Monday, 30 December 2013

Farewell 2013 and hello 2014: Reflecting backwards and pondering forwards.

I hope you had a great Christmas and are are looking forward to the new year.

If you haven't done so yet, there's no better time to sign up for the Rubbish Diet Challenge and make it your new year's resolution,  You'll be in great company, with 100s of people signing up by the day, thanks to The Rubbish Diet being the Campaign of the Week at Money Saving Expert.

It's been an amazing year and probably one of the most difficult from which to choose a particular highlight!

January kicked off with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust running the Rubbish Diet, which saw great results from their dieters and resulted in meeting the fabulous bloggers who took part, including Sarah (Everyday life on a shoestring) and Jen (Make and Mend Year).

Of course, running all through the year was the enormous team effort to implement the Rubbish Diet in Suffolk, Shropshire and Powys as part of the Nesta Waste Reduction Challenge.  Sadly, we didn't win the £50k but it was brilliant to be one of the finalists and come out of the process with an established team, a purpose built website and a radio production toolkit.  Congratulations to the Gleaning project which won - a worthy project that helps rescue surplus produce from our farmers' fields for distribution to charities.

And dotted throughout the various campaigns were great opportunities to visit places such as San Francisco - as part of the Zero Waste International Alliance Dialog - to learn about how the city attains such a high recycling and composting rate at 80% and hear from practitioners from around the world about waste at different levels, not just recycling but from a humanitarian perspective too.

Whilst there, I also had time to finally catch up with Beth Terry, an old blogging friend and author of My Plastic Free Life.  I've known Beth since 2008, so it was a wonderful chance to meet and hear her stories of how she's now influencing Richard Branson.  Back in the UK, I managed to meet our own plastic-free hero, ironically self-titled Polythene Pam, who has since created a new Plastic-free directory of tips and resources, which you can find at

There was no rest for the wicked even during the summer.  A call from ITV brought an opportunity to trek to the North West to help the Heap family reduce their waste.   To see their negativity towards recycling turn towards enthusiasm and determination was utterly brilliant.  They soon reduced their landfill by 95%.  When you catch the waste reduction bug and see what's possible, it's proof that slimming your bin can really be contagious.

Towards the end of the summer I had the chance to meet Jen and Grant, more blogging pals from the Clean Bin Project in Canada, and send them to several of my favourite zero-waste hotspots for their UK film tour.  They had a great tour and if you haven't seen it yet, the Clean Bin movie is one upbeat documentary about reducing rubbish that you really shouldn't miss.

The second half of the year brought even more excitement with Rachelle Strauss' 6th National Zero Waste Week building on the successes of last year.  If you took part and thought that was good, just wait until you see what's planned for next September.

The last few months also saw waste professionals taking the Rubbish Diet challenge, which brought an interesting focus on testing whether they could 'practise what they preach.'  A highlight was Viridor's Dan Cooke's tale of working out what to do with an old wetsuit and CIWM Wales' Rebecca Colley-Jones challenge of turning her unexpected offal leftovers into a haggis. I hope they'll blog about them soon, especially as an insider's view offers a fascinating perspective.

The BBC Radio Suffolk Rubbish didn't win the CIWM communications campaign award, but it was great to be in the finals.  Here in Suffolk, presenter Mark Murphy's and I had loads of fun talking rubbish and listening to residents' stories, united in a single mission to reduce the county's waste.

That was a real highlight, as was interviewing and recruiting our first Bin Doctor for a campaign further afield in Harrow, not to mention joining the Board of Trustees at ReusefulUK.

So what's for next year?

With fantastic partners and a great team in place managing The Rubbish Diet joint venture, I hope for the website and local engagement projects to go from strength-to-strength.  I'm already looking forward to Wiltshire Wildlife Trust bringing the challenge to their local projects for the second year running as well as The Rubbish Diet taking to the streets of Harrow this January.   Our Harrow Bin Doctor, Debra, is already in place working closely with our community engagement manager, Ali, and has been talking rubbish with local community groups.  With most Rubbish Dieters having reduced their waste by 50% over the last 12 months, I hope for much more of this in 2014 and I am very excited about where The Rubbish Diet will travel this year, especially as more and more supporters sign up around the UK.

From a local perspective in my part of Suffolk, I want to continue to research and highlight the fantastic solutions that are being put in place by businesses and communities to reduce waste, to empower those who want to follow suit.  There's lots of potential to connect interested individuals and organisations through a reuse culture alone.

My other focus is on the innovative, motivating and entertaining aspects of waste reduction in a mission to bring a renewed vigour of interest in the topic to our TV screens, showcasing the possibilities and realities of what can be achieved.  There is so much more that our media can do to empower the nation and highlight issues where it's needed too.

And as for industry, I want retailers and brands to take an even closer look at the rubbish they sell us and in cases where hard-to-recycle plastic is used for cosmetic rather than protective reasons, redesign it for easier recycling.  Starting with something as simple as the ubiquitous plastic gift card would prove an instant hit.  If iTunes can switch to a card-based alternative, hopefully other gift cards will follow.  There is so much more to tackle than small cards but I also believe that what we might perceive as small things are also worthy of attention.  There is great value to be had in not forgetting that old saying 'Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves'.  Attending to the tiny details can often lead to huge change.

I hope that that 2014 will bring more exciting stories and innovations that will inspire more change. Against the tide of government cuts and news that recycling rates that are flat-lining, both individual action and community support is going to be more important than ever.

I know my ambitions for next year are high as is my level of confidence in people's abilities to make a significant reduction in our country's waste.

But I also know that by thinking big and with the right support in place, many things are possible.

So thank you to everyone who has made 2013 such a whirlwind of amazing waste-busting adventures.  Here's to whatever 2014 will bring.

Happy New Year!


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Bins can only get better! A Rubbish Diet update.

Hello.  Remember me?  It's been a while since Zero Waste Week, but I am still here.  Well, here, there and everywhere.  Putting one foot in, one foot out, doing the hokey cokey and shaking it all about.

Lots of great things have been happening in the world of The Rubbish Diet recently and to keep you in the loop here's a quick run down!

Revamped website:

If you haven't seen the new website lately, please do pop over to where the team has been busy populating it with new stories as well as a growing list of top tips.   If you still haven't signed up to do The Rubbish Diet Challenge, now's a great time to see if you can have a go at slimming your bins by Christmas.  What a great way to end the new year!

