Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Day 23

Oops-a-daisy! Caught out again. Told you how sneaky it is.

But let's start with the good news. I got as far as dinnertime again. Porridge for breakfast. Quaker porridge oats come in a cardboard box with no inner wrapping. Milk comes in a glass bottle and golden syrup in a tin.

Lunch at work was a bowl of homemade leek and potato soup and a chorizo sandwich. We have a microwave at work so I often take in leftovers from the evening before. There was another birthday today with bite size cakes. They looked yummy but they came in unmarked plastic containers so I gave them a wide berth. Fortunately there were a few pieces of cheesecake left over from yesterday so I didn't go without! And in case you think we're always eating cake at work, we're not. It's just two birthdays back to back.

Dinner was a chorizo and chickpea stew served with basmati rice, runner beans and yoghurt. The chickpeas and tomatoes came in tins. The vegetables came from our organic box and a neighbouring allotment. The basmati rice, like the porridge oats above, came in a cardboard box from Lidl. The yoghurt was homemade. The olives came from the Olive Shed where they were weighed directly into my own reusable plastic container. The chubby little chorizo sausages were similarly placed in my Tupperware box but it wasn't until I got them out at home that I spotted the labels - 5 of them, when I only bought 4 sausages! I thought at first that they were made of paper but, on further investigation I discovered, to my horror, that they are in fact plastic. There is no identification mark on them so I cannot rightfully put them in a recycling bin. Oh dear!

Well I tried and will carry on (being) trying! There were more conversations at work, including one with a few kids who had spotted me in the local paper. It's shame that I'm always the first any one's heard of it. It hasn't been terribly well publicised. If is runs again next year I think it would be a good idea to get local shops in on it, perhaps vying with each other to offer customers the more waste-free merchandise.

I wonder how many others have taken the challenge and how they are faring?

Monday, 29 September 2008

Day 22

I said yesterday that plastic has a habit of sneaking up on you - and it did. I got safely as far as dinner this evening, which was shepherd's pie. I used the last few carrots from my organic vegetable box to boost our 5-a-day. The carrots came in a 100% biodegradable bag which can be recycled, but it had been secured with a tiny piece of sticky plastic tape. Darn!

However I am not going to let this pesky tape discourage me, as the rest of the day went well.

Breakfast was tea, toast, butter and jam. I took my own teabags to work. Two of my colleagues celebrated birthdays and I gave them recycled cards instead of buying new ones, which invariably come in a clear plastic envelope. I declined a chocolate from a plastic tray lined box and settled for a piece of cheesecake (well ... actually ... two pieces!) in a cardboard box. Dinner was the aforementioned cottage pie, with beetroot salad, followed by grapes.

It was surprisingly easy really.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Day 21

Our iron has come to the end of its life. The protective covering on the flex has worn away and the wires are exposed. We've tried patching it up but it hasn't worked and it's now dangerous. So yesterday I bought a new iron.

Happily there is no unrecyclable packaging with the new iron but I now have to dispose of the old one. I'm sure it's not right to just chuck it in the bin so I shall email the council for guidance. I suspect it can be disposed of at a household recycling centre but neither of Bristol's centres are easily accessible by public transport. The alternative is a special collection, but I don't know whether this is possible for one iron and how much it will cost.

I have another potential piece of waste - a broken plate. However, before I consign it to the bin I am going to try and see if there is anyone who might like to recycle it by using it to make a mosaic. I know Windmill Hill City Farm used to run mosaic classes so I shall phone them this week.

My, I am going to be busy!

The last bin of this week is rather full:
  • a Tetley tea bag packet including its reseal sticker - but before I put it out on Thursday I am going to contact Tetley's just to be sure that it cannot be recycled, as it seems to be made of paper, albeit with a shiny coating
  • plastic packaging from Tesco's ham
  • broken rubber band
  • 2 blister packs
  • plastic seal from Sainsburys single cream carton
  • plastic label from Sainsburys spring onions
  • plastic peg used to hold together the pair of boots my elder daughter ordered from Next

This brings my week's unrecyclable rubbish to 135g plus an iron.

Tomorrow the challenge begins for real. I'm quietly confident that I can do it, but one thing I have learned about waste is that it sneaks up on you when you least expect it, so I shall have to keep my wits about me.

Good luck to everyone who is taking the challenge.

PS I have scanned the Evening Post article but don't know how to display it on my blog. If anyone can help please let me know. Thanks.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Day 20

Today I started shopping for Zero Waste Challenge Week which begins on Monday.

