Zero Waste Week

It was Zero Waste Week earlier this month. I signed up for it to get some useful tips, though I thought I was doing as much as I could: I reuse or recycle whenever possible, avoid excessive packaging and compost organic waste.

I decided to keep an eye on what was going into the waste bin during the week and see if there was any way I could reduce what I was throwing away. Here’s the list:

1. Cat food pouches (metallised plastic film, non-recyclable).

2. Crisp packets (again metallised plastic film), plastic coated paper wrappers for biscuits.

3. Empty tea bags (contents put in compost). The brand I buy (Yorkshire Tea) uses plastic to seal the bags.

4.  Other unrecyclable plastic, mainly thin film but some other packaging, sometimes marked “not currently recyclable”.

5. Used tissues.

6. Antibacterial wipes (contain plastic)

7. Cigarette filters (cellulose acetate, which is a plastic)

All this resulted in a small carrier bag full during the week. So what can be done about this? In some cases there are simple solutions.

1.  Substitute tinned food. Before the advent of pouches this was the norm. Heavier to lug home and a bit of a pain to clean, but definitely recyclable. I remember my grandmother boiling up lights and other offal for her numerous cats, but this seems a step too far.

2. I wouldn’t buy these for myself very often, but I’m not the only person in the house. If you must have crisps it’s better to buy sharing packs rather than multipack bags. Or try making your own snacks. 

3. Most of the time I use loose leaf tea anyway. Yorkshire Tea say they have started to replace the plastic with renewable plant-based material. The new tea bags, though fully biodegradable, will need industrial rather than home composting.

4. Some plastic wrappers are marked “Recycle with carrier bags at larger stores”. Morrisons in Ealing, for instance, has well-marked containers encouraging people to leave bread wrappers etc. I am not sure, though, what to do with wrappers that say “Check local recycling”, though as they are obviously recyclable they should be able to go in with bags.

5. I decided to let the worms have the germs and put tissues into my compost bin. If I hear sneezing I’ll stop.

6. Just laziness really. There are alternatives: cloths with water, vinegar or lemon juice. What did we do before these wipes were invented?

7. I said I wasn’t the only person in the house but until/unless the smokers give up, the bin is probably the best place for fag ends. A study published in 2000 found that cigarette butts were toxic to aquatic life. As well as leaching chemicals into water, butts have been found in the stomachs of birds and animals who have mistaken them for food.

Zero Waste Week is over for this year, but the fight against unnecessary waste goes on. To find out more, have a look at www.zerowasteweek.co.uk and if you have some ideas of your own please share them.