Facebook page:

Despite me being totally pants at Facebook, we now also have a Facebook page, thanks to the dedicated social-media elves at Rubbish Diet HQ.  That's the beauty of collaboration and teamwork!  Do pop over and have a look,  It would be great if you could like it and invite your rubbish busting friends.  The more the merrier, as they say.   More details at

Harrow Rubbish Diet:

It's with great excitement that I can announce that The Rubbish Diet is being rolled out in Harrow, West London, and we have appointed a Bin Doctor to help make that happen.  Debra Alexis has already taken up the post and you can find out more about her here.  If you live in Harrow and can help spread the word about the Harrow Rubbish Diet challenge that's launching in January, please do get in touch with Debra.

Awards & Competitions:

Excitement is also building over the prospect of the CIWM awards this Thursday, where the BBC Radio Suffolk Rubbish Diet is shortlisted for an award in the Media Communications Campaign category.  I'm travelling down with presenter Mark Murphy and his production team that championed the campaign. It would be brilliant to bring such a prestigious prize back to Suffolk and celebrate once more the support and good work of all the participants. 

Hot on the heels of the awards is also next week's NESTA interview, where the team behind The Rubbish Diet joint venture, will be making our final pitch for a £50K prize to invest in rolling out the diet in more communities around the UK.   Imagine that!  It would be simply awesome.  It was our finalist position in NESTA's waste reduction competition that funded the development of our website and the Rubbish Diet trials in Suffolk, Shropshire & Powys, so the chance to support even more communities would be an amazing opportunity. 


Not directly linked to The Rubbish Diet, but still very important to me, I have recently accepted an invitation to join the board of trustees at ScrapstoresUK, an umbrella organisation and charity that supports the work of Scrapstores and resource centres, which reuse surplus and waste resources from retailers and manufacturers as supplies for children's art & crafts.  Scrapstores are always looking for more suppliers of materials as well as volunteers.  More information at

Media Representation:

And last but certainly not least, having received an increasing amount of interest to contribute to media productions on both radio & TV,  I have taken the huge step and signed with Sue Rider Management, a fantastic agency that is now working with me on some exciting developments.  While I swoon in awe at the agency's other clients, I am doing my utmost to remain grounded between bouts of running around with great excitement at the prospect of even more 'rubbish' adventures to come.  I think the words to use are: watch this space.

I think the theme of this update is most definitely one of great excitement about all that's happening, but amidst this I am naturally still keeping an eye on what's happening in the wider world of waste.  If only I'd had time to blog after the RWM exhibition in September, I'd have applauded some of the great work that the Co-operative is doing to backhaul its recycling from the network of small stores to its distribution centres.  And as for Ann Summers, the company's 50 Shades of Waste presentation was a real revelation - and a very pleasant one at that! And what about the latest news from Tesco eh! Finally, a supermarket publicly announcing their levels of waste in fresh produce and committing to reduce it.

And finally our ITV family, The Heaps, who were recently featured on Tonight's Throwaway Britain, are maintaining their slimmer bin at 95% of its former self.

Now that really is great news!

I shall indeed be back soon with more.  Thank you as ever for following and supporting the adventures of The Rubbish Diet and this Almost Mrs Average.  You are lovely!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

My unexpected Zero Waste Week harvest

Proper gardeners & allotmenteers won't particularly be that impressed by the produce to the left, but I am absolutely surprised by the results, in a good way.

For this is yesterday's haul from my garden and for a non-committed and fair-weather gardener like me, the results have been encouraging...

... with the exception of that bowl of potatoes, the only harvest that came from three abandoned potato plants.  However,  I am surprised we had any at all and as I'd forgotten to buy extra spuds yesterday, these were a welcome and unexpected addition to today's lunch.

The blackberries are a real surprise this year, especially after I deliberately hacked back the bramble to clear some space.  I hadn't quite expected nature to love my brutality so much and as a result we've picked several bowlfuls of blackberries over late summer.   After such great results, I'm now planning to take the loppers to it again and see if we can create the same harvest next year.

And as for those tomatoes, having only planted 6 cherry tomato plants in late spring/early summer, since the first one ripened about 10 days ago, I'm delighted to have collected a small bowl of ripe tomatoes every other day.   We normally have to ripen any tomatoes that we grow using the banana in a bag trick, which can be dispiriting, so this has been a fantastic surprise ~ especially for a tomato fiend like me.

But the greatest unexpected treat of all has been that bucket of apples.  Having planted the tree seven years ago, each year it has disappointed with small offerings that are populated with unwelcome creatures that eat the apples from within.

For the very first year ever,  this summer has provided a bucketful of apples that are a decent size and the majority of which are bug free.  As it happens, the tree was pruned last year too and with great weather, finally it seems to have worked.

But of course, as Zero Waste Week comes to an end, the issue at the forefront of my mind is storage and preservation so that we can make the most of our apple harvest. I would hate for any of it to go to waste.  So, having followed Love Food Hate Waste's advice for years, it was a 'no brainer' to store as many as I could in the fridge for future inspiration. A Twitter conversation on the topic also brought tips from @melaniebbikes whose advice led to stewing some to add to the freezer.  I also liked this tip too, which I'm going to try another day.

Collecting so much produce from our small garden this week has made me much more aware of the rewards in growing even just a few things that save food miles and packaging ~ and for very little effort too.  It would have been such a wasted opportunity not to have planted those tomatoes. Pot luck was definitely on our side.

Meanwhile, to prove that sweet things pictured above aren't just for dessert, I cooked up some of yesterday's blackberries, added some chopped apples, a few veteran spring onions, a handful of mint from the garden and pepper seasoning, creating a great sauce to accompany today's lamb. 

Now that was another unexpected Zero Waste Week result!

So with Zero Waste Week 2013 almost over,  I hope you've had a great week yourself.   If you've missed it and want to catch up with all the news, visit, where there are lots of tips.  Those of you who are particularly enthused may even want to sign up for The Rubbish Diet and see how much further you can reduce your waste over the next eight weeks.  If you haven't tried it yet,  do sign up at

But before I sign off, perhaps I should confess to our own food waste tally.  We didn't quite get to zero, but we didn't do badly.  I have no qualms in blaming most of it on the kids, with the abandoned Toasthenge, a few dregs of bottom-of-the-bowl-moist-cereal, a tiny bitesize piece of bagel, a small amount of pasta that competed with an unusual lack of appetite and some unappealing leftover fries from an emergency fast food pitstop this evening.  Sadly my own contribution was some very burnt stewed plums which I'd forgotten that I'd left on the hob during school pick-up on and my two slices of bread with mouldy measels.  All the above, of course, have been fed to the worms, so nothing has gone to landfill.