I started at our local butcher, Bob Wherlock. Frank spotted my plastic containers and was careful to ensure that he didn't serve me any plastic with my meat. The couple standing beside us thought my containers were a brilliant idea and we had quite an interesting little conversation about the zero waste challenge. Mrs Bob (as I think of her) was very keen on the idea. I also got a good recipe for liver. It would never have happened in the checkout queue at Sainsburys.

So meat should not be a problem. Neither should fruit and vegetables, which I get from our organic box and local greengrocer. Staple carbohydrates will be tricky. A trip to Sainsburys enabled me to stock up on lasagne and arborio rice. Everything else was in plastic packaging. I'd bought coffee in a paper bag at the deli this morning but tea was a problem. I'd not found any plastic free tea in any of our local shops but I did eventually manage to track some down in Sainsburys. It's packed by Jacksons (of Piccadilly!) and is even fairly traded. Alan is relieved, as he was not looking forward to a week of me without my favourite brew.

I spent some time in Sainsburys examining various products for recycling information. Not everything, even Sainsburys own brands, features relevant information, which is very annoying. However I did discover that both type 2 (high density polyurethane) and type 4 (low density polyurethane) bags may be recycled along with carrier bags. It's a pity they don't tell their customer relations staff about this, as they'd just informed me that the bins were only for carrier bags. Type 2 includes the inner wrappers of cereal packets and type 4 includes oven chip bags.

On the way home I checked the Evening Post and was delighted to find the article featuring my challenge attempt. So I am now officially famous! - well, among Evening Post readers at any rate! I'll try and scan it tomorrow for the benefit of those who do not live in Bristol. Meanwhile here's a link to the introduction.

A few things crept into the bin today:
  • a couple of windows from envelopes
  • a couple of plastic spouts and seals from juice cartons - I bought a couple of Sainsburys Basics juice cartons today, which do not have any spouts and which can be recycled in the Bedminster Asda car park
  • a unrecyclable foil coffee bag

Our Riverford vegetable box arrived yesterday, which will be handy, especially now that I have discovered Veg Box Recipes, a website packed with ideas on what to do with fruit and veg of all varieties.


The more observant of you will notice that this blog is a day late.

Yesterday was a long day at the end of a long week - more work than I can possibly handle at the office, builders at home and a daughter off school all week. There was no time (or energy) to get to the shops after I finally arrived home, and my daughter was in desperate need of a treat to make up for her discomfort, so we ordered a Chinese takeaway. I thought I'd blown my zero waste challenge but, in fact, we haven't yet had to consign anything to the bin.

The plastic carrier bag will be used to separate items in our black bin. I emailed Bristol City Council to check what happens to these bags and I have just received a reply assuring me that they are always recycled. Thank you BCC!

Most of the dishes came in lidded plastic containers which I wash and reuse to carry food to work and/or picnics and/or train/coach journeys and to store leftovers in the fridge and freezer.

The rice came in foil containers which can be recycled in our black bin. The plastic lids are of no further use to me and would have been the only items to hit the bin, except that I 've been advised by Recresco who provide our plastic recycling facilities that there are plans to extend these to include types 5 and 6, which these are. So, in anticipation of this day, I have started a collection of such items (although I am, of course, avoiding them wherever possible).

The complimentary prawn crackers came in another recyclable plastic bag.

So, it wasn't so bad after all and we enjoyed our meal (and the latest episode of the Tudors which we watched while we ate it!)

But the best news is that there were no items in my bin today. Hooray!

Now all I have to do next week is have 7 days like that in a row. Help!!!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Day 18

Well the promised article didn't appear. No competition against the grand opening of Bristol's very own Harvey Nichols, I suspect. Still, not to worry. The challenge goes on.

The yoghurt was a success. It's chilling in the fridge and I may have some of it for breakfast tomorrow morning.

This afternoon I finally managed to refill my Ecover laundry and washing up liquids at Windmill Hill City Farm, saving me from the purchase of two new plastic bottles and even from Ecover washing tablets, which come in a cardboard outer box but plastic inner wrappers.

Deciding on which products to buy on the basis of their packaging is no easy matter. Outer wrapping is easy to establish but there is often no indication of what lies beneath. I got caught yesterday in Tescos when I bought a packet of frozen breaded cod fillets. The packet was cardboard and when I picked it out of the freezer it felt as if the fillets were moving freely within. However, when I got it home I discovered an inner plastic bag. I hope that I shall be able to recycle it in Sainsbury's plastic bag recycling bin, but it is nonetheless unnecessary waste.

Today's bin is my slimmest yet:
  • one plastic straw - and even this was brought into my house by a visitor!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Day 17

Today I made some yoghurt using Melanie Rimmer's recipe from her brilliant blog, Bean Sprouts. It worked reasonably well the first time I tried it a while ago and I'm hoping it will do so again, as it's the only way I'm going to eat yoghurt during my Zero Waste Challenge Week.

