Waste Free February: Reducing Waste Part 2
Here is the second of our posts about ways you can reduce your waste. In part one we looked at the first 3 Rs in the Waste Hierarchy: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse. In this post we are going to look at the last 4 Rs: Rehome, Repair, Recycle, Rot and give you ideas of practical things you can do in each category.
“One person’s trash is another person’s treasure”.
I remember setting up my pitch at a car boot sale early one morning when a buyer rushed over to an old metal mop bucket I had just unloaded. She promptly bought the old bucket for £1! To me it was just a dirty old mop bucket I’d found in the garden when we moved house, but she was overjoyed with her purchase! So, don’t assume that just because you don’t want something, no one else well.
My first port of call when rehoming things like clothes, toys and books is usually the charity shop. However, as charity shops remain closed and many have been inundated with donations, we thought we’d look at a few other ways to rehome your stuff.
If you’d like to make a little cash, try selling sites like eBay, Gumtree and Preloved or local Facebook selling groups. For clothes and accessories, there are also specialist selling sites such as Depop and Vinted.
If you have a lot to rehome, you could have a yard or garage sale. These require very little effort or cost to run – just stick a few posters around the local area and advertise on social media and hopefully the buyers will flock to you! One of the advantages of a yard sale is that you can dictate the time, avoiding the early starts required for most car boot sales! Last summer, a few local villages near us organised whole village yard sales, with a map showing which houses had stalls.
Websites such as Freecycle and Freegle, as well as local Facebook groups and Marketplace, are another great way to give away stuff for free. You’d be amazed at what we’ve been able to rehome over the years: building rubble, a broken lawnmower, old windows with rotten frames, to name a few! Bubble wrap, padded envelopes and cardboard boxes are always popular and you can easily gift clothes, toys, books, furniture etc.
Post-Covid, when we are allowed to meet up and socialise once more, how about throwing a clothes swapping party aka a swish? You could stick to a few friends or open it up to the wider community and raise funds for charity at the same time. There are some useful tips on swishing here.
Hopefully if you’re meal planning and using your freezer well, your food waste will be minimal. But if you do happen to find yourself with a surplus, Olio is a food sharing app which enables you to post details of your excess food and connects you with local people who need/want food. Unlike donations to food banks which must be unopened and with long expiry dates, with Olio the food can be food raw or cooked, sealed or open. In our experience, Olio is popular in larger towns and cities and is starting gather momentum in more rural communities.
I’ll admit, repairing things is not one of my strengths, but l do like to have a go. I mean if something’s already broken, you have nothing to lose! Probably my most successful repair to date is my vacuum cleaner, which has been given a new lease of life on several occasions thanks to spare parts bought online. OK, so it does make a very strange noise now, but it works!
Caroline has kept an ancient food processor going (a family heirloom, inherited from our grandmother) by replacing the bowl and the lid at different times. It’s possible to get all sorts of parts for electrical appliances from websites such as Ransom Spares and eSpares – anything from dishwasher filters to oven control knobs. If you’re not sure where to start with your repair, there’s bound to be a video on YouTube to help you out!
When it comes to mending clothes, the website Repair What You Wear is a great resource offering free video tutorials. Starting with how to thread a needle and sewing on a button (without the need to use a sewing machine), the tutorials cover repairs to all sorts of clothing including sportswear and shoes. Visible mending has become an Instagram trend, so you can feel proud of your knee patch or darned jumper!
There are some things that you won’t be able to fix yourself, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be fixed. For example, getting your shoes reheeled is very easy and relatively cheap; I recently had a favourite pair of boots resoled for about £20, much less than it would have cost me to replace them. If you’re not sure where to get something fixed in your local area, try asking in a local Facebook group. In our area I often see recommendations for people who can fixed things like bikes, computers, mobile phones, washing machines and ovens.
The sad truth is that if you can’t mend something yourself, it is very often cheaper to buy new than pay someone else to fix it. This is where Repair Cafes come in. Repair Cafes, run by skilled volunteers, provide free or low cost repair services with the aim of keeping things out of landfill. Although not currently able to run, once Lockdown restrictions are eased you can find your local repair cafe here. Clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, crockery, appliances, and toys are the sorts of things which can be repaired at Repair Cafes, although it will depend on the skills of the volunteers.
Even following all the Rs of the Waste Hierarchy, you will inevitably still end up with some stuff which needs to be recycled. It’s a good idea to check your local council website to make sure you are recycling everything you can in your kerbside collection. Round here, the rules seem to change quite often; for example, I discovered recently that you can put upright ‘pump’ type toothpaste tubes in with other plastic bottles. Also check what can be recycled at your household recycling centre, as not everything will be destined for landfill.
It’s also worth having a look at your local supermarket to see what can be recycled there. Larger supermarkets will often have facilities to recycle stretchy plastic bags and batteries, whilst some also collect ink cartridges, light bulbs and water filters. The website Recycle Now has lots of information about what can be recycled and where.
We have already written about recycling in our posts Keep Calm and Carry On Recycling and I Didn’t Know You Could Recycle That, and we often mention Terracycle, which offers schemes for difficult to recycle items. This page from the WWF also has some useful links to help you recycle for charity.
So, we’ve reached the top (or bottom?) of the Waste Hierarchy: Rot. The problem is that a lot of what ends up here will not rot. Plastics will degrade, gradually breaking into ever smaller pieces, but they will never rot. Hence the need to Refuse and Reduce.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Some things will rot and, by doing so, can be used to create a wondrous thing loved by gardeners everywhere – compost!
There seems to have been an awful lot written about composting, much of it making it seem very complicated, but really it’s very simple. Anything that was once living can be composted, such as garden waste, veg peelings, coffee grounds, shredded paper and cardboard, even pure cotton or wool clothing (but not meat or cooked food, as it can attract rats). You can just create an open compost heap in your garden, but it may be tidier to get a compost bin. The key to good composting is to get a good balance of green and brown material – green being things like fresh garden and kitchen waste, brown being drier things like paper, cardboard, wood shavings, eggs shells etc. If your compost looks to wet and slimy, add more brown material and give it a mix, it’ll soon sort itself out and in six months or so you should start to get good useable compost!
Even better than a regular compost bin is a hot bin, such as the Green Johanna. Green Johannas are very similar to traditional compost bins but they are enclosed, which means that you can add cooked food waste and meat. In theory, hot bins also create compost more quickly than traditional compost bins.
We both have Green Johannas and they have been a game changer when it comes to dealing with food waste, meaning that we no longer need to use plastic bin bags for what little rubbish we produce. Our local council doesn’t collect food waste, but does offer a discount on the Green Johanna. It’s worth checking if your council offers a similar discount scheme.
If you don’t have a garden or space for a compost bin, you could team up with a friend or neighbour who’s happy for you to put your compostable waste in their bin. As keen gardeners, we can never make enough compost, so don’t be shy about asking! Alternatively, you could sign up to ShareWaste.com to see if there’s anyone near to you who is looking for compostable kitchen scraps.
We hope you’ve found our tips on the Waste Hierarchy useful and have got some good ideas of ways you can reduce your household waste following the principles of Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Rehome, Repair, Recycle, Rot. Whether you’ve been taking part in Waste Free February or are just generally trying to reduce your waste, we’d love to hear about your experiences on the road to zero waste. If you’ve got any good tips to share, please comment below!