Monday, 27 February 2012

Monday Meeting: The Rubbish Diet Challenge Wk 6

Well, wash me down with some soapsuds. We've hit Week 6 of the Rubbish Diet Challenge, which means after taking time out this week for some much needed personal care, and getting ready for next week's declutter, we will soon be hitting the Zero Waste Week and it will all be over.

But before you can put your feet up and give yourselves a well-earned rest, I'm going to get you to mull over your beauty regime.

So if you've got time for spot of pampering while you ponder your waste reduction challenge, roll up your sleeves, take a deep breath and relax....preferably in the vicinity of your bathroom.

Week 6 is really amalgamating all that you've learned during the last five weeks and simply putting it into context in the bathroom.  There's lots of scope for introducing ways to cut waste, whether it's through reducing disposable items, recycling more or even extending your imagination to composting.

In addition to the mini-challenges shown below, more information can be found in the online guide that accompanies The Rubbish Diet Challenge. Be warned though.  This is the week where it really does get personal.

1.Don't use the toilet as a bin! Of course, I know that most people who follow the Rubbish Diet will not use their loo as an alternative to landfill, but there are some products out there that positively encourage you to do so.  Take "flushable wipes" for instance.  The news is, if you're a wipe flusher - even if it says so on the packet - this is the week to stop.  Don't take my word for it, take a peek at Water UK's Bag it & Bin it campaign instead, which includes a long list of things that should never get flushed into our sewerage systems.  My advice is not to bin it, but to find an alternative solution to creating that waste in the first place.

2.Recycle It! It's easy to forget that many of the containers found on your bathroom shelves can actually be recycled, especially if they are plastic bottles, which are now widely accepted around the UK.  In fact, toiletries are increasingly packaged in bottles that are made from recycled plastic.  And even if you can't put aerosols into your kerbside bin, most recycling centres will take them as part of their metal collection. If you find that you can't recycle the packaging easily, follow the advice from Week 2 and either look for packaging-free products or switch to alternatives that can be recycled in your area, if it fits your budget. For example, some toothpaste products are now sold in PET (type 1) bottles, which can be recycled easily.  Also, a selection of own brand medicines, e.g. Paracetamol, can be bought in plastic tubs instead of the more common blister packs that are tricky to recycle because of mixed material.  So do check your local supermarket shelves for alternatives.

3.Go naked! Not you!  Your products!  Of course, the great waste reduction mantra is to try and "Reduce" before you even have to think about recycling.  So even if you can recycle, you may wish to cut down on the amount of plastic you use.  In which case, shops such as Lush will be able to help with their wide range of package-free products including soaps, shampoo bars and even deodorant bars (Lush also has instore recycling points for customers to return their packaging).  There are also many artisan soapmakers across the UK, who will tempt you away from the plastic bottle, with products that last much longer than liquid soap.  Even if they are not packaging-free, the materials used are minimal.  My personal favourites are Royston and Hayes and The Bellingham Soap Company, which produce soaps made from natural ingredients.

4. Consider reusables: Shhhh, don't be shy.  If you're a lady who bungs lots of personal disposable items in the bin, there is a better way.  From cleansing wipes to the monthlies, ditching the disposables can save you hundreds of pounds, with no particular extra inconvenience!  Take make-up wipes for instance.  The Body Shop sells a neat little pack of muslin wipes, which are totally washable and can be used with make-up remover time-and-time again.  And as for that time of the month, there are washable pads and all sorts of finery to make sure you don't have to send disposables to landfill ever again.  A good place to start is Lollipop.  Of course, if you've got young babies or toddlers, you may wish to think about switching to resuables.  More information on this, including links to schemes that are available can be found at Go Real.  And chaps, don't think you can get off lightly.  Even when it comes to shaving, a traditional razor with replacement blades is far less of a burden on landfill than the disposable plastic alternative.

5. Compost it!  If you've been getting into home composting, there are all sorts of things you can do to entertain your own imagination and use as a conversation starter amongst your friends.  So in your efforts to reduce waste, you may wish to switch to cotton buds (Q-Tips), with paper stems, and bung these in your compost bin when finished.  Of course other natural products such as cotton wool balls can be put in your compost bin too, as can more interesting items, such as the Fairtrade condoms from Oxfam. Now there's a topic for your next dinner party - or not - depending on the nature of your company.  And we haven't even ventured into the area of hair from your brush, paper tissues and toenail clippings. Well that's what my composting friends tell me.  So, while I leave you to think about all things natural that could possibly be composted, here's one more nudge to weigh this week's rubbish.

And on the subject of weigh-ins, our bin slimmers are still going strong.  They've been very much left to their own devices over the last few weeks and have made fantastic progress.  And this week, I hope to catch up with them to find out what's left in their bins, in preparation for their Zero Waste challenge in a few weeks time.   They'll be reporting their Wk 6 results over the next few days and the results will be updated as they come in

1.  Terry-Anna.
Household: 2 adults, in Ipswich Borough, Suffolk. 
WK1 Weigh-in: 1.5 large bags, filling one third of a wheelie bin (fortnightly):  WK 6: 1 very small bag, the height of a HP sauce bottle! With a week to go until collection.

2.  Ness.  @NessyThompson
Household: 2 adults & 5 children, a rural village in Mid Suffolk
WK1 Weigh-in:  2 full wheelie bins (fortnightly).  WK 6: 1/2 wheelie bin - with one week to go until collection.