Huge thanks to Rachelle Strauss of MyZeroWaste for all of her hard work and inspiration in running another successful and well supported campaign.  Such a great start to September!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

If it weren't for you meddling kids... I'd have gotten away with it.

Toasthenge on Beans
Now that I've packed them off to school,  I have to confess that I can finally breathe a little easier when it comes to Zero Waste Week.

Of course (and for the first time without even a hint of sarcasm) I am already missing my little darlings.  They've been great company over the summer, but geesh do they sometimes give me trouble on the food waste front!

And most people with kids will know the battle.

Take the other day for instance, I thought I was onto a winner by serving up 'Toasthenge on Beans' - my historically successful reversal of 'Beans on Toast', in which they are guaranteed to eat the crusts.  A throw-back to when the kids were little, its success has been proven time and time again and even at the ages of 9 and 11 it's still an easy favourite and a guaranteed zero waste coup...

.... until...  the moment when I served up lunch on Tuesday and my 9yo announced that he wasn't actually hungry because he'd only gone and helped himself to a chocolate spread sandwich just 30 minutes earlier.

I admire his self-sufficiency... but AARGH!

I'd already had a full plate of beans with toast, his brother had his own Toasthenge and my husband turned his nose up saying... "well, you know it's not my kind of thing!"

No way was he bending his baked bean phobia to become my Zero Waste hero.

So, I took a page out of my mother's book!

"If you don't have it now,  you'll eat it at dinner," I grumbled, then remembered dinner would be a much more delicious home-made fish pie with vegetables, so my threats instantly felt like an own goal!

Trying to reduce food waste when you've got kids is a challenge, especially when they go through their fussy stages, and I remember from my own childhood how I hated breadcrusts and many of the vegetables that the adults liked.  Mealtimes used to sometimes feel like an endurance test, especially with my late mother's 'waste not want not' mantra, which she regularly served up with a full plate of nosh that looked like it was meant for climbing not eating.  I could never complain that we weren't well fed and am now very grateful for her dedication to home-cooking.

Maybe that's why I find myself more flexible these days.  I want my children to enjoy everything they eat and balance it to their own appetites too, trying to offer a healthy range of meals, which they can serve themselves and have seconds if they then wish.

But I also want them to be adventurous in their tastes and approach to food, and unless managed carefully this can easily become an enemy of zero waste ambitions, especially with a pre-teen who has his own thoughts about how adventurous he wants to be and sees fruit and vegetables as the adversary to his happy status-quo.

Now you can imagine my evil joy last Hallowe'en when he saw me making pumpkin soup.  As he looked on with intrigue he immediately turned his nose up at it, saying he really didn't like the look of it.  However, several hours later, and without complaint, he lapped up a bowlful... which I'd served up to him and his brother as a pasta sauce.

So, when it comes to encouraging kids to join you in your zero waste ambitions and maintain a healthy diet, there is some hope!  I can't claim to be an expert, more of an intrepid explorer, but if it's of any help, here's what's worked for us.

1. Keep offering up those vegetables, but tell them to help themselves rather than filling their plate for them with something that they may not be likely to finish.  What's left in the serving bowl can then be used as ingredients for other meals.

2. Soups are fab for hiding nutritious veg.  If they don't like 'soup', serve it as a pasta sauce or mix it up with rice.  Stir fries are good too, especially as they introduce exciting flavours.

3. Smoothies and milkshakes are a great alternative for picky fruit eaters.

4. And have you discovered Fruity Pasta?  Use up grapes, apples and even chopped up orange segments to add to pasta.  Grate over some cheddar cheese and you'll have yourself an instant taste explosion that even adults will like.

5. Finally, be creative and follow in the footsteps of the marketeers, which can be particularly helpful for the younger ones.  Pirate Island - featuring mash, gravy and a variation of veg and diced meat - was always more appealing to our younger diners than the more unadventurous sounding  'Sunday Roast'.

We still get some plate waste but much less than I think we would if we didn't move with the ebb and flow of their changing appetites.  I also think it's important for them to know why what they eat is so important.

While my husband reminds them about the importance of the 'five-a-day' message,  I will occasionally throw in the economical and moral issue of food waste - not in a nagging parental ambush kind of way, but in a way that enables them to at least understand the wider context.

So, yes,  if it hadn't been for those meddling kids - or rather the one who helped himself to a sandwich - I wouldn't have had any food waste this week.  That Toasthenge would have been eaten, as planned and without grumble.

But thankfully stuff like that doesn't go to landfill.  Oh no! I made a sad attempt to rescue the cold beans when I returned from a late meeting that evening, but I couldn't bear the soggy cold toast, so I've since fed that serving of Toasthenge to my wormery, along with a couple of slices of defrosted bread that suddenly developed a case of mouldy measles in yesterday's humid heat.

And of course, that bread would have been used up for Beans on Toast, if Mr C had welcomed that for lunch.

So, I suppose I can't put all the blame on the kids.

And as for that bread, I should have just left it in the freezer just that little bit longer.

When it comes to our food waste tally, we are definitely all in it together.


More information about Zero Waste Week 2013 can be found at  Do sign up and make your pledge.  In return, you'll get some great tips.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

I don't waste food because I want to. No-one does.

Naturally, as it's Zero Waste Week, I've been thinking a lot about food waste and yesterday delved into my cupboards and fridge-freezer to see what I needed to rescue from being chucked away this week.

Not that we waste a lot of food these days,  However, I know that I can still be a tad careless.

After all, I don't buy things thinking, 'Oh, that'll end up in the bin.'  I don't like wasting food and I've never met anyone who does.

For me, food waste is mainly an accidental consequence of my busy and chaotic life.

And with four different appetites in the house with their different routines and culinary dislikes, it can be tricky to find a balance to provide a healthy diet and reduce the amount of stuff that ends up in the bins.

