Monday, 21 January 2013

Giveaway winner and a slimming binner.

Firstly, the results of the recent giveaway for the little Food for Free book.

There were nine commenters, of which one (Dan of Zen Presence) didn't actually want/need the book, so then there were eight.

All the names went on the back of an envelope, were torn and folded into tiny pieces, and one lucky winner was drawn at random.

Live and Learn please do email me your address and I'll post the book to you with great pleasure. I always enjoy a visit to Live and Learn's blog and the window onto daily life in her corner of the world, so far away from mine, that it gives, and if you ever bother to read the comments on my blog posts you'll know that L&L is a truly faithful commenter here (as well as several other blogs) and always takes the time to share an experience or a thoughtful insight.

That's the nice part of this blog post over with. Prepare to hold your noses as what comes next may be a bit smelly!

I told you here, that I was going to take part in Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's Slim Your Bin project, which officially starts today, and I am true to my word, despite the rather unsavoury nature of the first assignment.

The initial task was to weigh a week's worth of domestic waste (not the recyclables) and analyse it.

A week's waste at Everyday Life On A Shoestring

I had been intending to get a blog post about this written over the weekend, but as you can imagine, there were a million other things to do (like building snowmen and throwing snowballs!) that somehow seemed much more appealing than ferreting about at the bottom of our bin.

However I forced myself to do it this evening, and it was an edifying exercise. The photo above is our non-recyclable waste for the week, removed from our kitchen bin. It doesn't include bathroom waste, as Husband disposed of it this week before I could get to it, but most of that was recyclable anyway (cardboard toilet roll tubes, empty plastic mouthwash bottle etc).

Some of the many empty packets of stuff we ate this week.

There's not much waste (under a kilo) in terms of mass, and it doesn't take up much room, but actually there's loads. Mostly it was loads and loads and LOADS of plastic food packaging! Frozen raspberries, chicken, potatoes, oven chips, cheese, biscuits, nuts, muesli, chocolate, bananas, ham and more. We ate it all. The healthy stuff and the not so healthy stuff. 

I will be really interested to hear about how, short of not eating, we can reduce some of that kind of waste. Just sifting through it has given me a few ideas; for instance there's really no need to buy pre-packed bananas. They could be purchased loose without a bag, and we could invest in a big paper sack of potatoes, rather than smaller amounts in plastic bags, which would probably save us money too. If I got really clever, I could make my own reusable bags to buy fruit and veg in. I'm sure there must be plenty of other things we could do.

My rummage through the bin also revealed that I'm pretty ignorant about what some of the recyclable symbols actually mean. The one above, is on some thin plastic, but I have no idea where I could recycle it locally. I'm hoping that participating in the project will clarify the complex plastics recycling issue for me.

Apart from recycling, how do you minimise your domestic waste (especially food packaging)?


  1. First of all, congratulations to Live and learn!

    Second, we have a few ways we reduce food packaging waste in our house. One is to buy from bulk bins when possible. Most stores will allow you to bring your own containers from home in. Before filling my container, I take it to a clerk and ask for them to weigh the container and give it a tare weight, so I'm not paying for the weight of my container.

    I also bring back the plastic produce bags, and use them a second and third time.

    I avoid buying prepackaged produce. One of our stores packs almost all their produce into those plastic clamshells. So I buy very little from their produce section. But when I do buy something in a clamshell, I reuse that container for storing something that I like to be able to see, like pantyhose, yarns, and craft supplies. They're very handy for organizing stuff.

    We reuse all of our non-meat plastic bags, like chocolate chip, snack, cracker, cereal bags in place of using a commercial sandwich bag, or plastic wrap. My kids will open their lunches, and find a chocolate chip bag (with a homemade muffin inside), a Christmas candy bag (with a peanut butter sandwich inside), and a granola bar wrapper (with raisins inside). One day my son was taking a bag of what looked like Hallowe'en candy out of his lunch, much to the amusement of all his friends. But inside was a sandwich. For a few seconds, it looked like he was going to eat a bag of candy corn for his lunch.