3.  Donna.  @Donna_De
Household: 2 adults, in Tower Hamlets in London.
WK1 Weigh-in: 1 30L rubbish sack. (weekly).  WK 6: 3/4 30L sack

4. Amy. @AmyMarpman
Household: 2 adults in New York City.
WK1 Weigh-in: 2 bin bags - estimated 9kg / 20lbs. (Weekly) WK 6: 5.4kg/12lbs (covering two weeks)

5: Kate. @BusinessPlumber
Household: 2 adults, in a rural village in Mid Suffolk :
WK1 Weigh-in: 1 unusually full wheelie bin - incl Christmas waste. (fortnightly): WK 6?

6: Jax. @LiveOtherwise
Household: 2 adults, 3 children & a baby on its way, in Suffolk Coast.
WK1 Weigh-in: 7 small bin bags - filling one third or half of a wheelie bin (fortnightly). WK6?

Household: 2 adults, 2 children, Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire
WK 1 Weigh-in:  3 large bin bags, almost filling a whole wheelie bin. (weekly).  WK 6: 2 bags.

8.Tim @Dotterel
Household: 2 adults, 3 children, Lincolnshire.
WK 1 Weigh-in: 1 full wheelie bin (fortnightly). WK6: 3 small bags, 1 week to go until collection.

Don't forget, just because the Rubbish Diet challenge is already in WK 6, it doesn't mean that you can't join in.  Just visit the online guide to catch up with everything you need to do.  There's also lots happening on Twitter too, so to join in the conversation just use the hashtag #therubbishdiet, or tweet @karencannard.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

The Rubbish Diet, Wk 5: A cold, compost & Master Composters

It's a good job this week's topic was garden related, because I've spent much of the week thinking about how much compost I've been creating.

And trust me, I've been creating loads, mainly of the citrus peel variety.  All because I came down with a cruddy cold on Monday and I've been busy fighting it with, amongst other things, some decent doses of vitamin C.

Citrus peel is one of the many items that you can add to a compost heap.  However, unlike my lazy approach, advice is that chopping or tearing it up into smaller pieces will help it compost better.  But frankly, this week, I've only had the attention span of a gnat to dedicate to my composting abilities, so I'm certainly going to need to balance out the contents with some other material soon.

Composting has been on other people's minds this week.  Joanna Boardman, aka Rubbish Geek, will at last be able to use her new compost bins to help her with her Rubbish Diet and during a Skype session on Monday, Amy Marpman, one of our Rubbish Diet 8, was a lot more confident to give composting a go, and was looking forward to getting advice from a local organisation over in New York.

And that reminded me of a national scheme, which we have here in the UK, thanks to the network of Master Composters.

Master Composters are volunteers who are trained by Garden Organic to help raise awareness of composting skills in local communities. They give demonstrations at events and can also run sessions at schools, as well as publish advice in local magazines and newsletters. 

If you've been inspired to try your hands at home composting this week, but are not sure how to start, a good step would be to to get in touch with your local volunteers, either via your council or through the network coordinators in your area. 

Alternatively, you may already be experienced in the ways of composting and you might fancy signing up.  Training is free and you can expect to spend around 30 hours a year helping your local community. More information can be found at Garden Organic's Home Composting website.

And the highlight of the composting calendar year is Compost Awareness Week, which this year takes place between 6-12 May.  Do check out Garden Organic's Poster & Painted Bin competition to see how your family or school could join in.

In the meantime, here's another use for that fruit peel, before it even gets to the compost bin.  It fits in very nicely with this week's theme, for anyone who's thinking of planting up some seedlings.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Monday Meeting: The Rubbish Diet Challenge Wk 5

Welcome to Week 5 of The Rubbish Diet Challenge.   

This week, the focus is on the garden and with Spring almost in the air, it's perfect timing to start thinking about how your garden can help reduce rubbish, as well as how you can reduce waste whilst gardening.

Even if like me, you're not a particular useful gardener and are more likely to fall into the category of willing but hapless, there are still things that you can do, to inspire you to keep slimming that bin.

So for those who are ready to embark on Week 5,  have a think about this week's mini-challenges.

1. Stop buying those bagged salads and grow your own instead.  You don't need much space.  A couple of pots will do for planting a few seeds of mixed mediterranean leavesSo when you're out shopping this week, look out for a packet at the supermarket or garden centre and get planting.  Then plant some more in a few weeks time and keep going throughout the summer.  You'll probably never have to buy expensive salads again.

2. Think about other easy things that you can grow in the garden, such as herbs that you use for cooking.  There are lots of sites that advise on how to grow, harvest and store them for use out of season. I love the online guide at Growing Spaces, which provides very simple advice.  So, if you haven't started a herb garden yet, make this the year to do it, even if you've only got a window-sill. Not only will it save you money, you won't have to worry about recycling all that plastic film or even pots. If you've got a garden and love cooking, I'd also recommend planting a bay tree. The leaves are brilliant for adding flavour to sauces and soup and the branches are great for floral decorations too.  Of course if you love cut flowers, and have the space, consider growing some of your favourites, for you to bring indoors.

3. If you are a fairly keen gardener, think about ways in which you can reduce waste in the garden. It's possible to reduce the number of plants you buy from the garden centre, simply by splitting a plant in two, or learning to harvest seeds as well as propogate.  Of course, plant pots can always be reused, or passed on via sites such as Freegle or Freecycle, but if you find yourself with too many, it's also worth checking if your garden centre will recycle them.  Some recycling centres, such as the ones throughout Suffolk, will also now accept them as part of their hard plastics collections. Other waste that can be recycled as a result of garden purchases includes compost bags etc. Often these are made from the same material as other plastic bags, so check the labels and recycle with your carrier bags if your local facilities provide such services.