The trick that I've begun to use when shopping for perishable produce is to actually ask myself about the likelihood of that item going to waste.  If I can't categorically say there's less than a 10% chance, I won't buy it.  This is so different to the way I used to shop, when I never actually gave it a single thought.

Consequently, I've avoided hundreds of BOGOFs, hundreds of wasted yoghurts and countless slices of unused ham

And although I still use it in emergencies, I try not to depend on the freezer as a back-up, because I am never that organised to benefit from it - except for storing sliced bread before it goes on the turn as well as unusual flavoured ice-cubes (more on that later).

My technique to fresh produce is normally to have a back-up plan, knowing for example that any fruit that ends up looking worse for wear can be brought back to life as a smoothie, just like the one I made yesterday from a dodgy looking banana, some veteran melon, squishy strawberries, blackberries & last week's apple juice. 

It's a five minute job that requires no faff.  I'm far too busy for faff - and if I dare confess, I can sometimes be a total lazy-arse too.

But to think I just used to bung that stuff in the compost. 

It's a far cry from how I now look at a banana and almost egg it on towards the dark side so I can bash it up in the blender.  Until you've tried it, you won't know how satisfying such fruity alchemy can be.

Now back to my chaotic side - which is my normal setting.  You can see what my perishables are up against.  Even with the best laid plans to use up the open pot of greek yoghurt with some dollops of mango chutney and tomato puree, to create a base source for a sweet and sour Balti Chicken, I totally forgot to set free the coriander from the fridge to add to it.

I only made it so I could use the bloody coriander!

So to avoid it becoming fodder for the compost, I'd now better freeze it with some water in the ice-cube tray to create what Jamie Oliver has turned to calling a 'Flavour Bomb'!

It can sit alongside the juice that I squeezed from an aging rock-hard lime.

One day, I may become a zero food waste genius.

I hope so.

I don't waste food because I want to.  No-one does.


More information about Zero Waste Week, can be found at  There are also lots of tips on shopping, storage and cooking at

Monday, 2 September 2013

Zero Waste Week 2013. Preparing for a bountiful feast.

And here it is.  Zero Waste Week 2013 has finally begun. 

And I'm joining in, starting with a Monday morning excavation of my fridge, freezer and cupboards in a mission to use up the contents and create zero food waste.

Many like to call it an audit - but for me it's more like an archaeological dig, especially when it comes to the freezer.  For instance this morning's expedition uncovered a leg of lamb, chicken breasts, fish steaks and a mysterious lasagne whose packaging I used for a radio broadcast earlier this year and accidentally recycled afterwards - oops.

And as for the fridge, as you can see my haul has revealed a cacophony of pleading fruit & vegetables, wailing at me to use them up first to create a veritable feast.

But the most miserable looking felons that have been imprisoned in the fridge for far too long are those poor fruity yoghurts - still unopened and, ahem,  past their use-by date - and all because their biggest fan has gone off them.  In other words, he's become yoghurted out and being too busy, I hadn't noticed.

But I refuse to waste them without further investigation, and with my disclaimer of 'Don't try this at home' and looking all 'innocent-faced', I shall be delving deep with my exploration tools, i.e. a spoon. I will of course take full responsibility for my actions.

It's also probably time to confess too that even after 5 years of talking rubbish, I am still absolutely crap at planning.  All that food hasn't been bought for a recipe.  Instead I shop with my imagination, buying things that I know I can make use of and blend with various herbs and spices. 

So when I look at the ingredients above, I can already see a sweet and sour chicken balti, a fish pie, fruit smoothies, roasted vegetables and possibly a green salsa.

But that's all very well when my imagination is working on full power,  However when you're tired and busy, culinary creativity can be buried deeper than that leg of lamb in the freezer.  Then Beans on Toast becomes the highlight of the day.

That's why Zero Waste Week provides a good kick up the backside to put great food back on the table of priorities.   And after dragging the contents of my kitchen out into the open, I can already see that I won't need to go shopping this week, except for perhaps a top-up of cereal and some bagels.

Well that's a turn-up for the cook book.

So are you joining in the latest chapter in this Rubbish Revolution and committing to feed your belly not the bin? 

Yes?  Oh goody!  See for more info.

And if you tweet, don't forget that #zerowasteweek is the hashtag.  Wouldn't it be great if we could get that trending this week.

Well here's to the launch of Zero Waste Week.

I'll see you later, well that's if I survive the yoghurt and those dodgy looking plums that accidentally froze at the bottom of the fridge.

And as for that month-old leek, I shall be asking Mr C exactly what his intentions were when he bunged it in the trolley. 

That one's his responsibility.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Suffolk - Join me in a virtual flashmob!

Ahoy there Suffolk!!!

Yes YOU, over there.

Your Rubbish Blogger from Bury St Edmunds needs you!

Yes, that's me over here - whispering at you from my garden shed - not too quietly, just loud enough for you to hear.

I want to create a surprise virtual flashmob for a very important cause that is extremely close to my heart.

Suffolk still has a huge problem with food waste.  This Easter I read that it costs Suffolk residents £3.14 million to dispose of 35,000 tonnes of the stuff.  Shocking stats, I know - and figures like this can make you feel quite impotent, especially when you think of all the embedded energy and water in growing that stuff, only for it to end up in bins and carted off to landfill.

But we can do something about it and this is where you come in, even if you don't create much food waste yourself.

And it all starts with Zero Waste Week, which just as it happens, is taking place next week: 2-8 September.

So where do you come in?

The theme of Zero Waste Week this year is "Use it up", with lots of tips to cut down on food waste, with the key message to "Fill your belly not your bin".

And I'd love you to sign up, take part.  All you need to do is visit, click a couple of buttons, select a pledge and you're in!

But don't just let the buck stop with you,  encourage your friends and family too.

After all, our corner of the UK is aiming to become Greenest County and what a way to show our mettle, by creating a virtual flashmob on the Zero Waste Week site!  Oh yes, let's parachute in with pledges from wherever you are in Suffolk

Even if you prevent just a block of cheese from being bunged in landfill, that's a result.  For you it might be some cheese, but for others it could be £10 of shopping that would otherwise have ended up in their black bin.

Now I haven't told Rachelle Strauss, the organiser of the campaign - or indeed any of the team behind Zero Waste Week - of my plans.

I want it to be a right good old virtual flashmob surprise.

