few of Pret’s new almond bites when travelling. They are really nice, but they are also pretty wasteful and if I had put in the effort to make a snack at home before then I wouldn’t have needed to buy them. However, I feel as though there are always going to be situations when you can’t plan, and that’s okay.
- I need to think thoroughly about whether I actually like something. On the Saturday I bought pasta for lunch which came in a plastic container. I really didn’t like the pasta and ended up throwing it away, which is extra waste. Sometimes its better to go for the safe option of something you know you like in order to reduce waste.
- Prioritise glass and paper over plastic. For example, buying coke in glass bottles instead of plastic ones, and buying pasta in a paper box instead of a plastic one.
- Complete another diary over a month course, focusing on plastic waste that’s not related to food such as toiletries. This will give me a broader perspective on items I use generally and how I can replace/reduce them.
- Not stress. It’s really hard to try and reduce waste, and I don’t think I will ever be zero waste. It’s all about small, slow and easy changes. Reducing waste is just one part of helping the environment among so many others, it doesn’t always need to be the priority. If I drive 10 miles to get pasta which I can put in my own container, is that really better than driving 1 mile to get pasta which is in a paper box? Driving is also very harmful. It’s all about weighing up options.
If you haven’t done a waste diary yet, I definitely recommend it. It’s always important to get an insight into your impact on the environment, as it’s the first step to making change.