4. Get composting. Many people are afraid of composting, but my own experience has shown that even with a cheap plastic bin, it's possible to create something that has nutritional value, even it it doesn't look much like compost or if the only place you can use it is under some shrubs at the back of the garden. And I am in constant awe of how difficult it is to actually fill a compost bin, thanks to the speed in which its contents break down. When it comes to composting, there are many options to consider, whether it's the traditional compost heap, a plastic bin or a wormery. Wiggly Wigglers is a great site for comparing the costs of various options.  Also Get Composting works in partnership with local councils and often has offers available on many solutions.

5. Bury your food waste in your garden.  I know that sounds gross, and I don't really mean that you should just go and dig a hole and bury the remains of your Sunday dinner, just like so.  Of course, having waded through the challenges in Week 3, you should now be on the path to minimising food waste. However, for whatever remains, there are now plenty of solutions that can help you turn any leftovers into compost. Perhaps the simplest is a wormery, which will accept all sorts of mush except for fish or meat leftovers. BBC gardener and Guardian columnist Alys Fowler has also recently published a review of the Bokashi bin, which enables you to collect scraps, including meat, and uses a fermenting process to allow it to be added to your compost bin. Alternatively, the Green Johanna and the Hotbin use hot composting to enable you to add all sorts of food waste directly to other compostable materials.  These are more expensive than your average compost bin, but if you have the space and the determination, they are worth considering.

For more information about the ideas listed above, take a look at the accompanying online guide for The Rubbish Diet Challenge.

Some of our participating households have already got stuck into composting, with others planning to try it soon. I know that Tim is already seeing a real reduction in his waste as a result of getting a compost bin for his garden.  It was tricky trying to catch up with everyone during half term, but now the holidays are over, the weigh-in data is starting to come in and it's already making positive reading.  The results below will be updated as and when the information is available.

1.  Terry-Anna.
Household: 2 adults, in Ipswich Borough, Suffolk. 
WK1 Weigh-in: 1.5 large bags, filling one third of a wheelie bin (fortnightly):  WK 5: 3 quarters of a bag.

2.  Ness.  @NessyThompson
Household: 2 adults & 5 children, a rural village in Mid Suffolk
WK1 Weigh-in:  2 full wheelie bins (fortnightly).  WK 5: 4 bin bags (one bin)

3.  Donna.  @Donna_De
Household: 2 adults, in Tower Hamlets in London.
WK1 Weigh-in: 1 30L rubbish sack. (weekly).  WK 5:

4. Amy. @AmyMarpman
Household: 2 adults in New York City.
WK1 Weigh-in: 2 bin bags - estimated 9kg / 20lbs. (Weekly) WK 5: Not enough rubbish to put out during week 4 but estimating that combined with WK5, this is like to amount to 2 bags for the fortnight, weighing 4.08kg/9lbs.

5: Kate. @BusinessPlumber
Household: 2 adults, in a rural village in Mid Suffolk :
WK1 Weigh-in: 1 unusually full wheelie bin - incl Christmas waste. (fortnightly): WK 5: 2 bags.

6: Jax. @LiveOtherwise
Household: 2 adults, 3 children & a baby on its way, in Suffolk Coast.
WK1 Weigh-in: 7 small bin bags - filling one third or half of a wheelie bin (fortnightly). WK5:

Household: 2 adults, 2 children, Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire
WK 1 Weigh-in:  3 large bin bags, almost filling a whole wheelie bin. (weekly).  WK 5 1 bag

8.Tim @Dotterel
Household: 2 adults, 3 children, Lincolnshire.
WK 1 Weigh-in: 1 full wheelie bin (fortnightly). WK5: 5 small bags, with a few days to go until collection. Currently looking like half-a wheelie bin.

Don't forget, just because the Rubbish Diet challenge is already in WK 5, it doesn't mean that you can't join in.  Just visit the online guide to catch up with everything you need to do.  There's also lots happening on Twitter too, so to join in the conversation just use the hashtag #therubbishdiet, or tweet @karencannard.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Rubbish Diet, Wk 4: Saturday catchup. Bins, Blogs, Zambia & Cars

I'm afraid I've not been around much this week, but with very good reason.  It's been a very busy half-term holiday and we've been scuttling around keeping the children entertained, including visits to London and Cambridge.

Of course, always on the look out for rubbish inspiration as well as examples of urban grot, I had my camera at the ready to snap some photos, some of which were tweeted using the hashtag #RubbishHolidaySnaps.  Well, one has to maintain one's reputation, don't you think, especially when it's been previously noted in the national press.

But it's great to see that more towns and cities are now providing on-street recycling facilities for shoppers and visitors. Pictured left, is an example of the bins that have been upgraded in Cambridge City Centre, enabling passers-by to recycle cans, plastic bottles and glass.

Yes, I agree, most people would be more interested in taking photos of Kings College, which has much more of a spectacular presence, but any glass or aluminium recycled in these bins could be with us as a resource for just as long as the buildings pictured behind.  I just wish that council waste & street-scene departments would hook up with the local tourist information services, to proactively publicise the pride that they take in these facilities, to help raise awareness and to seek to improve capture rates.

In other news, a new website hit my attention this week,  Zero Waste Events.  Inspired by the Zero Waste Events Protocol for London 2012, Zero Waste Events has been created by Coca-Cola and WRAP, to develop a network of knowledge, ideas and case-studies for enabling events to be managed with the promise of zero waste to landfill.  It is aimed at becoming a long-lasting legacy of the games itself, learning lessons from the knowledge of running such a major event in the UK.  The network is free to join.  Just visit for more details.

