Tag Archives: packaging

Two Week Challenge Completed!

Second week of landfill rubbish.

Second week of landfill rubbish.

I have completed my two week Zero Waste challenge, this is what I am sending to landfill this week.  There are two bags of frozen vegetabes that came from a clandestine rubbish bag that appeared in a corner of the kitchen. From that bag I rescued a plastic disposable cup and the bag itself which was a bit dirty from a plant I was given as a present, so I washed it and hung it on the washing line to dry.  Apart from the vegetable bags I am satisfied that I have achieved my goal of reducing the rubbish in my home to almost nothing.  I didn’t have to put my black bin out this week!

This week I am sending the following to landfill:

  • Two frozen vegetable bags.
  • Some plastic film – I can’t remember where it came from
  • Cellotape- someone sent me a letter in a paper envelope and put cellotape in a criss-cross on the back of the envelope.
  • The plastic from a Veet wax strip- I hope to eliminate these if I get the hang of sugaring.
  • The plastic from another Huggies Bed Mat that I had forgotten about.
  • Plastic seals from bicarbonate of soda and baking soda containers, I bought these knowing that a little bit of plastic film was going to save me a lot in the long run as I would be using these for baking and toiletries.
  • A used tea-light, cotton buds and a plastic seal from a bottle which I found under my bed when I was cleaning the floor.

How My Life Has Changed So Far

zero waste

The two week challenge may be over but my house has not seen the last of Zero Waste.  It has been such a positive and empowering experience that I am going to continue in my endeavour not to send rubbish to landfill.  A whole new world has opened up to me now that I am conscious of waste and I do not want to go back to the dark days.

  • I now shop differently, I choose different products that I didn’t notice before, I read the recycling information on the packaging and I am discovering new places to shop.
  • I am baking my own cakes at home which has multiple advantages: it keeps the children entertained, the house smells great and the oven heats the kitchen.
  • I have been given a spinach plant and hope to start a vegetable patch, in the meantime I am buying seasonable vegetables from White Oaks organic farm.
  • I am composting my kitchen scraps along with grass cuttings from the garden.
  • I am learning to make my own toiletries and have switched to using the Mooncup.
Zero Waste Home - Blog

Zero Waste Home – Blog




DIY Plastic Recycling

In this short video someone from the website Atomic Shrimp explains how to identify  High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) plastic and then goes on to present a hobby project in which, using domestic tools, he recycles a small quantity of HDPE into pieces that can be used in diverse craft projects.

Running time: 14 mins 50 sec.         Uploaded to YouTube: 7 Dec 2012.

It is by no means an industrial process but it is a practical exposition of some of the principles behind plastic recycling.  As such it might be the basis of some educational project work with young people – under proper supervision of course.

In his follow-up video he makes the resulting piece of plastic into a pulley wheel that works with Lego technic.

Seven Days of Landfill Rubbish

This is one week of landfill rubbish, unfortunately a lot more than I had anticipated but it’s still a very small bag compared to what we usually throw away.  Another family member who was minding the kids pulled items out of the cupboard that were bought before Zero Waste and had been set aside, despite instructions not to.  Strong warnings have been issued for next week!

What we're sending to landfill this week

What we are sending to landfill this week

  • A plastic bag that contained carrots, bought before Zero Waste and had to be used up.
  • Plastic film from the inside of a cardboard box of biscuits.
  • Plastic film that came inside an envelope containing an application form.
  • Plastic film from the top of a tofu container bought before Zero Waste.
  • Plastic film from the top of a pack of mushrooms, also bought before Zero Waste.
  • This is the worst one: a ball of plasticine, which was discarded on the floor, coated in floor sweepings (could have been composted) and wrapped in a plastic bag (could have been reused).
  • Plastic from some stickers the kids’ Grandmother gave them.
  • Plastic bag that contained herbs, bought before Zero Waste.
  • Wrapper of Jacobs crackers.
  • A couple of pieces of coathangers that my children broke.
  • A soup mix packet.
  • The plastic from a Huggies Bed Mat. Of the paper, I threw away the soiled part and kept the clean portion to reuse.
  • Chocolate bar wrappers.
  • I forgot to include in the picture the leftover food from earlier in the week, that I’d kept sealed in the fridge.