    But even so, with efforts to minimize our waste, we still come up with a very full trash can of garbage every month. There are a few things that can't be reused or recycled, like meat packaging. And sometimes things like styrofoam takeout containers find their way into our house. I do know that some cities are beginning to ban styrofoam takeout containers and insist that take-out restaurants use cardboard instead.

    There's a lot of plastic wrap on grocery store items that didn;t used to be there. I remember a lot of items packaged in paper when I was young. Meat came on cardboard trays, bath tissue was wrapped in paper, produce bags were all paper, many people were comfortable not using produce bags at all, unless they needed to contain multiples of something (buying a bunch of mushrooms really, sort of needs a bag). Milk always came in returnable glass bottles, so did soda. Just kind of makes you think.

    1. It sounds like you are a really good reuser, and I need to get a bit more resourceful in reusing packaging.

  2. Congratulations to Live and Learn.

    Grocery shopping has definitely changed, unlike Lili, our meat was wrapped in freezer paper when we bought it and in some places still can be.

    Since I now shop for just one, it's easier to avoid the plastic bags. For instance in the produce section I buy loose items and don't wrap them in plastic. Setting 4 -5 potatoes on a conveyor belt is easier than 10 pounds. Unfortunately, the organic apples I buy this time of year can only be bought in a plastic bag. One tip I learned to save money when buying greens is to shake the water off that is sprayed on them so I don't pay for extra weight. Things like celery I just have them put right into my reusable bag after weighing them rather than bag it in plastic. When I get home I simply air dry any wetness I have from the produce then put the bag away.

    I do avoid the paper bags on potatoes as that's where cockroaches tend to live traveling across the country and with my phobia of roaches I want to be able to move things around to make sure I'm not bringing any home with me.

    Other than that, I try to avoid processed foods where I will encounter most of the packaging and make from scratch.

    I too tend to shop at the bulk stores for a lot of my staples. I can bring my own containers and avoid the plastic

    1. I've never seen a cockroach in veg packaging here, only in my halls of residence student kitchen many years ago but that's another story! I agree that the best way is to stop excessive waste in the home is to stop it coming in in the first place.

  3. Our council is about to change its bin policy - we used to sort general waste, garden waste, paper and card, plastic and tins, glass, batteries, textiles [yes SEVEN different categories] which were collected on different wednesdays. It's been a faff sorting it out, but I felt it was worth it.

    Now we are going over to just THREE - general, garden and 'recycling - but not glass' [and we can go to bottle bank with that] The 'plastic and tins' includes tetrapaks and plastics with the triangle logo [eg yogurt pots] I am hoping the simplified system will encourage more people to sort.

    blessings xx

    I agree with livingsimplyfree above -if I buy loose 'single item' produce in Sainsburys [eg butternut squash, melon] I will stick price label direct to fruit, and not put it in a bag. But I do resent all the plastic bags.

    1. We have a three bin system which works well and is easy from the user point of view.

  4. I have 'flip and tumble' bags - but they are easily made with some meshy fabric, and a draw cord. I use them for fruit and vege from the greengrocer. Can't remember the last time I used an itty bitty plastic bag from there. What gets me with waste is the 'easy' food - like frozen potatoes. Or Yogurt (even though some parts may or may not be recyclable, there's always some waste). And the plastic bag for my cereal, inside the box. I try to use the bulk bins, but the variety (for cereal) isn't great, and it's a bus trip vs 2 min walk to a normal store. Meat packaging I avoid by using a butcher, who puts things in my ice cream container. As I live alone, and only really cook for two, this works. IN any case, you can always take more containers if you're shopping for more people or stocking up. And I totally don't own cling/plastic wrap.

    1. The flip and tumble bags look good. I think I'm definitely going to try and concoct something. We don't have much bulk bin shopping locally. Well done on doing without cling film.

  5. Wow, I won! That doesn't happen very often. However, I think it would be better if you gave the prize to the next person in line that lives in the same country that you do. Thanks, though.

    1. Overseas postage is available as discussed by email! Happy you've agreed to accept your prize!