Now one of the greatest surprises over the last few weeks, has been the enthusiasm amongst the Twitter community for getting on board with The Rubbish Diet Challenge. As well as the "Rubbish Diet 8" - ie, the households who have agreed for me to mentor and prompt them along with my smiles, soft reminders and other subtle techniques - other folk have volunteered themselves for the challenge too and some are also blogging about it.  If you haven't caught up with them already, do make sure you have a peak at their blogs or tweets:

@Wholeself aka Kate Grifftiths:  Blog -
@TurquoiseLemons aka Kate Stuart: Blog-
@RubbishGeek aka Joanna Boardman: Blog -
@MichelleBest: Blog -

Twitter has proved to be as useful as ever for sharing updates and connecting up with folk who are interested in reducing waste, and one of the most inspirational links this week has been finding out about tweeter & blogger, Catharine Witheney's experience in Zambia.

The blogpost that she wrote to describe recycling in the capital city of Lusaka is very humbling indeed. It highlighted the appreciation of maximising resources and the care in choosing some packaging materials over others, as well as finding resourceful ways of generating value out of something that is peceived to have no value at all.

Naturally, Catharine's experience in Zambia is such a contrast to life in the UK and similar developed countries and whenever I hear first hand accounts like this, it always make me re-evaluate the definition of "developed" and the disconnection with the value of resources that such progress has created.  Catharine's blogpost is truly inspirational and touches on a range of simple solutions that underpin what Zero Waste thinking is hoping to achieve in a wider sense.  So do pop along to have a peek:

And moving swiftly back to the industrialised western world, with which I am more familiar, I couldn't close this week, without sharing the news that car manufacturer Ford is switching to the use of recycled plastic bottles for the interior of its new electric car.  Recycled PET is proving to be a popular material for many products and this is the latest in a long line of applications such as clothing, umbrellas, accessories and packaging. 

The news announced on Edie this week reveals that Ford aims to divert two million plastic bottles from Landfill, and through this process it will help raise awareness of recycling in the U.S, where the capture rate is still only 29%.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Meet the bin slimmers from Bucks & Lincs

Each week, since the start of The Rubbish Diet Challenge, we've had the chance to learn more about the individual challenges and the focus of each of the households that have volunteered to be taken through their waste-busting missions. We've scooted around Suffolk, dropped into London, as well as New York, and now this week, it's time to visit Buckinghamshire and Lincolnshire to catch up with two more families who are making great changes to their waste.

Meet Melanie

Melanie lives with her husband, two children and their pet dog (and a seasonal snowman), in the Aylesbury Vale district of Buckinghamshire.

Although life has been very busy of late and they haven't been able to embrace the steps fully, Melanie is pleased that they have been extra vigilant about what goes in their general waste bin and they now always consider whether it could be recycled rather than mindlessly throwing it away.

This has substantially reduced their general waste and she says she is now ashamed about how relatively easily it has been achieved.

However, they have found some aspects particularly challenging.  Until now, their kerbside recycling hasn't been great, but she is pleased to hear about the positive changes that Aylesbury Vale will be introducing later this year, (including the collection of cardboard and food waste ), which Melanie thinks will have a great impact if people make full use of them.

They also can't easily recycle Tetra Pak cartons or plastic bags/wrapping etc and Melanie would love to have these facilities incorporated into facilities at their local Household Waste Recycling Centre.  Commenting on their use of Ocado for their shopping delivery, she also confirms that although the service will take back carrier bags, drivers no longer always ask customers and she often has to prompt the driver.  She now wonders whether the delivery service could extend its efforts a little, e.g. taking back other packaging that's recycled by other customers at the local store.  I can't help but agree.

Meet Tim

Tim lives with his wife and three children in the Boston district of Lincolnshire.

And he did make me chuckle when he said that he is trying to wean himself off a lifetime's addiction to throwing stuff away.

He's confessed that for him, throwing stuff away has felt pretty good - addictive, spiritual and cleansing. He says he's thrown a lot of stuff away without really thinking about it. Out of sight is out of mind, after all.

Until now.

He now has that nagging feeling that he should be doing something - anything - to reduce the mountain of stuff he sends to landfill. He says this has actually struck a chord as far as his recycling credentials are concerned.

And the one thing that he's been particularly focusing on since the start of The Rubbish Diet, has been how to divert his kitchen scraps.

Tim's realised that if there's one thing more satisfying than having a clear out, it's getting something for nothing. So he's got himself a brand-new compost bin, which is now an eager recipient of potato peelings and other kitchen waste that otherwise would have filled his bin.

As Tim said, in his closing statement, when I asked how he was getting on:

 "It's rubbish, Jim, but not as we know it".

I couldn't have put it better myself, even if I did suddenly feel that his mission was teetering on the edge of galactic exploration. If I didn't know better, next time we see that compost bin, I sense it will be looking more like a space rocket.

As long as he keeps his compostables in his garden and doesn't try launching them into outer space, I guess that's okay.

For further progress on how Tim's getting on with his challenge, visit his most excellent blog at Bringing up Charlie.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Monday Meeting: The Rubbish Diet Challenge Wk 4

Welcome to Week 4 of The Rubbish Diet Challenge. I can't believe that already we're almost half-way through. In one way, it feels like a hard slog, but in other ways, the time's been whizzing along, and it will be Week 8 before we know it.

Sadly I didn't get a chance to publish the regular Friday Journal during Week 3, due to battling a cold and Wi-Fi failure, but did you spot the latest news from Sainsbury's?  In a bid to help reduce food waste, their new labelling will now advise customers that they can freeze products right up to the Use By date, replacing outdated advice which instructed households to freeze on day of purchase. That's great news and hopefully other supermarkets will follow and update their guidelines too.