I also made some fairy cakes for tomorrow's lunch boxes.

That's the good news. The bad news is that I've had to buy more plastic. What with the builders, a poorly daughter and Wednesday half day closing I couldn't get to my local shops and had to resort to Tescos. My ailing daughter needs cheering up, so tomorrow's lunch box, if she makes it to school, will contain pittas filled with 'flat' ham and Pom Bear crisps - all of which come in plastic. She'll also have a piece of fruit, in case you were worried that she isn't getting her 5 a day.

Which brings me to the question of how much support I can expect from my family with my challenge. They are all fairly positive about it and are reconciled to my not buying them anything in non recyclable wrappings next week. However what they buy is their own responsibility and I won't be checking their bags as they walk in the front door.

And so to today's bin:
  • plastic inner wrapper from Ecover washing tablets
  • blister pack
  • plastic seal from milk bottle

PS I am reliably informed that tomorrow's Bristol Evening Post will contain an article on Zero Waste Challenge Week featuring yours truly.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Day 16

Another day and another meal inspired by leftovers. Fusilli tossed in red pesto sauce (from a recyclable jar) and leftover chicken pan fried in olive oil with a few cloves of garlic and a couple of chopped spring onions. The girls had it with corn on the cob and I had it with vine tomatoes roasted with a splash of more olive oil and sea salt.

Tomorrow I'll boil the chicken carcass to make stock which will then be combined with this week's leeks and few potatoes to create one of my favourite soups. The arrival of winter heralds the return of the meal in a bowl. All you need to accompany it is a hunk of homemade bread. Easy peasy.

And now to today's bin:
  • plastic tray and inner wrapper from yesterday's chocolate biscuits
  • plastic wrapper from Ecover washing tablets
  • plastic tray and wrapper from vine tomatoes - they were a freebie - if I'd bought them they would have been placed straight into my bag
  • plastic wrapper from fusilli
  • foil Hula Hoop packet - a treat for my younger daughter who had to be brought home from school early because she was unwell

Still no concrete plans for next week. I'll have to pull my finger out tomorrow.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Day 15

This morning our builders arrived to start the process of transforming our loft into a bedroom and a shower room. Help! Three builders on the premises and we're out of tea and biscuits. The Clipper tea I thought was waste free is in fact encased in a clear plastic wrapping round the cardboard box. So I ended up with 180 bags of Tetley tea in a shiny paper bag which I think I may be able to recycle in our black bin. It's the first time I've bought non-fair trade tea in a long time and I'm feeling rather guilty. I'd no time to make biscuits so I resorted to a plastic wrapped packet of McVities Digestives.

A friend came round with her children. She very kindly bought me a packet of chocolate coated biscuits from Aldi. They're delicious but come in two layers of plastic. And her son's carton of juice, which can be recycled, came with a plastic straw encased in a plastic sheath, which can't. Does waste acquired from other people count?

And so to today's bin:
  • plastic wrapping from Aldi spaghetti
  • 4 more plastic windows from envelopes
  • plastic inner wrapper from dried tarragon - another organic product letting itself down!
  • 2 plastic inner wrappers from Ecover washing tablets - ditto above. We usually refill our washing liquids (for dishes and clothes) at Fresh and Wild. However it has just closed. Our alternative refill site is Windmill Hill City Farm, but the shop there was closed last week so we're using up what's in the cupboard.
  • 2 plastic lids from shampoo/body wash bottles. These belong to my younger daughter. I have switched to solid shampoo from Lush and will look for a solid alternative to shower gel when I've finished using what's still in the cupboard.
  • plastic seal from sunflower oil bottle
  • 2 miscellaneous plastic lids
  • plastic sheath from carton drink's straw - I don't know where the straw went!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Day 14

This morning I shopped at our Tobacco Factory Market, however even markets are not always waste free zones. I bought two lots of cheese. The first was wrapped carefully in greaseproof paper, but the second was ready wrapped in cling film. I wonder if cling film can be washed and reused, or will it lose its 'clinginess'? The chicken came in a plastic bag which can definitely be reused.

A brief stop off in Aldi was not particularly successful. I bought three things, none of which I can do without in the long term, and none of which I have so far been able to find without plastic. They are sunflower oil, spaghetti and pasta spirals. I can buy olive oil in glass bottles, so why not sunflower or vegetable oil? And why can't pasta come in paper wrappers? Flour and sugar do.

