Zero Waste: where we are now

Because we’re scientifically minded here at Havenwards, we realised when we said we were going to try to reduce our landfill waste by 90% that we needed to have some way of measuring that.

So for the last three weeks we’ve been keeping all our rubbish in a box in the corner of our room, rather than putting it in the bin and taking it out as we normally would.

That meant that I then had the dubious fun of digging through it yesterday to see what was in the pile, and figure out how we could improve that.

(One thing we didn’t keep was food waste because whilst we did have to throw a few things out, we didn’t particularly want to keep them in a corner of our room to keep going off… Likewise a couple of personal hygiene related items. No-one needs that in a photo.)

So here in all its glory is our minimally-edited pile of rubbish over the last three weeks.

Pringles box for scale…

Pringles box for scale…

We then broke that down into categories which at least gives us areas to look at for improvement.

Personal care

Pile of landfill personal care products

As you can see, there’s lots of room for improvement here. Since we started collecting this rubbish, we’ve moved over to zero-waste toothpaste and dental care, so this area will be decreasing. We’re also working our way through our last supplies of various cosmetics and beauty products (like cleanser and so on) before we start making and using our own, which will therefore hopefully be more zero waste and sustainable.

Obviously, the period hygiene products are there, and to be honest a lot of that is to do with bad forward planning on our part. So for future we’re both intending to be a bit more mindful so that we don’t get ‘caught out’ as it were, and can just continue to use our zero waste options as normal. Hopefully when we do this experiment again in three months time, this won’t be such an issue as we’ll have got to grips with that particular situation better!

 

Snacks…

Pile of disposable snack packets

Obviously, the elephant in the room with this pile is our snacking habit. There are a lot of crisp packets here.

Our goal for the next few months is to reduce our crisp-eating ways, to be honest. Additionally, for when we do want to snack away (and who doesn’t?) we’re going to try making our own crackers and crisps, and also see if there is anyone selling crisps and snacks in recyclable packaging. It may not be possible, but we’ll have to see what we can do. As with the personal care products, a lot of the reasons why we have issues here is because we don’t plan ahead as much as we should, and tend to buy on impulse. Definitely a work in progress!

 

Kitchen Packaging and wrappers

Unrecyclable kitchen waste

A lot of these wrappers and packages come from products that we are looking forward to being able to buy in bulk. At the moment there aren’t any bulk shops in easy reach for us. However, we know of a couple that will be opening up near us in a few months time, and we are really looking forward to being able to get stuck in with those! In the meantime, there are some zero waste shops a bit further afield so we know we need to start making some longer-distance trips (across the city) to stock up on staples. It’s good to see where we are to start with, as it will help us measure how we improve.

 

Feline rubbish

Single use plastic cat care products

The cat generates a fair amount of landfill waste - from his litter (which is a bit of an unavoidable issue, at the moment) to his cat food (we didn’t keep all the pouches we used in this period as we didn’t really want our room to smell of rotten cat food…) A lot of this is hard to avoid, including the bag system we use so that we can contain and manage his litter. However, one thing I want to start doing more of is making his cat treats. This might be a challenge to square with veganism, and his fussy tastes, as we’ll need to buy fresh meat and fish to make into chews for him, but the benefit of making our own is that we can have a bit more control (as far as that’s possible) over the ethics and origin of what we’re feeding him. Of course, there’s no guarantee he’ll actually eat what we offer him…

 

Delivery packaging

Packaging and instruction manuals

Over the last few weeks we had a couple of trips to IKEA and a couple of things delivered; these came wrapped in plastic, and were things we could potentially have avoided bringing in with a bit more forward planning and ingenuity - so again, this is something we should work on. Reducing our consumption in general will have a knock-on effect on what plastic we generate and bring in to our home - so hopefully by December we’ll have shifted more thoroughly to our more conscious mindset and you’ll see a reduction in this kind of packaging.

 

Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous discarded rubbish

This is stuff that we couldn’t easily categorise. I definitely think we could have done more in terms of reusing or finding alternative uses for some of these things (the socks, for instance could become catnip-stuffed toys for the cat, or could have been repurposed as draught stoppers) but in the spirit of honesty we wanted to present how our current (but adapting) mindset resulted in this waste. A lot of reducing waste and moving towards a zero waste lifestyle is about changing the way you see and think about the waste you produce - this is a learning curve, much like going vegan was initially, and we definitely aren’t there yet. But watch this space…

 

Next steps…

So as you can see from this post we’ve got a way to go to improve how we think about the rubbish we bring in and discard. But now we know what we generate we can start to change it. For example, moving towards using reusable make up wipes and handkerchiefs will be a good start. We’ve also started only using loose leaf tea that we can get in bulk, so that’s really reduced the waste we generate from drinking tea! It’s about the small things as well as the bigger mindset shifts. As we get more used to thinking in a zero waste production way, I predict we’ll definitely find it more natural. At the moment a lot of the things that we do come from not really thinking ahead or acting on impulse, which means we default to what’s normal for us right now. All we have to do is change that norm…!