By now, anyone taking part in The Rubbish Diet should have got to grips with their local recycling services, discovered the extra facilities that are available through local shops and have started thinking about what food waste really means to them.  New habits will be starting to fall into place and while these are put into practice, participants will be wondering what else they can possibly do, to cut down their landfill waste even further.

Well in the world of waste-busting antics, there's always that little something.

So are ready for Week 4?  If so, it's time to grab your Marigolds and get cracking.

Week 4 is all about domestic chores. Sorry. It's never been my highlight either. I'd much rather be creative around the house, having loads of fun rather than clearing it up.  But one has to be responsible and I soon realised that cleaning and clearing up needed my creativity too, especially  if I was going to commit to reducing my waste even further.  Some of the things I tested a few years ago fell by the wayside, but most of the changes have remained in place, saving bags full of waste and pockets full of cash, as you'll see from some of the mini-challenges that are set for this week.  More information and background material can be found in the online guide that accompanies the challenges detailed below.

1. Reduce the burden.  This week it's time to go through your kitchen cupboards and sort out the bad from the good.  Many cupboards will be bursting with cleaning products that have been bought as a result of impulse purchases, but end up sitting there gathering dust while households rely on a core number of products.  Recognise which ones work for you and promise not to succumb to temptation again. Promise to use up the spare products soon or give them away to friends or via Freecycle.  When buying cleaning products in future, look out for condensed products or consider using natural alternatives. These days, you can even buy microfibre cloths for many aspects of your household routine, which promise to scrub and buff up your surfaces without needing any chemicals at all.

2. Reuse all you can. Of course, this principle carries through the whole of The Rubbish Diet, but when it comes to cleaning and household chores, it is amazing how much waste can be reduced through replacing disposable and consumable products with reusable items. I used to spend a fortune on disposable wipes, paper towels and sponges until I switched to washable cleaning cloths and longer lasting washing up gear.  Equally, having switched to Eco-balls and more lately the Eco Egg, I have also saved hundreds of pounds on laundry powder, and this has helped slim our recycling bin too.  So, as you work through your household chores this week, think about changes that you could ease into your lifestyle and try giving them a go.

3.Recycle those empties.  Household cleaner or detergent bottles are now classed as one of the more widely-recyclable containers in the UK, which means they are collected by most local authorities. So, even if your council does not accept the wider variety of plastics, they may still collect these.  If you are not in the habit of recycling these bottles regularly and are still unsure if your local council takes them, you can check easily, by calling your local council or visiting the Recycle Now website.

4.Downsize your rubbish bin. If you've experienced a huge boon to your recycling activities since Week 1 along with a diminished amount of rubbish, it's time to celebrate by reorganising your bin bags! Not only will this provide you with a physical sense of achievement, but it also creates a physical reminder amongst your household to keep on going.  If your actual kitchen recycling bin is smaller than your rubbish bin, try switching them around and make more space for your recycling. Another technique that you can try is to remove the rubbish bins from everywhere else in the house, or particular rubbish hotspots e.g. the home office, bathrooms or bedrooms to ensure that everything is brought to the kitchen for sorting to disposal.  Some councils also allow you to swap your large wheelie bin for a smaller one, just like Terry-Anna, one of our bin-slimmers from Ipswich, discovered a few weeks ago.

And of course on the subject of our bin-slimmers, today's the day for catching up with how they are getting on with their individual missions. Most of them will still have another week to go until their rubbish gets collected so as the results come in throughout the day, please note that many of these will be interim figures.

1.  Terry-Anna.
Household: 2 adults, in Ipswich Borough, Suffolk. 
WK1 Weigh-in: 1.5 large bags, filling one third of a wheelie bin (fortnightly):  WK 4: 1/2 bag

2.  Ness.  @NessyThompson
Household: 2 adults & 5 children, a rural village in Mid Suffolk
WK1 Weigh-in:  2 full wheelie bins (fortnightly).  WK 4: 

3.  Donna.  @Donna_De
Household: 2 adults, in Tower Hamlets in London.
WK1 Weigh-in: 1 30L rubbish sack. (weekly).  WK 4:1 30L rubbish sack 2/3 full.

4. Amy. @AmyMarpman
Household: 2 adults in New York City.
WK1 Weigh-in: 2 bin bags - estimated 9kg / 20lbs. (Weekly) WK 4: 2 bags (including one full of polystyrene), weighing 4.08kg/9lbs.

5: Kate. @BusinessPlumber
Household: 2 adults, in a rural village in Mid Suffolk :
WK1 Weigh-in: 1 unusually full wheelie bin - incl Christmas waste. (fortnightly): WK 4:

6: Jax. @LiveOtherwise
Household: 2 adults, 3 children & a baby on its way, in Suffolk Coast.
WK1 Weigh-in: 7 small bin bags - filling one third or half of a wheelie bin (fortnightly). WK 4?

Household: 2 adults, 2 children, Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire
WK 1 Weigh-in:  3 large bin bags, almost filling a whole wheelie bin. (weekly).  WK 4 1 bag

8.Tim @Dotterel
Household: 2 adults, 3 children, Lincolnshire.
WK 1 Weigh-in: 1 full wheelie bin (fortnightly). WK4: 2 small bags, with another week to go until collection.

Don't forget, just because the Rubbish Diet challenge is already in WK 4, it doesn't mean that you can't join in.  Just visit the online guide to catch up with everything you need to do.  There's also lots happening on Twitter too, so to join in the conversation just use the hashtag #therubbishdiet, or tweet @karencannard.