So remember, bellies not bins. Show your support now at


National Zero Waste Week, now in its 6th year, takes place 2-8 September.  No matter where you are in the UK, you can join in too.  So if you care about food waste, please sign up, pledge and tell your friends.  There's also a Facebook Events Page that you can join too.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Don't let the summer end without seeing this

The Clean Bin Movie: Coming to the UK - 23-30 August
Meet Jen and Grant, who have just arrived in the UK from Canada and are getting ready for a five-day tour of their documentary: The Clean Bin Project.

Forget the big budget Hollywood blockbusters that are hitting the screens this summer.  Whether you want comedy, drama or even a touch of horror - in parts - this is the film for anyone who wants to be inspired to reduce their waste.

I first came across the Clean Bin Project blog in 2008, not long after starting The Rubbish Diet. Jen Rustemeyer provided the running commentary to the challenges that she and her partner Grant Baldwin faced with entertaining accounts as they attempted a consumer free year to see who could create the least rubbish.

This was not your 'holier than thou' blogging, more a combination of escapades, frustrations and ingenuity at overcoming some of the regular hurdles that face us all.

And thankfully, they also captured it on camera, creating a very entertaining documentary, which is being screened at five venues across the UK, with a post-screening Q&A with Jen & Grant.

Launching in Brighton this Friday, the full tour list is as follows:

Fri 23rd Aug - Brighton - Brighthelm Centre. Open from 6pm. Starts 7pm.
Tue 27th Aug- Stowmarket, Suffolk - John Peel Centre for Creative Arts. Open 7pm. Starts 7:30pm
Wed 28th Aug - York - City Screen, Picturehouse. 6:15pm
Thu 29th Aug - Shrewsbury, Shropshire. The Old Post Office. 7pm.
Fri 20th Aug- Warminster, Wiltshire. Baptist Church Hall. 7pm.

Entry is either free, or with a small donation/ticket price depending on local arrangements and sponsorship.  Huge thanks go to Freegle, Mid Suffolk District Council, City Screen & John Cossham, Transition Shrewsbury and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust for making these events possible.

It would be really great if you could make it to one of the screenings.  If you can't and would still love to see the documentary, copies can be purchased at  There are also details of how you can host a screening for your local community.

The Clean Bin Project screenings are happening in time to whet the appetite for Zero Waste Week which follows the week after. Taking place,2-8 September, the theme this year is "Use it Up" and focuses on food waste.  Please do sign up at  There'll be more on that from me soon.

Meanwhile, I hope that you enjoy the Clean Bin Project events, where you'll also get to meet some of the local waste-busters who are running some great projects around the country.

Friday, 16 August 2013

10 million items of furniture are thrown away each year in the UK – let’s change that with Give it for Good

Some of those clever people at Freegle are setting up a new project to increase the reuse of goods and materials around the UK and want to make it easy for people to NOT throw out usable stuff.

Currently in prototype stage for the Brighton & Hove area, Give it for Good offers an easy-to-use search facility showing all reuse options for any item, connecting members of the public with local facilities, including Freegle, social enterprises, charity shops, council sites, community projects, licensed recyclers, businesses. Once you've entered your item, you can decide if you want to give to a charity, to an individual, join a group, pay a collector and so on. Give it for Good will do the research, so you can do the giving. 

This isn't a replacement for Freegle or other online groups - it's an opportunity to attract new members.  Neither is it in competition for reuse organisations – it's a chance to drive more people to them all,  all helping to encourage people who currently just throw things away to re-home them instead by other means. And if you've been watching Kirstie Allsopp's Fill Your House for Free recently, you'll know there's a growing appetite for reuse.

I think it's a fantastic idea but to get the project off the ground Give it for Good needs your help, in the form of a little bit of crowdfunding.  I've dug behind my sofa and scrabbled together some coinage and if you're able to help too, that would be great.  They are trying to raise £15,000 by 30th August so they can run a pilot, which they will then expand more widely around the UK.  More info is available on their crowdfunding page:

Please do have a look at the short video below and check out their prototype page at

 The project team can also be found on Facebook at and Twitter as @GiveItForGood
For more info, email Cat Fletcher at  

Monday, 29 July 2013

The end of an era and the start of a new chapter

Well, there had to come a point when I pulled my finger out, pulled up my socks and opened my laptop to finally write a blogpost.

I know I've been utter pants over the last few months.

It's not as though I've had no news to share. I've probably had too much and I never even blogged about the impromptu moment I asked the legendary Michael Parkinson about his rubbish.

But now that the school holidays are upon us, this is the first occasion I've had to properly slow down since September last year and stay at home instead of gallivanting around the country.

And this holiday feels like a period of transition in more ways than one.

On a personal level, our youngest has just left primary school and is getting ready to start middle school in September.  Yes, that little man who was only 3 when I started this blog has just turned 9 and is growing up.  To watch him confidently leave one school and be ready to embark on the next stage of his life feels like a real milestone.

Elsewhere, I've spent the last 8 months coming to terms with my mother's unexpected death in December.  Nothing can prepare you for losing a parent and I'm very aware that the constant flow of activities and deadlines this year have kept me very distracted, so much so that when we completed the sale of her house last week, it kicked me so hard that it felt like she'd died all over again.  My mother taught me lots about what's important in life and much of that teaching was in her death.  One day, I hope to share her wisdom - not yet but soon - the wisdom of an average woman who would never have expected to have been considered remarkable but in many ways truly was.  I really wish she was still here to see what's around the corner.  I know she'd be one of the first to laugh at my misadventures and then, without me knowing, quietly share her pride.

For things are changing on The Rubbish Diet front and at a rate of knots too.  Remember that Nesta competition I entered last year in partnership with Cwm Harry and Rachelle Strauss from My Zero Waste?  We're still right in the middle of the challenge and following the success of running the Rubbish Diet in Suffolk and Shropshire (which even saw 22 households in one street taking part in Shrewsbury), the novel bin slimming action is spreading to Ludlow and very soon Powys, the latter of which will be launched during this year's National Zero Waste Week, 2-8 September.   If you haven't checked out Zero Waste Week yet, go and have a peek at its new website and do get involved, especially if you need to get tough with your food waste.

But there's lots happening between now and then.  Don't miss 'yours truly' helping a family slim their bin as part of the Throwaway Britain Tonight documentary, which is being broadcast this Thursday 1st August (9pm, ITV1).  Without giving away the final reveal, I can't wait for you to see how Sandra and her family tackled their waste. 