Changing Attitudes to Waste and Sustainability

So all in all I’ve been successful in drastically reducing my rubbish.  It’s quite easy to get two small children on board but harder for adults whose lifetime of habits are already established.  A few people have told me that they would love their household to go Zero Waste but their family wouldn’t allow it.   It’s easy for me to change because it was my own decision to do so.  I  have changed my ways because I am living under threat of an incinerator being built near my house.  I understand that others are not ready and may never be.  Nevertheless, the planet is in trouble and we should have started making changes years ago. This is why the government has to step in and create legislation forcing industry to redesign the products that cannot be recycled.  We have the precision of technology to land the Curiosity Rover on Mars and we can’t think of a better way to deliver a packet of crisps to consumers other than in non-recyclable plastic.  The human race’s priorities are strangely inverted.  Bolivia recently passed a law which recognises the Earth as a “dynamic living system” and grants the planet protective rights comparable to those of a human being.  If only other nations would follow this example.

Screening of Trashed at QFT

Last Thursday I attended a screening of Trashed at the Queen’s Film Theatre in Belfast.  Along with Friends of the Earth I talked to a roomful of teenagers about Zero Waste and my Zero Waste Household experiment.  They were as shocked as I was by the film and I was able to explain to them how I was already taking action on a small scale. I was very impressed by these young people who wanted to organise a viewing of the film to the rest of the their school.

I will finish this post with a snippet of conversation from Daniel Quinn’s 1992 novel Ishmael:

“- People need more than to be scolded, more than to be made to feel stupid and guilty. They need more than a vision of doom. They need a vision of the world and of themselves that inspires them.

-Yes. Definitely. Stopping pollution is not inspiring. Sorting your trash is not inspiring. Cutting
down on fluorocarbons is not inspiring. But this . . . thinking of ourselves in a new way, thinking of the world in a new way .”

Zero Waste Home - Blog

Zero Waste Home – Blog


Plant Based Plastic

Ten years ago, Helmut Nägele and Jürgen Pfitzer had an idea. Now, their persistence has paid off. Their company, Tecnaro, successfully produces Arboform — a material made from wood that can be processed like plastic, but unlike plastic, it’s biodegradable.  It won the two entrepreneurs the 2010 European Inventor Prize organised by the European patent Office.

Running time: 4mins 30 seconds.  Uploaded to YouTube : 7 Jul 2010

ARBOFORM® is liquid wood

They now make three types of biodegradable plastic materials:

Zero Waste Children

What my rubbish looks like now.

What my rubbish looks like now.

Clean Rubbish

Today is our sixth day of living as a Zero Waste Household.  I have completely changed my attitude to rubbish now and I am convinced that everyone should try being Zero Waste for a few days. I no longer have a disgusting smelly bin in the corner of my kitchen and I am never going back to that again.  It’s absurd to complicate rubbish by mixing it when it is so clean and simple to keep it separated.  I have two plastic bowls on my counter, one for paper and cardboard and the other for kitchen scraps which I empty last thing at night.  I make sure not to overcompensate when I cook so that no food gets wasted.  We’re eating a lot more healthily as most processed food comes in packaging.  There are no biscuits, crisps or chocolate here, and it’s evident in the way that my children eat up their dinner.  We are spending less and throwing away less. It just goes to show what a wasteful society we are.

Unavoidable Plastic

As the house detoxes the “omniplastic” rises to the surface.  I gave my fridge a good clean out and I had to throw away some packaging, so unfortunately my black bin won’t be 100% empty at the end of 2 weeks.  My toddler wet the bed last night and I had completely forgotten that we were using Huggies Bed Mats which are plastic and paper.  I’ve replaced these with a couple of towels, I know I could get a plastic sheet but I don’t want to consume further.