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Meet the bin slimmers from Suffolk

Every week, I like to find out more about the households that have taken on the Rubbish Diet Challenge and who have allowed me to have a physical or virtual rummage through their bins.  And this week, we're back in my own county of Suffolk to catch up with a couple of bin slimmers, Kate who lives in one of Mid Suffolk's pretty villages and Jax who lives over on the coast.

Meet Kate

Kate lives with her husband in Mid Suffolk, just a few miles away from Ness, who was featured on the blog a couple of weeks ago.  I had the pleasure of visiting her quite recently, where she was brave enough for me to rescue a few things from her kitchen bin.

Kate has been making great progress on slimming her bin over the last few weeks (just two and a half bags this fortnight), and I wanted to find out what were and still are her key challenges. She admits, like anyone trying to reduce their household waste, that it's in changing her habits.

Never having given great thought previously to what she threw where, her Rubbish Diet has prompted Kate to look at the new recycling facilities that are available locally. Having realised she can recycle a lot more than she'd thought, she is now focusing on trying to introduce new habits.

It is interesting what comes up during such discussions and Kate has revealed that parking issues at her usual recycling site have, in the past, made her lose patience to the point that she's previously bunged stuff in the landfill bin rather than face driving there. However, she's now keen to try out the Bury St Edmunds site, which is about the same distance away, as well as local supermarket recycling areas, which she knows are much more than just bottle banks these days.

Kate also recognises that since most of her household waste comes from ordinary domestic groceries, she's going to try to stop and think before she buys, to reduce packaging in absolute terms, and to ensure what she buys can be recycled.  And thanks to the wide range of plastics recycling available in Suffolk, that means she will be able to recycle a heck of a lot.

More information about Kate's progress can be found on her blog and via Twitter where she tweets as BusinessPlumber and SaffronKate.

Meet Jax

Jax lives with her partner and their growing family in one of Suffolk's large towns in the Suffolk Coastal district.  For a household with three children, aged 12, 8, and 2, and another baby due in March, her rubbish (filling half a wheelie-bin every fortnight) isn't really excessive, but she knows there are other ways to reduce it down. 

For Jax, the hitlist mainly includes recycling Tetra Paks, (for which she's currently hunting down her local recycling point), reducing packaging where possible, and replacing her daughter's night-time disposable nappy with washable alternatives.

With the news that most film packaging and hard plastics can be recycled at our county's Household Waste Recycling Centres, Jax's bin should be well on the way to slimming down over the coming weeks.  She's also planning to test out the Bambino MioSolo nappy so hopefully that will make a difference too.  And with a supply of other regular reusable nappies to hand, when the new baby arrives sometime around Mid March, this shouldn't have a major impact on the household bin.

It will be interesting to see whether the new arrival will decide to make an appearance during the challenge's Zero Waste Week in week 8. If so, we might all have to down tools and celebrate.

Follow Jax over on her blog at LiveOtherwise and she can also be reached at Twitter under the same name @LiveOtherwise.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Tom Hunt and The Forgotten Feast

Tom Hunt, the creator of the Forgotten Feast.
Thankfully it's not just householders standing by their rubbish bins at home who focus hard on food waste, there are plenty of unsung heroes in the catering sector who are tackling the issue head-on too, combatting much wider problems than we have on the home-front.  Given the challenges of Week 3 of The Rubbish Diet, I thought it quite timely to introduce a fabulous idea, known as the Forgotten Feast that's about to hit London by storm.

The Forgotten Feast is a new restaurant concept organised by Tom Hunt, (chef at waste awareness events Feeding5k and FOE), created specifically to highlight the 20 million tonnes of annual food wastage that exists within our society. Whether it’s fresh fish thrown back into the sea, vegetables ignored for being too ugly, or unusual cuts of meat simply discarded, the Forgotten Feast is making a clear and public declaration against waste

Having started in Autumn 2011, in partnership with food charity FareShare, the restaurant idea focuses on rescuing large quantities of unwanted food, that would otherwise go to waste, and turning it into luxurious feasts. Using wild and seasonal foods, wasted foods, and foods ignored by the modern world, Tom creates a stunning new menu for each occasion based on the ingredients he is provided with.

I like the fact that this is no greenwashed endeavour. The careful planning and underlying dedication and philosophies will ensure that everything from the location, to the furniture to the food, to the zero waste recycling policy will be sustainable, ultimately highlighting the waste and excess in our society and encouraging those in the food chain to do something about it.

The Forgotten Feast is officially launching this weekend, with a Valentine's spectacular at FareShare's depot in Bermondsey, providing a banquet of food for diners to enjoy.  FareShare rescues surplus food year round and delivers it to local charities all over the country and every ticket sold will enable the charity to provide an additional 80 meals for the hungry and vulnerable people they support, thanks to grant-giving charity StreetSmart who are generously matching the number of meals raised though ticket sales.

Tickets are currently available for dinner Friday 10th FebruarySaturday 11thSunday 12th (late lunch) and include 3 courses, a drink and canapés.

More information can be found at the Toms Feast website or by contacting  And if you happen to be unavailable for this weekend, but would like to attend others, follow @tomsfeast on Twitter for future updates.

My mission now is to entice Tom to Suffolk.  We're such a foodie county, and I'd love to have a Forgotten Feast here for us rural folk to enjoy.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Monday Meeting: The Rubbish Diet Challenge Wk 3

Blimmin' 'eck, don't these weeks come around so fast.  Already we're getting cracking with Week 3 of The Rubbish Diet Challenge and what a week we've got coming up!

After testing out your recycling muscles and sending you off shopping, this week we're going to tackle the slops.  Yes, it's time to talk food waste.