So now to the last bin of the week:
  • inner shiny wrapper from tea bags (I believe Clipper teabags come without an inner wrapper, and they are fair trade)
  • 2 inner plastic wrappers from two Git mixes for wadas and sambhar (I bought these at Masala Bazaar, a new Indian supermarket I visited yesterday. They came in cardboard boxes and I suspected there would be inner plastic wrappers, but I couldn't resist. I was right. They were both delicious.)

My visit to Masala Bazaar was a bit of a disappointment. I'd hoped to be able to bulk buy rice in paper sacks but almost everything was wrapped in plastic, except for a few enormous bags wrapped in sackcloth. Rice is another staple I couldn't do without for very long but the only non plastic varieties I have come across are risotto and paella rice in cardboard boxes in Asda.

Anyway the total weight of this week's rubbish is 205g - 25g lighter than last week!

This week I'm going to try to reduce it even further but, more importantly, I'm going to start planning what we shall eat during Zero Waste Challenge Week, as food seems to be where the bulk of my waste lies. I'm not always very good at forward planning so this will be a challenge in itself.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Day 13

This evening's meal of tuna fishcakes was inspired by leftovers: mashed potatoes left over from Thursday's dinner and half a tin of tuna from Friday's tuna mayonnaise sandwiches. I mixed them together with a couple of spoons of soured cream, a dozen chopped capers and a sprinkling of dill, dipped them in beaten egg and breadcrumbs and fried them until golden brown. They went down well with the troops.

I rarely throw leftover food away. It's packed in plastic containers (mostly saved from Chinese takeaways) and stored in the fridge. Cold meat is used for sandwiches. Rice and vegetables are used for stir fries (NB The official advice is that one should never reheat rice. However I have done so for years and never come to any harm. You must make your own mind up on the matter.) Bones are boiled up for stock. Puddings are reheated. Nothing is wasted.

For more ideas on how to reuse leftovers (plus a lot more besides) visit Love Food Hate Waste.

Now to today's bin:
  • plastic bag from McCain's oven chips
  • plastic wrapper from Asda pittas
  • plastic seal from milk carton
  • plastic lid from Tesco's soured cream carton
  • plastic envelope from greetings card
  • twisty

Friday, 19 September 2008

Day 12

Tomorrow morning I am going to have to take my daughters to their orchestra rehearsal. We will travel by bus which means that we will have to leave early (8:20) and be back late (13:40). So today I made cranberry muffins for quick and easy breakfast to grab with a glass of milk on our way out the door, and a loaf of bread to make sandwiches to eat on the way home.

The cranberries came from the freezer where they must have been lurking since Christmas. I googled the codes on the punnet and lid (Sharpak SP60 and Sharpak SF500) which took me to the company's website. It is apparently committed to the environment but I couldn't find what type of plastic the punnet and lid were made of or how they could be recycled. So I'm afraid they will end up in a landfill site. There was also the obligatory square of bubble wrap at the bottom of the punnet which will join them in the bin.

The bread came from a Dove's mix I'd bought at the Organic Food Festival. It's called Ezekiel Bread from a verse from the book of that name - "Take thou also unto thee wheat, barley, beans, millet and fitches, and put them into one vessel and make thee bread thereof" - Ezekiel 4:9. It hasn't risen as well as I had hoped but it smells good and should go well with the slices of ham I bought from the butcher this afternoon. The baking try is greaseproof paper which can be recycled but the outer paper wrapper is lined with OPP(?)and the inner wrapper is non-recyclable plastic. So, not so good on the no waste front, which is a shame as it's 100% organic wholegrain.

Anyway, with a bit of forward planning tomorrow morning should run like clockwork ... if I manage to get up on time that is!

Today's bin contained:
  • plastic outer wrapper from Mini Cheddars multipack
  • black plastic cork
  • plastic punnet, lid and bubblewrap from Tesco's cranberries
  • plastic wrappers from Dove's Ezekiel bread mix

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Day 11

Today was bin day , or at least recycling bin day. Landfill bins are collected only every fortnight. Bristol's kerbside collections are pretty good. Black bins can be used to recycle food and drinks cans, newspapers and magazines, yellow pages and telephone directories, glass bottles and jars, clothes, blankets and material , pairs of shoes, aluminium foil and containers, household batteries, including rechargeable, spectacles and aerosol cans.

I wish they would collect plastic and cartons, but fortunately both of these can be recycled locally.

According to the council's website the amount of household waste recycled has increased from 18.5% to 37% since March 2006, which is very encouraging. However this means that 63% still ends up in a landfill which is not such good news. Perhaps the Zero Waste Challenge Week will encourage people to recycle more of the stuff they chuck in their black bins.