Evading a Mutiny

The other day someone turned up at the house with chocolate bars for the children and I couldn’t deny it to them once they had seen them.  I have to tread a very fine line in order to avoid a mutiny.  My son finds all aspects of recycling fascinating: separating rubbish, different coloured bins, rubbish lorries, magnets that pull out metals in recycling stations, etc.  However he’s not so fond of the idea of sacrificing his favourite treats.   I want this to be an educational experience and not an imposition, otherwise he will not be on board with it.  I don’t want a repeat of him shouting “I hate Zero Waste!” all over the supermarket the other day when I explained that we would not be buying Oreos.   I found him a more recyclable alternative and that evening we sat down and wrote a letter to the manufacturer of Oreos asking them to change the packaging.  He said “they’re not going to listen to me” and while I thought he was probably right, I told him that if enough people asked them the same thing they would have to listen.

Yesterday I cheated, I took him to the shop, bought him some chocolate and threw the wrapper in the shop’s bin.  He said “but that’s not Zero Waste, Mummy”, I never thought I would have heard him complain, but children never fail to surprise you!

Recycling Station by Tarek

Recycling Station by Tarek


Lessons from my Grandmother

It dawned on me this morning that I was going to have to learn to bake.  Apart from one attempt at a cake, I’ve never felt the need before.  Why would I when I can buy cakes in the supermarket ready made and nicely packaged?  My mother and grandmother baked, but I am from a generation of consumers and convenience.  Now I just need to find ingredients that don’t come in plastic.

Zero Waste Home - Blog

Zero Waste Home – Blog

A photograph with a kitchen table full of food.

First Zero Waste Shopping

Today I arrived at Sainsbury’s for my very first Zero Waste shopping, not knowing what I was going to fill my reusable bags with.  I am surprised at the amount of fresh produce I was able to buy, with one drawback- most of the organic stuff is highly packaged so I had to go with regular. There were mushrooms in paper bags and I discovered that plastic nets can be returned to the carrier bag recycling bin in the entrance.  Overall I am happy with the amount of loose veggies I could get. Some of them had non-recyclable stickers on them but my children took care of those at home by sticking them all over each other and now I am not sure what happened to them – problem solved.  I had to go without lettuce and spinach as all the leafy greens were engulfed in plastic, so I will have to find somewhere else to buy them.   Also, I wasn’t able to buy many dried goods either such as lentils, seeds and nuts which we eat a lot of in our house, but at least I found some rice in cardboard box.

I felt somewhat self-conscious with a mountain of loose fruit and veg so I went to the self checkout where I spent a good half hour identifying everything on their system and putting it through.  I did my shopping in two lots. Once I’d stuffed all the fresh produce into my rucksack I went back in and started exploring the rest of the aisles. I began reading packaging, shaking and squeezing cardboard boxes of crackers and cereal to try to ascertain if there was any plastic film inside them.  I was confused by recycling symbols, claims of environmental friendliness but no recycling information on Alpro cartons, and claims that foil and plastic film could be recycled, but where?

After a while I looked at my watch, more than two hours had passed and I almost forgot about picking the kids up from school.  As with any lifestyle change, it will take time to get the hang of. I spent under £50  which is half of what I would usually spend.  My shopping looked different when I got it home, lots of rectangular brick shapes, all very neat and old-fashioned looking.  It is liberating to be free from all that plastic!

My kids were having fish fingers for dinner and the smaller one left about half of what was on his plate.  Cooked food and meat can’t be composted so I have a dilema of what to do with it.  It isn’t worth keeping but I can’t throw it away either.  A pet would come in handy right now.  Usually I would chuck it in the bin without a second thought.   I’ve put it in a sealed plastic container and stuck it in the fridge. I’ll worry about it tomorrow – like a true waste management consultant.

Another dilema I dealt with today was the toilet roll issue, because it comes in plastic.  I managed to find a box of recycled tissues for 45p, which is a good solution.  Other countries I have lived in such as Egypt aren’t as dependent on toilet paper as we are here.  The toilets there have a little tube with a tap positioned at the right angle for you to clean yourself with water.
It’s far more hygenic to wash yourself rather than using paper in my opinion. That’s how I cleaned my children when they were babies, I very rarely used wipes.  Just think, 27,000 oxygen giving trees are cut down every day to make toilet paper, just because we think it’s convenient. However, at this point I am not going to subject my family to any extreme measures.  The kids have already given up their afterschool Oreos and that’s enough trauma for one week.

Zero Waste Home - Blog

Zero Waste Home – Blog