Now food waste is a topic that's really close to my heart because four years ago, when I first attempted to slim my bin, I was a total slopaholic. You know the kind of thing.  My life was very much like..."if you cook too much food, no worries, just bung it the bin".  "If you buy too much take-away. no worries... just bung it in the bin."  "Rotten bananas? No worries...let's aim them at the compost bin"..... and so on, culminating in my wasteful habits being symbolised by my ornamental melons, where I confess how bad I really was.

These days, while I am by no means Mrs Perfect - and yes the only reason my husband threatens to join Twitter is to he can post pictures of various dodgy carrots and floppy rhubarb - our food waste has reduced down remarkably, just by changing shopping habits, combatting temptations and understanding family patterns. And in doing so, we've saved a stash of cash too.

This week's mission, should you choose to accept it:

So, if food waste is your thing, let's get those sleeves rolled up and get rummaging amongst those slops for your Week 3 mini-challenges,  As ever, all these suggestions are supported by a relevant section in The Rubbish Diet Challenge guide.

1. Keep a food waste diary, to discover what types of food are regularly thrown away. Think of ways to reduce these, either by reducing the amount you buy or serve, storing the items differently to extend shelf life or using them differently. The website has absolutely loads of advice that can help. I also love blogger Kate Stuart's Monthly Food Waste Challenge, where she picks an ingredient commonly wasted every month and finds new ways of reusing it. Last month it was cream and this month it's bananas! She'd welcome your own ideas if you want to join in and you can also catch her on Twitter at @turquoiselemons.

2. What are your other food waste traps? Think about the situations that lead up to food waste. For example, no-time to cook, cooking too much, different appetites, an interrupted schedule, or a disorganised kitchen? Now list solutions that can help turn this around and work on these over the next month.

3. Organise a family meeting especially if you have children, so that you can discuss ideas about how you can reduce your food waste. Ask for suggestions about their favourite meals and if there is something they really don't like, consider taking it off the family menu.

4. If you're not a confident cook, start experimenting more and challenge yourself to turning leftovers into new meals with some simple herbs and spices. Try to add just five recipes to your repertoire over the next month.

5. Consider solutions such as home composting, wormeries or bokashi bins for remaining food waste that can't be resolved easily, but treat that as part of your rubbish diet too and see if you can slim that down along with your rubbish bin. This also applies even if your council has a food waste collection.

Well, I hope that gives you all food for thought this week - yes, I know I couldn't resist that little pun.  Meanwhile, let's catch up with our bin slimmers, i.e. the households who have volunteered for me to mentor them along the process.  Most of them will be having their rubbish collected this week, so let's see how they're doing.  (Results will be updated as they come in).

1.  Terry-Anna.
Household: 2 adults, in Ipswich Borough, Suffolk. 
WK1 Weigh-in: 1.5 large bags, filling one third of a wheelie bin (fortnightly):  WK 3: 2 half-size bags.

2.  Ness.  @NessyThompson
Household: 2 adults & 5 children, a rural village in Mid Suffolk
WK1 Weigh-in:  2 full wheelie bins (fortnightly).  WK 3: 1 wheelie bin, containing just two rubbish bags.

3.  Donna.  @Donna_De
Household: 2 adults, in Tower Hamlets in London.
WK1 Weigh-in: 1 30L rubbish sack. (weekly).  WK 3: 1 30L rubbish sack, now only 3/4 full.

4. Amy. @AmyMarpman
Household: 2 adults in New York City.
WK1 Weigh-in: 2 bin bags - estimated 9kg / 20lbs. (Weekly) WK 3: 1 small bag - 3.6kg / 8lbs

5: Kate. @BusinessPlumber
Household: 2 adults, in a rural village in Mid Suffolk :
WK1 Weigh-in: 1 unusually full wheelie bin - incl Christmas waste. (fortnightly): WK 3 2 & 1/2 kitchen waste bags.

6: Jax. @LiveOtherwise
Household: 2 adults, 3 children & a baby on its way, in Suffolk Coast.
WK1 Weigh-in: 7 small bin bags - filling one third or half of a wheelie bin (fortnightly). WK 3?

Household: 2 adults, 2 children, Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire
WK 1 Weigh-in:  3 large bin bags, almost filling a whole wheelie bin. (weekly).  WK 3?

8.Tim @Dotterel
Household: 2 adults, 3 children, Lincolnshire.
WK 1 Weigh-in: 1 full wheelie bin (fortnightly). WK3: 3/4 full, with 13 small bags.

Don't forget, just because the Rubbish Diet challenge is already in WK 3, it doesn't mean that you can't join in.  Just visit the online guide to catch up with everything you need to do.  There's also lots happening on Twitter too, so to join in the conversation just use the hashtag #therubbishdiet, or tweet @karencannard.

And if you're a blogger, remember to share your latest blogpost on the topic using the clever little linky below.  If you're got any questions, please feel free to get in touch.


Friday, 3 February 2012

The Friday Journal: Week 2's rubbish highlights

So, hello you wonderful gaggle of bin-slimmers! It's almost the end of Week 2 of The Rubbish Diet challenge and what another fantastic week it's been, with our EIGHT households dotted around the country - and New York - facing up to the challenges and in most cases overcoming their frustrations to reduce their waste.  It's been brilliant to see them reporting back on local recycling facilities that they've discovered, and not just those provided by their local councils but opportunities supplied by chain stores too, which have take-back facilities for plastic film (e.g. supermarkets), batteries (e.g. Robert Dyas) and small electricals (e.g. O2 stores recycle digital cameras, iPods as well as phones).  As this week is all about shopping habits, it's a great reminder to keep your eyes peeled for stuff that you can recycle when you're next in town.