Today's bin is an improvement on yesterday
  • 3 plastic windows from envelopes
  • 2 plastic lids from pens - what happened to the pens? I hear you ask - and the answer is that I don't know
  • plastic wrapping from Tesco's ham
  • wrapper from Tesco's buter

Day 10

Today's bin is a bit fuller than I would like:
  • plastic packaging from the Tesco's special offer ham I bought the other day
  • plastic packaging from Tesco's mince from another special offer if I bought two - it must be my Scottish blood that makes me fall for it every time - tomorrow I must return to the butcher
  • plastic Mini Cheddars packet from elder daughter's lunchbox - the younger one must have disposed of hers at school - three packets of crisps a week is a compromise between my younger daughter's wish to have one a day and mine to ban them altogether! - I buy them in multipacks but what I save in money I gain in plastic!
  • toothpaste tube - I've heard that you can use baking soda but what about the fluoride? - I'll have to investigate further
  • beer bottle cap
  • plastic seal from plastic milk bottle
  • small piece of sticky tape
  • plastic lid from Coca Cola bottle
  • plastic inner wrapper from Tesco's wholewheat cereal

I was out at a parents' meeting and, on the way home, I gave in to temptation and bought a bag of chips. They were wrapped in paper with a wooden fork but they also came with a small polystyrene tray. I felt terribly guilty but then I discovered that is just the right size to place under my bean sprouter to allow it to drain without wetting my work surface. Blushes spared!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Day 9

This evening I listened with interest to a report linking BPA (Bisphenol A) with diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The jury appears to be out as to whether the chemical is actually responsible for the conditions but there is cause for concern. BPA is found in a wide range of plastic products including some you wouldn't think contained plastic. For more details read the BBC report here. It reinforced my commitment to reduce, if not eliminate, plastic from my food and drink.There are a few more items in my bin today.
  • Marigold tub and lid. The lid is plastic. The tub is card but is lined with a silver material which may or may not be compostable.
  • Half a dozen plastic lids marked 4 or not at all
  • 2 empty blister packs

I've been doing some baking - flapjacks on Sunday and boiled fruit cake today. They'll replace the shiny foil wrapped Tunnock bars my daughters had in their lunch boxes last week. They are not completely waste free, as the oats, dried fruit and sugar came in plastic wrappers, but it's the best I can do at the moment.

We were almost out of loo roll. My husband was charged with buying a new supply in paper wrapping. He didn't manage, but came home with the next best thing - plastic wrapping that can be recycled instore with other plastic bags.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Day 8

Unless I have missed something there are only two items in my bin today
  • plastic teabag sachet
  • paper/plastic coffee sachet

Individual sachets come in handy on holiday but I guess we could take small quantities of tea and coffee etc in reusable containers.

I've weighed my first week's rubbish and it comes in at 230g. I've never weighed my rubbish before but it certainly looks a lot less than usual.

Apart from sanitary waste, the only waste I haven't included are my daughter's eczema cream containers, because there is nothing we can do about them. I guess there is some waste we are going to have to live with.

One thing I could have lived without was the plastic wrapped ham I bought in Tescos this evening, especially as I was persuaded, by a special offer, to buy two packs for £1.60! I much prefer freshly cut ham from the butcher or the deli, but my daughters like 'plastic' ham. This illustrates the problem faced by every zero waster who lives with someone else. While I am prepared to argue my case I am not prepared to force the issue (or at least not on every occasion). My family is generally very supportive of my challenge but there are limits, and if I'm not going to put them off waste reduction for life then there are going to have to be compromises.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Day 7

We went to the cinema this afternoon and bought a couple of bars of Divine chocolate to keep us going until dinnertime. The paper outer and foil inner wrappers would have been recyclable but I didn't catch my older daughter in time before she popped them both in a litter bin. Taking litter home with us (where possible and when there are no recycling facilities around) is going to take getting used to.

Today's bin contains:
  • 2 x plastic wrappers from some carrots
  • a seal from a Tate & Lyle's tin of golden syrup
  • an empty Sainsbury's tomato puree tube
  • a plastic bag from Sainsbury's light soft brown sugar
  • 2 x plastic sachets from 2 fairtrade teabags we were given somewhere/sometime and which I was using up
  • a little plastic tag from a recently purchased item of clothing
  • a piece of broken plastic clothes peg
  • an old twisty that's too short to be of any use
  • a plastic seal from a carton of Tesco's soured cream

Tubes are a problem. I could switch to tins for tomato puree but they don't keep as well, though I suppose I could get round that by freezing the puree in ice cube trays.

Plastic seals around lids are annoying. I know they are designed to prevent tampering. However if that's your game there must surely be easier ways to do so then opening a lid, contaminating the contents and replacing the lid!

Freebies are hard to refuse but are often wasteful of resources. So I'm going to have to learn to politely decline.