And to give you even further inspiration to reduce waste, I've been pulling together the first UK tour of the Clean Bin Project documentary, which will see my old Canadian blogging friend Jen and her partner Grant travelling around the UK, to attend screenings of their movie in Brighton, Suffolk, York, Shrewsbury (tbc) and Wiltshire.  The official dates and venues for late August will be published soon, but if you'd like to know more please email me.

But coming back to the most major thing that's happening in my life right now, although I'm taking time out to enjoy the events of the summer holidays and pause for reflection, it's also a time for significant change, especially as the success of The Rubbish Diet trials featured in the Nesta competition has led to much interest from a range of local authorities.

The Rubbish Diet has already travelled a long way from being just a random housewife with a blog.  In the last year, it has developed into a website and a team to support the Nesta Waste Reduction competition.  And now, still in conjunction with the 'Do Think' Tank Cwm Harry (the people who are also behind the People's Design Lab), we are preparing for the next stage, which will see The Rubbish Diet becoming a social enterprise, developed to help households and communities reduce their waste by 50% within as little time as eight weeks.  More info on the next stage will be available soon, as will the final results of the Nesta competition later in the year.  Meanwhile if The Rubbish Diet challenge launches in your neck of the woods, do join in and say hello.

With so much happening it really does feel like the end of an era and the beginning of an exciting and potentially nerve-wracking new chapter.

Thank you for sticking with the rubbish adventures of this Almost Mrs Average over the last five years.  I know there are lots more adventures to be had yet, but from now on it will be in a very different context.

I just hope I will still have time to blog about them.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Tagging along with Hadleigh HWRC to the Awards for Excellence in Recycling & Waste Management

The team from Hadeigh's HWRC, FCC Environment & Suffolk County Council with BBC's Susanna Reid
Yesterday, I had the real pleasure of tagging along with the Suffolk's Household Waste Recycling Centre team to's Awards for Excellence in Recycling & Waste Management

The awards, now in their 10th year, and presented by the BBC's Susanna Reid, were held at the Landmark Hotel, London, a beautiful setting to mark the successes and excellence of the recycling and waste management industry, the kind of things that go on behind the scenes that help the UK recycle more and reduce wasted resources.

I've been singing the praises of Suffolk's recycling facilities as part of the BBC Radio Suffolk Rubbish Diet, so it was great to hear that the Hadleigh HWRC was in the running for the category of Community Amenity Site of the Year,

With composting and recycling rates that exceed 90%, Hadleigh HWRC, managed by Suffolk County Council and FCC Environment, has been identified as Suffolk ’s top performing site, with successful and effective day-to-day operations providing an enhanced service to users.

Both Suffolk County Council and FCC Environment have engaged with local third sector organisations including the Ipswich Furniture project and ‘Re-cycle’ both of which are charities that have diverted items from landfill.  Ipswich Furniture Project provides an outlet for furniture and crockery, with ‘Re-Cycle’ giving unwanted cycles a new life.  This has enabled improvements on the recycling performance within the existing site footprint and moves more of the materials up the waste hierarchy, with almost no environmental impact.

The site only has two members of staff during the week and three at weekends to manage all waste streams and maintain the high recycling rate and excellent customer service. Much of the success of the site's recycling rate is attributed to the site staff and their relationship with the public. 

But these awards always bring stiff competition and this year the team was up against the Witchford HRC, in Cambridgeshire and Witley Community Recycling Centre in Surrey.

And the winner was...... well...  sadly not the team from Hadleigh HWRC on this occasion, but another worthy winner, Witley CRC, which is part of a network of 15 facilities managed by Sita, and which has been redesigned with sustainability at its heart and strong community engagement in its development.

Ooooh, so close!  They may not have won at yesterday's event but being a finalist in the awards and one of the top performing Household Waste Recycling Centre's in the UK, Hadleigh HWRC is most definitely a winner in my eyes and it was great to chat to Mel & Terry (pictured above with Susanna Reid) about their stories of what it's like being on the ground at one of our county's facilities. The passion for what they do is so easy to see.

Once again, in a good way, it felt like I was a bit of a recycling groupie following the band, and a very successful one at that.  Seriously, when you witness how the awards' nominees are changing the future of waste, their efforts, successes and enthusiasm really does rub off.

With wide-ranging categories such as High Street Recycling Champion, Commercial Recycling Champion, Best Community Recycling Initiative and Recycling Businesses of the Year, I wonder if next year, we'll see more entries from Suffolk.  After all, from our own Greenest Suffolk awards and some of the great things coming out of the BBC Radio Suffolk Rubbish Diet, I reckon our county could offer up some stiff competition for next year's awards.

Huge thanks to for letting me come along to support our fantastic team from Suffolk.  There were some great winners and finalists, all which can be seen either on the website or by following the updates on Twitter, using the hashtag #awardsforexcellence.


Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Please vote for The Rubbish Diet in celebration of reaching the Brilliance in Blogging shortlist. #BiBs

Click the BiB badge to vote.
I am absolutely chuffed to bits to hear the news that The Rubbish Diet has been shortlisted in this year's Brilliance in Blogging Awards, organised by BritMums, and especially so because it's been included in the Commentary category.

This category features blogs that highlight causes, either through raising awareness or funds, and which are a force for positive change. Topics might be global, local or personal. Whatever the cause, the bloggers shortlisted in this category have been chosen for doing more than their bit, and helping others get involved too.  So to have been nominated alongside so many great bloggers is a real honour.

This news comes at a particular exciting time, having just launched the extension to this blog, i.e. The Rubbish Diet Challenge website, which finally gives people a toolkit to reduce their waste wherever they are, and properly pulls together the learning and experiences of blogging about waste over the last five years.  With over 190 online sign-ups to the challenge (and another 80 offline) in the first 10 days of what has been very much a soft launch, the new site has quickly become the official new home of The Rubbish Diet

And it's also become a portal for tracking localised Rubbish Diet projects that are taking place around the country, starting with Suffolk, Shropshire and very soon Powys, sharing skills and local knowledge that can help householders reduce their waste by on average 50% in just eight weeks.  With Wiltshire Wildlife Trust having successfully rolled out the Rubbish Diet as part of their waste reduction campaign and the BBC Radio Suffolk Rubbish Diet recently launched in my neck of the woods, this year feels like a real milestone.  It's no longer just me anymore and that makes me feel like doing a happy dance.