And talking of eyes.  That photo up there in that top right hand corner, is by no way my attempt at creating an air of authority over our waste-busters.  It's more of a reminder that my personal highlight of the week has been my submission to middle-age with my commitment to varifocals. And with a 2-for-1 offer at Vision express, I decided to ditch the option of getting a free second pair of brand new specs and instead had my old reading glasses reglazed with my new prescription.  I can't even begin to tell you the joys at being able to see the screen properly.  Of course, if I hadn't chosen the reglazing option, I could have donated my old glasses to the Vision Aid Overseas scheme, for which Vison Express collected 10,000 pairs of spectacles in 2010.  If I'm honest, I'm now feeling a bit guilty for having had them reglazed and not donating them, but I only realised when it was too late. Other ideas for recycling unwanted glasses can be found over at MyZeroWaste.

Elsewhere, of more national interest, the £250m treasure chest to revert to costly weekly rubbish collections was launched today.  Rather than repeat myself, I'll recycle the blogpost that I wrote on the matter in September when the scheme was first announced.  It would be detrimental to revert to outdated weekly collection methods but hopefully the fund will enable those councils that wish to invest in diverting food waste out of landfill, to add such a scheme to their service.

News from plastics reprocessors also reveals that as more different types of plastics are collected, serious investment is still needed in proper separation methods to improve the quality of output from the recycling process, as well as harnessing a wider public commitment to recycle more plastic bottles within the household waste stream.  On the other side of the waste stream, it has also been highlighted that retailers are still finding waste reduction a key issue in their supply chains, despite making progress on their own operations.  It really does show that when you look at the wider picture, just like trying to improve things on the home-front, it can feel like three steps forward and one step back.

However, progress is being made throughout all aspects of the waste stream and highlights that every participant has a role to play!  And each effort counts, whether it's the recently announced agreement amongst London bars & restaurants commiting to ditch the humble plastic straw,  or independent retailers like Mark Hall, pictured left, whose business provides a take-back scheme for customers to return their old Courtyard Chutney Co. jars.

For example, with each jar returned, customers receive 25p off their next purchase, which is great news for regular customers, Mark's business and what he describes as "jar miles".  All jars, whether new or old, have to sterilised before use, so the process still saves the business money and with brand new sealable lids that conform to H&S regulations, jars can be back on display within days.

And finally, back to our bin-slimmers.  The most lovely surprise of the week was the news that Terry-Anna from Ipswich appeared on BBC Radio Suffolk's Mark Murphy show on Wednesday with an update on her Rubbish Diet challenge. Having only created just half a rubbish bag of waste this week, she explained her strategy on-air.  Do listen in if you have a chance before next Wednesday.  It's a bit of a giggle and you'll find it at 2hrs 36m into the programme.


Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Meet the bin slimmers in London & New York

It's been great catching up with the volunteers who have taken The Rubbish Diet challenge, and finding out more about the specific issues that they are facing, as well as the new opportunities that they are discovering to help them reduce their household waste.  So, having introduced you to a couple of households in Suffolk last week, this week we're heading for the city, or rather two cities, and saying hello to Donna in London and Amy over in New York.

Meet Donna

Living in London, with a challenging job that involves spending a lot of time away from home, means that with most aspects of her personal time, Donna has the "balance challenge".  Taking on The Rubbish Diet is no exception to that rule!

For things to work for Donna and her husband (who also has has a time-consuming job) they really need efficient systems.  Efficiency and ease are highly important to them.  They don't have a car so for "bin slimming" habits to stick, their efforts need to be practical for the true urban dweller!

Donna tells me that their local council Tower Hamlets has really embraced recycling and makes it very easy for residents, and they also have a kerbside food waste collection programme.  Since starting The Rubbish Diet, she has also discovered that a green garden waste collection is available for homes in her area, and was able to request for her street to be included, which will now be effective from next week.

She's found that local shops have been extremely helpful too, with facilities to recycle plastic bags, batteries and Brita water filters.  A visit to her mobile phone provider prompted her to look into the Electrical Waste recycling that companies are obliged to provide and following a search on Google, she also learned about Sky's programme to take back older electrical satellite decoding boxes via a Freepost address.

Although Donna didn't tell her husband about this project at first, he was supportive from the moment he read her initial blog post.  He has had some great ideas, including better labelling for their bins at home, and ensuring they verify with the council what should be included in each bin.  For Donna, it will be interesting to see his reaction to changes as the weeks progress - and to figure out together how they can keep things simple, straightforward, and a part of their routines once the eight weeks are over.

Read more about Donna's progress on her blog:

Meet Amy

Amy lives with her husband in New York City and they already recycle a lot, so for them waste reduction is going to be the key challenge, and in particular food waste.
As well as having a regular waste collecton service, the couple also installed a garbage disposal unit in their kitchen, when it was remodelled last year. These used to be outlawed in NYC, but regulations have allowed them in recent years.  
However, Amy tells me that although it has decreased the amount of food waste going into their rubbish bin, it doesn't address their actual food waste issue and this is something she would like to work on.  She's also considering starting home composting by week 8 of The Rubbish Diet, which at the moment seems like a huge step.

This week, she's decided to take measures and ditch the disposables too, including tackling her coffee machine and switching to the reusable k-cup filter and buying coffee in bulk. She's also making the switch from disposable paper towels.

Amy tells me that her fellow rubbish dieters have inspired her to look further into the plastic bag recycling over in New York and she's now found that she can also take other types of plastic bags to participating retailers! 
You can find out more about Amy's progress on her blog:

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