Monday, 7 February 2011

Week One of the Rubbish Diet Challenge

After the preliminary weigh-in I was ready to embark on Week One of the Rubbish Diet Challenge and the process of slimming my bin.

In Karen Cannard's guide to reducing our rubbish she tells us that the best way to reduce the amount of rubbish we put in our bins is to bring less rubbish home.  This may seem obvious, but it does require a state of continued vigilance to realise that yummy cream cake is packaged in a non-recyclable plastic bubble before you have it home with the contents eaten and now the only place for it is the dustbin, destined for landfill.  There are many other tempting products sitting on supermarket shelves waiting for you to pick them up without realising how much rubbish you will be left with.

Don't be in any doubt about it you are paying for all that fancy packaging rubbish, which will then clog up your bin and put up your council tax to pay those nice people with their big lorry to cart all that rubbish off to the landfill site.

I won't say I'm never caught out by the over-packaged tempting item, but it doesn't happen too often these days.  It took me a few years,  rather than a few weeks to get into the habit of seeing how much un-recyclable rubbish I was buying, so don't give up if it takes you a while to adapt.  I tended to buy things like that as treats anyway, so if you depend largely on ready made meals and desserts it could take you even longer, but you will get there in the end, if you want to.

Karen issued this mini challenge for the week, so I thought I'd see how I'd done so far:

MINI CHALLENGE: 10 easy ways to avoid creating rubbish and save money

1. Take a reusable bag or two when you go shopping. If you haven’t got one already, go and treat yourself or make a few home-made bags with friends. If you do end up with a few plastic bags, try reusing them first before you have to recycle them.

This is something I'm pleased to say I do nearly all the time now.  I have one or two lightweight fold up bags in my handbag and keep a couple of sets of Hessian bags plus a few strong plastic carrier bags that must all be a few years old now, in my boot (trunk).  One set is plenty if you are well-organised and put them straight back in the boot of the car once they are unpacked, but if you aren't as we weren't too begin with, have two sets to increase your chances of having some to hand when you go shopping.

2. Hide the Clingfilm and aluminium foil and use reusable containers instead. You’ll save money in the long-run because it’s cheaper to buy containers that can be reused than rely on single use products. If you do use disposable products such as foil, depending on what you use if for you could wash and reuse it.

I haven't used clingfilm for years, but I do use aluminium foil occasionally, and with a fairly clear conscience.  I buy recycled aluminium foil and I try to wash it and recycle it when I've used it, but if it's very dirty hubby sometimes puts it in the bin because he doesn't want to wash it.

3. Start making packed lunches for work lunches or days out. It’s much cheaper than buying pre-packed lunches and you can say goodbye to those fiddly plastic sandwich containers.

I often make a packed lunch when I have the time, although I'm beginning to think a pasta or rice salad keeps better overnight if I don't have time to make my sandwiches fresh in the morning.

4. Ditch bottled water in favour of tap water and take refillable bottles whenever you go out. You won’t just save money, you’ll save on the amount of plastic bottles that may not be recycled properly when you are out -and-about. These days you can even buy insulated bottles that keep drinks chilled. When at work, use a glass instead of a plastic cup when filling up at a drinks machine.

I do this as much as possible now.

5. If you love take-away coffees buy a trendy refillable coffee cup for when you’re on the go. Fill it up with fresh coffee at home so you can drink en-route to work and do the same at the end of the day to help you cope with the rush-hour home. Not only will you save cash, but if you normally buy one coffee a day, you’ll be saving at least 200 paper cups per year.

I don't drink coffee or regular tea, so that's another temptation removed.

6. Takeaways may taste great, but it can be tempting to order too much. Save money by reducing the amount you order and share with someone else. If you haven’t got a partner, ring up a friend and make it a social occasion. Just order one main dish and cook the rice at home. That’s two meals for the price of one and fewer containers too.

I'm not a fan of takeaways.

7. Dig out your old printer cartridges and save pounds by refilling them instead of buying new ones ( If you are in the UK telephone 0800 18 33 800 to find your nearest Cartridge World store or visit, No longer will you have to worry about struggling to open the hard plastic packaging that often comes with printer cartridges.

We have a laser printer, but we can send our cartridges off to be recycled and do so.

8. Start saying no to free samples, especially toiletries in little plastic containers that will just gather dust in your bathroom. They may be free but could be tricky to recycle further down the line, and do you really want them anyway?

I don't remember when I was last offered any of these.

9. If you love salad, plant some lettuce seedlings now. They should be fully grown in time for your zero waste week challenge and will save you heaps in bagged salads and fewer plastic bags to worry about.

Lettuce doesn't grow well in Winter, but if you can start them off in frost free conditions you could sow some seed towards the end of this month.  I'm hoping to do so nice and early this year and keep a succession of lettuces growing by sowing fresh seed every 2 weeks.

10. If you’re a chocoholic, switch your regular snack bar in a flimsy wrapper for one of the larger bars in a paper and foil wrap. Savour small helpings and make it last, knowing that you can recycle the packaging.

I do succumb to a couple of nut bars in plastic wrappers and or packets of  crisps most weeks.  I mean to back some healthy flapjacks with seeds and raisins, but I haven't got round to it yet. On the other hand, if I fancy a packet of crisps when I'm at home I often make popcorn instead.

What about you, how would you do with the above challenge?

Well, I weighed my week's rubbish again yesterday, and this week it was definitely 3 pounds rather than not quite 2 and I'd removed all the plastic bags that said they were made of recyclable plastic no. 4 aka Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE).  Looks like I'll need to try a little harder this week.


  1. Good luck with your Rubbish Diet Challenge.

    As for the mini challenge:
    1 I usually remember to carry a supply of reuseable bags around with me but I need to revive my practice of taking a couple of plastic containers as well (for meat etc).
    2 I rarely use clingfilm. I've recently discovered recycled aluminium foil and reuse it again and again.
    3 I usually take a packed lunch to work and on journeys etc.
    4 I've never been a bottled water drinker and have started carrying around a small reuseable bottle in my handbag.
    5 I don't often buy hot drinks on the go but again, I've started carrying around my own recycleable mug.
    6 Takeaways are a relatively infrequent family treat. However I do recycle the containers. The foil ones go in our black box and the plastic ones make excellent fridge/freezer containers.
    7 My husband is responsible for the printing cartridges. I'll have to check what he does.
    8 I'm not often offered these either but my husband brings them home from his trips. The girls take them on sleepovers etc and I do make sure they end up in the plastic recycling facility.
    9 We grew a variety of salad leaves last year and I'm hoping to do the same again as soon as the weather warms up.
    10 I don't buy many snacks and I'm trying to cut back in order to lose weight.

    Verdict = Not bad, but room for improvement!

  2. Thank you Gai, and well done yourself. It's very hard to get it all right all of the time, isn't. If we did, we would either be living elsewhere or maybe we wouldn't be entirely human.

  3. Hi Karin - this is brilliant and thank you so much for having a go at the mini challenges. I'm looking forward to seeing how you get on with it all. And don't worry about perfection, it's just the habits of mind that really count. Great going and looking forward to future updates (waving to Just Gai too before I sign off)

  4. Hello Karen, thank you for dropping by. Hoping to update weekly, if time allows.

  5. Just watched the "no impact man" film and despairing at how hard it is to sustain a low impact life. nicola

  6. He tries for no impact. Low impact is more possible. I should think you do better than most. Not going everywhere by car must help a lot for a start. Even the early cavemen had an impact on their environment. The problem is there are so many of us and we use such a lot of new technologies, but once the wheel etc has been invented, how do you live without it?


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