So, if you like what we're doing in helping to put waste higher up the agenda and empowering households and communities to pull-together to slim those bins, please vote for the Rubbish Diet in the Commentary category.  That really would be smashing!

And on behalf of my new team, i.e. my merry band of Bin Doctors, I'd like to thank you for your support.

Of course, should we win...  we'll be sure to recycle the celebratory Champagne bottle as well as the metal cap, the twisty wire thing, the aluminium wrapping, cork and all!

Voting closes on 12th May.

Friday, 12 April 2013

The new Rubbish Diet Challenge website is now LIVE!

After much hard work from a dedicated team, the Rubbish Diet Challenge website is now live and kicking and ready as an online toolkit for anyone who wants to take the 8 week challenge to slim their bin! 

You'll find all you need, including an overview of how it works, some great diagrams and a sign-up form.  Once signed up, you'll receive a series of weekly tips, introducing different themes over the eight weeks.

So if you've been itching to take up the challenge but haven't got around to starting it yet,  there's no better time.  Do pop over to the new website and have a gander.   You can find it at And if you live in Suffolk, Powys or Shropshire there are even 'Bin Doctors' on hand to tell you about their county-wide campaigns which are launching next week, offering extra assistance to help slim those bins.

Talking of which, it will come as no surprise that I'm rolling up my sleeves to help out in Suffolk, along with Kate Kelly, who took the challenge last year.  And we're getting ready to support presenter Mark Murphy, who is championing the BBC Radio Suffolk Rubbish Diet Campaign.  It's going to be HUGE and kicks off on Monday.

That's eight weeks of waste-busting fun in our own county.  We'll be covering all the latest news via a new local blog  So, if I suddenly go all quiet here, you'll now know where to find me!

I hope you like the new website, and if you do, please tell your friends.  Here's to a very exciting new phase of The Rubbish Diet and an ENORMOUS thank you to everyone who's supported it so far.  The next few months are going to be great!



Sunday, 7 April 2013

The calm before the great excitement!

Taking a brief Easter break before the big stuff happens!

Regular readers of the Rubbish Diet will probably recognise that nervous grin by now.  It's the one that says 'oh heck, it's too late now, it's happening and there's no going back now'. 

A bit like this one, taken in January 2008, when I signed up to St Edmundsbury's Zero Waste Week, agreed to become their community champion, panicked and then set up this blog.

Yes, this old blog, with just me and my bin! 

Then you and your bins....

It really has been fun and I am truly grateful for everyone who has followed and interacted with the blog over the last five years.

But things are about to change bigtime!

So, please hang onto your seats for the next stage of The Rubbish Diet adventure, because very soon it's not going to be just me and this little blog anymore.  There's a whole team of people behind the scenes, who have been working hard to take the bin-slimming experience to an all new level. 

And over the next week, we will be announcing a brand-spanking-new Rubbish Diet website (yep - a proper website - at long last!) and the very exciting launch of The Rubbish Diet challenge which will soon be taking place across three counties (Shropshire, Suffolk and Powys).

I would love you to be a part of that too, whether it's following the story, tweeting the new links or encouraging your friends to get involved.  There will be lots of stuff happening with some fantastic local projects, including teaming up with BBC Radio Suffolk to launch the BBC Radio Suffolk Rubbish Diet in my own area, which is both very exciting and equally daunting. 

We are really just days away from the launch of the new website, followed by the actual Rubbish Diet challenge which launches on 15th April, inviting participants to slim their bins over 8 weeks.  There will be new blogs too, enabling local followers to keep up with stories from their respective counties.

But there's no rest for the wicked!  There's much to do between now and then - including another visit to landfill, delving into some prestigious bins around the county.... and judging by that photo, I'd better fit in another haircut as it looks like a spider has landed on my head! 

Well there's definitely no going back now!  So do watch out for imminent announcements and all those luscious bin-slimming links coming VERY SOON!

Meanwhile, if you are on Twitter, do follow @TheRubbishDiet, which will feature all the latest news as it happens. Local updates will also be available via @RDShropshire, @RDSuffolk @RDPowys.


Thursday, 28 March 2013

In Norfolk? Fancy going Gleaning?

Recently, Martin Bowman from Feeding5K (one of my fellow finalists in the Nesta Waste Reduction Challenge) got in touch to invite me to join their next Gleaning Day in Norfolk,  which is taking place at the beginning of April.  Sadly, I can't make it but I think the idea is so fab I wanted to extend the invitation out to anyone else who may be available locally.  Martin explains more in detail below:

Gleaning day coming up on Saturday 6th April

On Saturday 6th April, the Gleaning Network will be heading down to a farm in Norfolk to harvest tonnes of parsnips and save them from going to waste, redistributing them to food poverty charities. We need volunteers to help harvest the tasty produce! Contact to find out more, sign up to volunteer, or help coordinate. The day will be roughly 10am-4pm (TBC), and travel expenses are covered for those travelling from Cambridge and nearby- the farm is near Kings Lynn station. If you can't join us this time, sign up to our gleaning list and we'll let you know of all future gleaning days. Join the Arable Spring!

What is Gleaning?

Gleaning Network UK, recently featured on BBC Radio 4's Food Programme and Al Jazeera, and organised by Tristram Stuart and Feeding the 5,000, is an exciting new initiative to save the thousands of tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables that are wasted on UK farms every year. Farmers across the country often have no choice but to leave tonnes of their crops unharvested and get ploughed back in the soil. These crops often cannot reach the market either because they fail to meet the retail strict cosmetic standards or because of overproduction.

We coordinate teams of volunteers, local farmers and food redistribution charities in order to salvage this fresh, nutritious food and direct it to those that need it most, such as homeless hostels and charities. To date, we have salvaged several tonnes of excellent unmarketable British produce, including apples, cabbages, cauliflowers, spring greens and kale, and redistributed them to charities such as FareShare and the Best Before Project. Here's some more info, our video, and pictures of our last gleaning day. The movement is gathering pace, and we're rapidly expanding into a national network, with a hub now launching in Cambridge and Norfolk.

