The Waste Audit

At the start of April, feeling squashed between the hard core green world of zero waste and the nagging doubt that we maybe we weren’t doing enough to reduce our waste I started to unpick the zero waste world – See my post last week for my change of mindset.

This week I have spent time looking in our bin for some answers! A little waste audit.

I don’t mean ‘keep all our rubbish for a month, lay it out on the lawn and take pictures of it’ audit. I just mean every time something went in the bin in the kitchen or the recycling boxes I had a look at it.

I was trying to answer the following questions:

  • What sorts of waste were we throwing away/ recycling
  • How much of each of those waste types were we dealing with
  • What was going in the bin that actually could be recycled

I included the recycling boxes as well because the first question has to be can I avoid this item?

Looking in the bin

I have to say, up until this point I was absentmindedly throwing stuff out. My only pause was to consider whether the item should go in a recycling box rather than the bin.

This is what I learnt looking in the bin for a week:

  • We were throwing away things that could already be recycled via our kerbside collection or the recycling centre.
  • Just how much stuff comes individually wrapped.
  • Just how much of our weekly rubbish isn’t recyclable. What can I avoid in the future?
  • On a side note – our diet needs to change – a scary quantity of biscuit and snack wrappers!

What can I avoid putting in the bin?

We throw out a huge amount of biscuit wrappers, crisp packets and the like. After a little research I found there are several collection points locally for schemes run by Terracycle. Look on the Terracycle website for the waste you want to recycle, for example biscuit wrappers, and the search for collectors local to you.

Bread packets – I noticed a number of bread bags while riffling through the bin – many of them had a recycle label ‘recycle with bags at larger stores’. How did I not notice this before? I asked in our local supermarket (Tesco) and found a bag recycling point by the door. Check with your own supermarket to see if they offer this facility.

The general observation – It was really disappointing finding how much of the rubbish couldn’t be recycled. My options will be to raise this with the supermarkets I use and to avoid these products for now.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – The steps I have taken this month

Plastic bottles and a green recycling bin
Photo by on

Drinks bottles – We have stopped using individual drinks for lunches and after school activities by buying a couple of reusable drinks bottles for the boys. While I was trying to avoid buying new stuff the bottles will have paid for themselves in less than four weeks of lunches. Mr TreadingSofter also has a bottle in the car to avoid the need for buying a drink when he is out and about.

Biscuit wrappers – We have tried alternative biscuits for lunches that don’t come individually wrapped. The boys haven’t commented yet – maybe they haven’t noticed? And we also made some cookies that the boys took to school for lunches – thus avoiding packets altogether! Hurrah! Some of the wrappers can be recycled locally so I have started to collect these.

Made a new space for a new recycling box for collecting crisp packets and wrappers, lids of plastic bottles and various other things that I can take to a local collection point for Terracycle scheme. I’m also collecting the sliced bread bags.

I already have boxes or baskets to collect, plastic bottles and trays, cartons (Tetrapak), paper, card, metal food tins and alu cans/ foil.

Plastic tubs and trays – there were plenty of these in the bin that can be recycled at our local recycling centre. All tubs now get rinsed out and collected for recycling. I have also repurposed some tubs this month in the greenhouse for sowing seeds. This also avoided me having to go and buy some seed trays!

Changing my shopping habits: Some of the cheese, ham and meat products we regularly use come in trays/ packets that are not recyclable. Since I don’t have a bottomless budget for the deli counter (where I’m told I can use my own boxes) so we are going to be trying some alternative sandwich fillings through May to reduce the trays I have to throw away.

What small change are you going to make to reduce your waste this month? Could you change to products with recyclable packaging? Could you swap to a product with no packaging? Find one or two quick and easy changes and make them a habit.

Let me know how you get on.

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