I tried wooden clothes pegs but they deteriorated in the rain and left marks on my clothes.

Anyway, today marks the end of my first week. I'm reasonably pleased with my progress. I haven't hit zero waste - even for a day - but I have increased my awareness of what I consume and what I throw away, which is a good start.

Before I sign off for the day I would like to acknowledge the friends who have set me on this zero waste journey. It all started in March of this year when the Observer published its list of the world's 50 most powerful blogs, including (at no 34) Bean Sprouts. I popped in and met Melanie Rimmer who got me thinking about waste. She directed me to Almost Mrs Average and her Rubbish Diet, who in turn pointed me towards Mrs Green and My Zero Waste. I was amazed by their passion for recycling (amongst a host of other interests) and inspired to give it a go myself. So when I discovered, via the Pigeon, that Bristol was to run its own Zero Waste Challenge Week - well there was no excuse.

If you've dropped in and would like to give it a go you couldn't find three better mentors. Click on the links above or on the left sidebar to meet them for yourself.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Day 6

This morning's local shopping trip was a mixed bag!

Our first stop was the plastic recycling bin at the far corner of the Aldi car park. Why are recycling bins ways so inaccessible, especially to pedestrians? I'm sure if they were more prominent, ie on the high street, they would get better use.

Next stop was the deli (Southville Deli on North Street) where we were able to have our salami and parma ham placed directly into our plastic container. Self-raising flour came in a paper bag but the cheddar cheese was ready cut and wrapped in clingfilm. I'll have to try a market for cheese cut to order and wrapped in paper.

The butcher was busy and he misunderstood my request and put my beef in a plastic bag before placing it in my plastic container. With the queue growing longer behind me I let it go, but managed to get my bacon without a bag. It's not the end of the world as the plastic bag can be washed out and recycled.

I bought a baguette for lunch and croissants for tomorrow's breakfast, all in paper bags, at Parsons Bakery and a naked bar of soap in Health Unlimited.

Yoghurt, soured cream and soft cream cheese from Tescos all came in either types 5 or 6 plastic, which we cannot recycle at present. but will be able to do shortly, so I'm going to find somewhere to store them until then.

This evening we attended a games evening at our local church. There was a bring and share supper and both my contributions - Spanish omelette and carrot muffins - were relatively waste free. I suspected, quite rightly as it turned out, that there would be disposable plates and cutlery, so I took my own reusable ones. It's all just a matter of being prepared, which I guess comes with practice.

Today's bin (including the contents of my younger daughter's waste bin, which may have been there for some time!) contained:

  • plastic wrapper from French cereal bar with no recycling instructions
  • plastic wrapper from Tesco's large pittas unhelpfully marked 'recyclable where facilities exist' - but how does one know if one doesn't know what kind of plastic it is?
  • sachet from Co-op ground coffee - marked composite material which I guess can't be recycled but at least the Co-op listed the individual parts of the packaging which allowed me to recycle the valve (HDPE), the tab (PP) and the label (paper)
  • another Tescos plastic wrapper, this time for white muffins, and this time with no recycling instructions
  • sticky plastic wrapper advertising age-resisting day cream (obviously not something I require!)
  • foil wrapper from Always Freshelle with a recycling code I do not recognise (90?)
  • plastic wrapper from Vitakraft Honey Kracker sticks
  • foil wrapper from Wagamama refreshing towel
  • foil cap from wine bottle
  • 'window' from envelope - I tear these out and pop the rest of the envelope in the paper recycling

The most helpful piece of information I picked up today was from the Co-op coffee sachet and was the address of the waste connect website., which describes itself as 'UK's recycling database ... a comprehensive reference for recycling points throughout the country' and its aims as 'helping households and businesses to manage their waste'. It's a mine of information about all things recycling. The highlights are the ability to search for recycling facilities by type of waste and postcode and a comprehensive list of factsheets giving recycling information about items as diverse as CD, lever arches and Christmas trees. Definitely worth a browse. I've added it as a link.

Having said that, I have already discovered that it does not list my local Aldi car park as a plastic bottle recycling site or my local Sainsbury's for plastic bags. I must contact them to ask them to add these to their list.

Day 5

Not so much to report on today. A long day at work and no shopping has resulted in a fairly empty bin.
  • Plastic yoghurt pot and lid
  • 2 plastic spouts from Tetrapak juice cartons
  • Plastic Maltesers pouch

I had intended to make a batch of yoghurt using a thermos and Melanie Rimmer's recipe, but I left it too late and the tablespoonful of live yoghurt I'd left at the bottom of the pot had gone mouldy and had to be rinsed away down the sink.

