What is Zero Waste and how do I achieve it?

Zero Waste literally means ‘no rubbish’. Basically I’m trying to not put anything into landfill, which means that everything I use in my personal life and in my home should be long-lasting, reusable, recyclable, compostable and mendable. This means that everything I buy or bring into my home cannot comprise any items that do not or cannot have a second, third, fourth or even continual life.

What set me off on this is that my rubbish bin is mostly filled with the plastic wrappers from the fruit and veg surrounding my weekly shop at Sainsbury’s, along with the other plastic packaging that dry goods and frozen items come in. I have taken my ire out on Sainsbury’s, particularly over their packaging of cobs of corn. These come in their own protective covering – leaves – that can be composted. However, Sainsbury’s remove these and replace them with a plastic wrap. Why, because their customers prefer it this way – according to the PR who responded to my complaining on Facebook. (Obviously I was not buying the corn in February, this was last summer!).

Ecover bulk buying

My 5L boxes of Ecover washing-up liquid, clothes cleaner and fabric conditioner

Before I decided to go zero waste, I had already made purchasing choices that take me beyond the norm. For example, (nearly) all my cleaning products are environmentally friendly mostly from Ecover, and I buy in bulk where possible. So my washing up liquid bottle gets refilled from a 5L carton stored in my downstairs loo. I also have 5L cartons up laundry liquid, as well as toilet cleaner, clothes softener and hand wash. They all perform extremely well, especially the washing-up liquid, and the Ecover hand wash has a particularly lovely fragrance. Buying in bulk reduces the amount of packaging an item requires upfront, and the packaging is all recyclable.

I order these items from Natural Collection, and their own protective packaging is paper rather than bubble wrap (although not for my last order which I must complain about), that I reuse to line my compost/recycling bins with or as wrapping paper for gifts and packages. Oh yes, and Natural Collection are part of the KidStart scheme as well, so my kids get 7% cashback on all my purchases straight in my bank account.

But how to stop the rubbish coming into my home, the plastic film and bags that can’t be recycled? Well, for my fruit and veg I have stopped buying it from Sainsbury’s and I use my local greengrocers, Ham Fruiterers, instead. They sell most, but not all of their produce, loose, and rather than taking the plastic bags they offer (although I will accept the paper ones) I use Trolley Dolly mesh bags. The first time I pulled them out the lady behind the counter complimented me on them and, since then, they ’round down’ my purchases as a reward for using my own bags.

What’s not to love – saving the planet and a few pennies, too!

PS When I bought my Christmas Tree from Ham Fruiterers they tied the branches up with string, rather than one of those hideous mesh contrivances that can only go into landfill! My cat loves playing with the string.

Refusing and reducing

Bea Johnson uses the mantra “refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot”, so at the end of last year I took steps to up the ‘refusing’ aspect to bring less waste into my home. I’d already gone paperless on all my bills and filled out the Mail Preference Service requesting no junk mail, but I was still inundated with with a seemingly endless stream of brochures and catalogues landing on my doormat every week. So, as each one arrived, before chucking it straight into the recycling box, I took the offending brochure to the computer, found the company’s website and emailed their customer services requesting they stop sending them to me forthwith.

My next step was to request one one of those ‘no junk mail’ stickers from my local council that I can stick to my letter box to instruct the food deliverers, tree surgeons, painters and decorators and various other tradespeople against stuffing their gaudily printed advertising sheets through my door.

I also applied the ‘no thanks’ policy when I went shopping for my birthday present – not only did I take my own bags with me (been doing that for a few years now), but I also refused the box that was offered (again something I’ve done on and off for years, although sometimes those shoe boxes have come in very handy for my sons’ school projects).

However, on bringing my shoes home, I went one step further and embraced the Zero Waste philosophy about reducing the amount of stuff you have in your home so you can live more simply. Hands up, I am guilty of hoarding, so many of my cupboards are stacked with items I just can’t bear to throw away. This time I took a more ruthless approach, and rather than keep the shoes – “just in case” – my new ones were replacing, I thought “no” and donated them to a charity shop. Do I miss them? No, I have my new shoes. I did the same with an old handbag that had been gathering dust on the floor of my wardrobe for the last few years – again I couldn’t bear to chuck it – after receiving an OnFriday Fairtrade leather one from my lovely mum for my birthday.

Feeling virtuous, I was motivated to truly to get to grips with my recipe books. Hubby had given me Ottolenghi’s vegetarian recipe book Plenty for Christmas so I took a long hard look at my groaning shelf of largely unused recipe books and decided to be ruthless. Going beyond the ‘one in, one out’ mantra I put half of them in pile and took them to a second-hand shop. What a satisfying feeling, that was made even more so, as I realised that I now had a spare half shelf, which by further disposing of various ‘it will come in useful one day’ items around it, became an entire shelf. Finally, I could re jig a total of four shelves to improve the ‘flow’ of my kitchen by relocating items where they are most accessible. The joy of rationalisation was mine. And, none of the stuff went in the bin, it was put for re-use in a local charity shop, hopefully helping other people.

Are you trying to reduce your waste levels? I’d like to hear how you’re getting on – leave a comment below.