Waste Free February – Not a Waste of Time!

Well, that’s Waste Free February done and dusted for another year. Except it isn’t really, because there’s no reason why we can’t continue with the changes we’ve made. The great thing about having taken part in Waste Free February for a few years now is that this year we didn’t need to make huge changes. Yet it was still a great opportunity to look at what we are already doing and see if there’s anything we could do better. Here’s how we got on.

I guess the biggest challenge for us this year has been the global pandemic. This has changed the way we shop. Although we were already having our milk delivered by Planks Dairies and our fruit and veg from Riverford, we have been visiting supermarkets and local shops much less. At one point (before WFF), we couldn’t visit our favourite refill shop as it was just over the county border in a Tier 4 zone. So, we’ve been relying on a Tesco delivery about once every three weeks, the odd trip to the refill shop (restrictions permitting), and our village shop. The good news is that Tesco will now deliver without plastic carrier bags.

We have succeeded in our efforts of reducing our household waste to one small bin (see the photo below – the bigger bin is for scale). That said, it is full to bursting! Full disclosure: my utility room is stuffed full of things waiting to be dropped off at Terracycle or supermarket recycling points – batteries, plastic bags, crisp packets, medicine packets, contact lenses, dental products – I haven’t got round to this yet!

Analysing our waste  (yes, I really have done that!), it is nearly all made up of single use plastic like cheese packets, plastic from bacon and sausages (we’ve been buying these pre-wrapped from our village shop rather than a butcher), and the foil paper from butter, which as far as I am aware is not recyclable. On top of this, we have had a few Lockdown treats which we wouldn’t usually have – a packet of biscuits, croissants and pain au chocolat. You can see the evidence in the main photo at the top of this post!

So, I’m going to put a few of those things down to Covid. Once things are a bit more back to normal, we can buy meat from the butchers in reusable tubs. And we’re eating a lot less meat these days, so I’m fairly relaxed about this.

I usually make my own biscuits and cakes, so biscuit packets are not usually an issue. If they were, I would look into recycling them through Terracycle. There are a few farm shops locally where I know I can buy loose frozen pain au chocolat and croissants, so once I’m going out more, I can stock up on these.

As for cheese packets, I’ve just discovered that these can be recycled through Terracycle’s Cheese Packaging Recycling Programme and there’s a local drop off point! Right, time to dig those packets out of the bin!

Now, I know that butter could be replaced with margarine in recyclable tubs, but I stopped using margarine because many of them contain palm oil. Maybe I need to rethink this. Caroline has told me about Calonwen organic butter which comes in compostable packaging, but at the moment it isn’t available through online Tesco delivery.

I have successfully rehomed a few items through Facebook – walking shoes, a desk, our old 30 litre kitchen bin (no longer needed, lol). I also donated a few pairs of running shoes to ReRun Clothing. As for repairs, my husband fixed the wheel on our wheelbarrow and I also managed to mend a roman blind by replacing the cord which had snapped.

I’m really pleased with how our Waste Free February has gone this year. This has been by far our best year in terms of reducing our waste and this is thanks to the following changes that we’ve introduced over the last few years:

  • Avoiding single use plastic as much as possible
  • Milk delivery in reusable glass bottles
  • Fruit and veg delivery from Riverford
  • Using refill shops for store cupboard ingredients, cleaning products and toiletries
  • Reusable sanitary protection
  • Meal planning to reduce food waste and our Green Johanna for any remaining waste
  • Making the most of our kerbside collection for cardboard, tins, glass, plastic bottles and tubs, textiles
  • Recycling stretchy plastic bags, batteries and ink cartridges at the supermarket
  • Using Terracycle schemes to recycle crisp packets, contact lenses, dental products, medicine packets and now cheese packets
  • Not buying unnecessary or excessively packaged stuff

Here’s Caroline’s review of her Waste Free February, which went a little differently than expected:

“My jar of waste for February mainly consists of several plastic wristbands from a recent hospital stay and plastic wrapping from a plant I was given when I came home from hospital. As I’ve been consciously trying to reduce my waste for a while now, there’s not much I changed for WFF. Having said that, one nice discovery I made this month was Seed and Bean chocolate on sale in our local farm shop, which is not only delicious, it comes in home compostable packaging!

I recommend taking a reusable bottle if you ever have to go to hospital, as the amount of single use flimsy plastic cups going to waste is rather depressing. Plus, the water tasted much nicer out of my bottle than out of the plastic jug the nurses gave me! I have saved up the blister packs from the tablets I was taking to recycle next time I’m in the vicinity of a Morrisons or Superdrug Pharmacy.

I have also successfully rehomed several items using Freegle.  Freegling seems a better option than saving stuff up for when the charity shops reopen, as they are bound to be inundated with things from people decluttering in Lockdown. I prefer using Freegle to Facebook, as I’ve had issues with timewasters on Facebook, and have only had positive experiences with my local Freegle group.”

So overall, we’re very pleased with how WFF has gone for us and a little proud of ourselves! Personally, I don’t think we’ll ever be truly zero waste, but I’m ok with that and not really aiming for zero waste in the first place. And if I need to buy an emergency packet of biscuits every now and then, I will!

If you are at the beginning of your Waste Free journey, it can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. Remember, we’ve made all these changes over the last few years not just in the course of a month. So why not focus on one thing at time and start with what are for you “easy” wins? If you need a little inspiration, check out our previous posts Waste Free February, Waste Free February – Reducing Waste Part 1 and Waste Free February – Reducing Waste Part 2

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