I'm not sure whether or not I need to remove the plastic spouts from Tetrapak cartons. I've heard people say both. So, to play safe, I tear them out.

The Maltesers were the dregs of a pack I bought last time my daughter had friends for tea. They are gorgeous bashed up and sprinkled over vanilla ice cream. I used to be able to buy them in cardboard boxes but the last few times I've only been able to find them in pouches.

I went out for a curry with some friends from work. As I never manage to eat all of my meal I usually take the rest home where my younger daughter eats it for lunch the next day. I'd meant to take a plastic container but I left in such a hurry that I forgot to take it with me. Luckily I've been able to bring it home in recyclable containers.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Day 4

Today I plucked up the courage to ask my friendly local butcher (Bob Wherlocks on North Street - who does the most amazing sausages!) to pack my meat in my own container. Well, as with the olive shop yesterday, I needn't have worried, as he was more than willing to do so. We ended up having a conversation about how he first started recycling. I came away wondering why on earth I had not asked earlier. I have a feeling that this wont be the last time I ask myself the same question. It is, often, just a matter of changing habits.

I then stocked up on brown paper bags for lunchboxes and was persuaded to buy 1,000 for just over £6. Is that .6 p per bag? And at our current rate of consumption they should last about two years! Bargain.

Today's bin contained:
  • plastic seal from Heinz mayonnaise bottle
  • Seasoned Pioneers spice packet (a mixture of foil and plastic)
  • plastic couscous packet
  • 2 Tunnocks wrappers
  • M&S plastic sweetcorn bag

I shall need to make enquiries about the M&S bag, which says it is disposable. Does this mean it can be placed in a plastic bag recycling bin? There really is a case to be made for standardised clearer labelling.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Day 3

I've been approached by a journalist from the Evening Post who is hoping to write a few pieces on Bristol's Zero Waste Challenge Week. We spoke on the phone this afternoon and he's sending a photographer round tomorrow evening to take my photo. I'm pleased to be able to help publicise this event and hope that my experiences will encourage others to take up the challenge.

Today was a good day. I popped into our local Real Olive Company shop and was delighted to discover that they would be more than willing for me to bring along my own containers to fill with olives rather than their plastic ones. It appears that I am not the first to have asked if I can do this. There are other Zero Wasters out and about in Bristol.

Next I popped into our local healthy living shop to buy a packet of natracare natural panty liners. The subject of feminine hygiene has troubled me for some time now. There are a variety of zero waste alternatives, including mooncups and disposable sanitary pads but, although I am full of admiration for those who produce and sell them, I have always baulked at the thought of using them. So I was relieved to hear that there is an easier option and that it is available locally.

Today's waste comprised:
  • Tesco's plastic mince container (left over from yesterday's dinner)
  • Sainsbury's organic butter wrapper (marked non-recyclable)
  • Tunnock's Caramel biscuit wrapper
  • sticker from Tesco's extra large onion
  • 2 Cheddars packets (from the girls' packed lunches)
  • 2 antihistamine blister packs

This list raises two issues. I do 'the right thing' by buying organic butter only to find the wrapper is non-recyclable, whereas another non-organic butter would have had a recyclable greaseproof wrapper. Which do I chose? I had a similar dilemma the other week with fairtrade sugar in a paper packet and non fairtrade sugar in a plastic packet.

The second concerns medicine. I take medicine for hypertension and my younger daughter for eczema. Tablets come in plastic blister packs. Cream comes in plastic tubs and dispensers. Neither of us can do without our medicine, so waste is inevitable.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Day 2

The best way to avoid producing landfill waste is to avoid buying it.

Today I didn't have time to visit my local shops and had to settle for my local Tesco Express. Supermarkets are Aladdin's caves full of the most tempting treats. I love the variety of the ingredients they sell and the delicious meals you can concoct with them. But there isn't half a lot of plastic, most of it non recyclable.

Tonight's dinner was spaghetti bolognaise. The spaghetti and the mince both came in plastic wrappings. The celery and red pepper came from the fridge but they had both arrived there in plastic bags and the garlic was wrapped in a nylon(?) net. Only the onions and mushrooms escaped. They were part of last Friday's Riverford organic fruit and veg delivery. The tin from the tomatoes will be recycled via our black box, but once the tomato puree tube is finished it will end up in the bin.

On the brighter side, I did whizz up some houmous in the blender, which saved me from picking up my usual ready made equivalent in a plastic tub complete with annoying plastic seal and cardboard sheath. It'll do my elder daughter nicely for her packed lunch tomorrow.