Here's more info in this video here:

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Zero Waste standards, tours & a party for good measure

The last few days of the international Zero Waste convention in San Francisco and the East Bay area have been very hectic with much debate and learning taking place.  It has become evident that this part of the world is very justified in having such high standards in its expectations regarding the future of zero waste initiatives.


On Thursday, there was much heated debate in Oakland City Hall, led by Gary Liss, on defining a Zero Waste standard for business certification.

It was clear that Zero Waste certification is already being carried out on some major international businesses and is currently being managed by a range of organisations, including UL, NSF-ISR and the US Zero Waste Business Council who, in consultation with the Zero Waste International Alliance, are preparing an American standard for Zero Waste for submission to ANSI.   Even though the current programmes are working towards high standards for Zero Waste (without landfilling or burning), it was debated that they aren't yet high enough and there could be a range of loop holes.  Also there needs to be clarity of a standard for businesses that have very minimal wasted resources.

Pigs & Peacocks

Following the day's debate at City Hall, it was back on tour again, this time for dinner at Marin Sanitary Service, a family-run waste management company that serves Marin County in the East Bay area.

I've now been to a wide range of MRFs but I've this is the first time I've ever visited a site that keeps pigs or even peacocks, not to mention the chickens, which feature as a popular and unexpected item on their educational tours.

The philosophy of Zero Waste is at the heart of the company's activities and I love this poster where our host Devi Peri outlined how once you've harvested the low-hanging fruit, it is possible to incorporate other services to a point where the only things left are Extended Producer Responsibility, including redesign.

Mattress Recycling

On Friday we visited a mattress recycling company in Oakland, which is now processing 150,000 mattresses per year with only 10% of its waste ending up in landfill.

Mattress Recycling is a great example of how recycling is progressing but if manufacturers designed products for better deconstruction at end-of-life, waste reduction achievements could be even better. 

The company's landfill stats may appear to be minimum but there still needs to be a push for products such as the one below, which cannot be disassembled, to be redesigned for disassembly.

However, for the majority that can be separated, the company is able to deconstruct the mattresses into good quality components, including metal that is sold onto metal dealers, wood that can be used in mulch, compost or energy production and cotton & fabrics that are sent onto the textile markets.

Dual Stream Bins & Buy Back

Having stayed in Berkeley this week, it was interesting to have a peek behind the scenes at Berkeley Recycling, the city's waste management company that serves residents and businesses locally.

One of the key points I drew out of the tour was the success of the company's dual stream collection, i.e. collecting recycling in split wheelie bins.

This allows for better quality of materials as plastic & metal packaging can be kept separate from paper and cardboard, which means easier and more efficient sorting at the MRF and maintains their ability to create one of the cleanest streams of recycling the the Bay Area.  Currently Berkeley Recycling's MRF maintains just a residual rate of only 2-3% and thanks to the quality of its recycling streams doesn't experience any rejections.

It was also interesting to see how there are different service levels of participation to engage the public.  Residents have a range of options for recycling, which include the kerbside service through the dual-streamed bins and a front-end recycling centre at the MRF.

The bins shown above cater for all the kerbside materials plus hard plastic, but as you can see below there is also a Buy Back service, where visitors can get paid separately for bottles, cans, paper and scrap aluminium, incentivising those who want to earn some extra dollars either for themselves or a community initiative.

I was intrigued to know the amount of materials collected through these different service levels.  The figures are as follows:

Bring back: 100 tons per month
Buy back: 250 tons per month
Kerbside: 650 tons per month

It was also interesting to note that 'Buy back' services are an integral part of recycling services, not just in Berkeley but across California.

Innovations in Reuse

Throughout the week I have seen many examples of how Reuse has been an important feature in this area's waste hierarchy but it was the visit to El Cerrito's recycling centre which really demonstrated how this can be made not only visible to the public but also integral to a local culture.

The El Cerrito site underwent a major redesign in 2012 and has fast become one of most attractive recycling sites I have ever seen.  Its popularity amongst local residents is such that it restricts visitors to two hours onsite.  Two hours?  Most people I know are in and out of a recycling centre in just 20 minutes.

The attraction of El Cerrito is that it is not just a recycling centre, it is also an exchange centre, featuring an onsite book 'store', where you can pick up items of interest for free and those who are registered can also pick out various items from some of their deposit bins.  As well as managing a range of recycling streams on site, it also supports local community reuse organisations such as Urban Ore and the Goodwill charity.

For anyone interested in modelling reuse and community exchange facilities into their own recycling centres, it really is worth looking closely at the El Cerrito model and more information can be found on its website.

Party Time at Urban Ore

On the topic of reuse, one of the most amazing centres in this part of California... or indeed anywhere else that I've had the pleasure to visit is Urban Ore, which is a huge reuse and building materials exchange operation in Berkeley.  It is also an active contributor to the Zero Waste programme and its website is really worth a visit for anyone who want to push activities further up the waste hierarchy in their own localities.

Urban Ore was also the venue for the end-of-week party and with the opportunity to browse around the store, I couldn't think of a better place to be.

This place is cool with a capital C!

It's not even afraid of reselling electricals and electronics.  The onus is simply on any interested purchasers to test them out onsite first!

But when I say that Urban Ore is huge!  It really is!  Even this photo of 'party central' doesn't do it justice.  And in fact, the outside is even larger than the inside.

The Urban Ore party really was a fitting venue for the end-of-week celebrations.  It has been a great study tour of some of the best practice Zero Waste practices that are taking place in the world right now and if there are any local innovators, great thinkers and aspirational leaders in the UK's waste sector who want to be connected up to what I've seen this week, I would be delighted to make those connections.

I know waste management and working towards Zero Waste to conserve resources isn't easy, but it starts with rethinking the impossible and realising its potential towards a new reality.  We should never be scared of these levels of innovation but should be excited about the technological, economic and social opportunities that they bring.

What I've witnessed this week have been communities that care about making the impossible actually possible, forging ahead with their vision and working together with City officials, service providers and strategists who are not daunted by moving away from old models of thinking.

This is something that is worth celebrating big time!  So thank you San Francisco, leading the way with your 80% diversion rate, and to all the organisations from the Bay Area that shared their experiences this week.  I feel very privileged to have been here with many of my International friends.

Folk, I think it's now time to watch this space.  Meanwhile, here's another photo from the coolest party I've been to in a long time... and most probably ever!

California rocks!  And so does its path to Zero Waste!

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