Today's bin reveals the following:
  • plastic wrapper from Sainsbury's Ardennes pate (no recycling guidelines),
  • plastic wrappers from Sainsbury's all purpose cloths and Woolworth's stockinette dish cloths,
  • plastic tub and lid from Tesco's fresh double cream,
  • plastic lid from Sainsbury's spice jar.

I have made pate in the past and could dig out an old recipe. An easier option would be to buy it from the deli counter in Sainsbury's and see if they would let me take it away in my own container. However this sounds scarier than the butcher.

During Mrs Green's Pledge and Win Week I pledged to substitute reusable cloths for the disposable all purpose cloths I usually use. I'm not sure what the disposable cloths are made of. The plastic wrapper features a type 5 PP logo but I'm not sure whether it refers to the cloths or the wrapper. Neither am I sure what the Woolworth's reusable cloths are made of, but they look as if they may be cotton. However, they too came in a plastic wrapper. I've been getting on with them alright, but they soon look grubby and my daughters complain that they remind them of school dinners where the dinner ladies used them to wipe down the tables.

I am unable to recycle the cream tub at present as it is of type 5 plastic, but I am reliably informed that I will soon be able to do so, which means that I will not have to do without this occasional luxury.

I have a query on lids. While containers often, though not always, feature recycling logos, their lids rarely do. Can I assume they are of the same type of plastic and recycle them together, or do I have to play safe and consign them to the bin?

This is the fate of the spice jar lid. It has no logo, so that while the glass bottle goes to the bottle bank, the lid goes to the landfill. Hey ho! Next time I'll buy a refill pack in a cardboard box and transfer it to one of my collection of glass spice jars.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Day 1

I accept the challenge.

I place a brown cardboard box on top of our kitchen bin and ask the family to place their rubbish in it so that I can monitor what we throw away each day. The plan is to sort it into categories:
  1. waste for which there is an alternative
  2. waste which might well be recyclable
  3. waste for which there may be no alternative

At the end of today the box contained the following:

  1. foil outer wrapping from Tunnocks caramel biscuits, plastic tray and cover from Sainsbury's cooked ham slices marked 'not yet recyclable', plastic cover and label from Asda sausages marked 'currently not recyclable', inner wrapper from Sainsbury's cornflour marked 'unrecyclable', plastic surround from Ikea loyalty card
  2. peel off backing from (Always?) panty liner, peel off strip from LoveFilm DVD envelope, unidentified peel off backing, plastic lid with no identification, two used paper tissues

The good news is that there is no waste for which there is no alternative. However some of the alternatives are more challenging than others.

Biscuits can be baked at home. They will undoubtedly taste better and do us more good than the average shop bought offerings but will require time and effort. Ham and sausages can be bought from my local butcher who may very well allow me to take them home in my own containers, however I confess to being a bit embarrassed to ask to do this. Cornflour, like so many other staples, is hard to come by in recyclable packaging. I wish there was a local shop where I could help myself from bulk containers. There's at least one in London but that's no use to me here in Bristol. I could do without the Ikea loyalty card, and all the others when I come to think about it. By the way, I do appreciate manufacturers providing recycling instructions on their packaging.

I need to investigate these peel off backing papers. Despite their shiny surfaces they may well be able to be included in our paper collection. Plastic without any identification is a pain. Our local plastic recycling facility takes 1 and 2 and will shortly accept 5 and 6. I'm afraid of trying to recycle unidentified plastic in case it contaminates the whole load. Similarly I have also been reluctant to put used tissues in the compost for fear of spreading germs, but again there may well be no reason why they cannot be included with our kitchen waste.

Given the lack of notice I think I have made a good start. Tomorrow is another day!

By Way of Intoduction

Having accepted Bristol's Zero Waste Week Challenge I've decided to separate the countdown and the challenge week itself from my regular blog. My hope is that will serve as a record of my progress, as well as a forum for waste related issues.

I'm a 49 year old woman. I'm married with two teenage daughters. I work part-time as a school secretary. We live in a 3 bedroom terraced house. We do not own a car. We walk or use public transport. We are fortunate enough to have access to fairly comprehensive recycling facilities. The council collects paper, glass, tins, aluminium foil, batteries, old clothes and glasses etc from our black box and kitchen waste from our brown bin. There is a type 1& 2 plastic bottle bank in our local Aldi car park and a tetrapak bank in our local Asda car park. We also have a compost bin and a wormery in our back garden and another compost bin on our allotment.

I am not exactly new to recycling but it is only recently that I have become passionate about it. My motivation is the welfare of my fellow human beings across the planet and its preservation for future generations. I am inspired by celtic christianity, ecowarriors, outspoken writers and fellow bloggers. I try not to be discouraged by those who pooh pooh my efforts. I am compelled to do my bit, however small and insignificant.