Week 2: Why Hate Waste at Christmas
Starting 22 November
Welcome to week 2 of Love Christmas Hate Waste, how did you get on with the buy nothing (or very little) challenge last week?
This week we’re going to tell you a little bit about waste at Christmas and explain some of the terms you’ll find us using over the next few weeks…
The Christmas period means different things to everyone, whether it’s about family, food, presents or parties, the one thing it has in common for all of us is ’lots of stuff’ – extra food, extra shopping and extra waste! We are so busy with the traditions of the season that we sometimes fail to notice how much actually ends up in the bin and recycling boxes.
Working with rubbish and recycling, we see just how much there is to be collected from homes in the few weeks after Christmas. The graph below shows the amount of rubbish that was collected from homes and taken to local recycling sites in December 2012 and
In the week before Christmas 7,654 tonnes of rubbish was thrown away from homes in West London (London Boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow and Richmond) but in the first full week in January this increased to just over 9500 tonnes and the following week there was even more with just over 10,128 tonnes!
Okay, but what do these numbers actually mean? A tonne is 1000kg so the weight of all the rubbish collected in the 2 weeks after Christmas was just over 19,650,000kg. A Ford Fiesta (depending on the model) weighs about 1 tonne, making the rubbish collected after Christmas the equivalent weight of 19,650 Ford Fiestas!
What do we mean?
We going to keep using the words waste and rubbish, and will soon start talking about reduce, re-use and recycle as well but these generally mean different things to everyone So to help us avoid confusing you (and ourselves) in future weeks and to give you a guide to refer back to here is an explanation of some terms we may use.
For us this is about not putting something in the bin or not putting as much in the bin.
Using an item that has been used before, you may have used it before or someone else might have done. You might be re-using it for the purpose it was made or originally used or for something else.
The process of recycling is about changing the shape of something and making it in to something new. You will recycle by putting an item in to a bin, box or bag. Then a company will undertake a process to make something brand new.
This is anything you throw in your rubbish bin or bag. When we’re talking about rubbish we do not mean items you put in your recycling collections.
We’re going to try and only use this word to suggest there was a better use for something. We could say “it’s a waste of time” or “it’s money wasted” or “a waste of a bottle” – to try and express our feeling that something more valuable could have happened.
What’s rubbish worth?
Everything you throw away costs you money or time in three different ways –
- you paid money for them (yes that includes packaging!)
- your time and effort has been used to shop for them, prepare or wrap them and space in your home has been used.
- your council tax pays to have the items collected from your home or local Household Re-use and Recycling Centre and sent either to landfill or for recycling.
Each year the tax on sending a tonne of rubbish to landfill increases by £8, if we keep rubbish levels in West London the same this costs an extra £3million each year.
But what’s it worth to your purse or wallet? Want to find out – well here’s how you can!
Explore your rubbish
We’d like you to measure or record it for the next week (and if you feel like it – every week!). You could measure it every time you take the rubbish out of the house or the night before your next collection.
Choose one of the ways you could do this:
Record the volume
Count the number of bags, and check how full your recycling boxes are. Record this (a scrap piece of paper or the back of an unwanted envelope would be fine) and put it on your fridge or noticeboard as a reminder.
|Rubbish bin or black sacks||Recycling||Food waste recycling|
|Week 1||3 black bags and 1 plastic bag||Black box – full Blue box – half full||1 compostable liner|
|Week 2||Bin is half full||Garden waste sack – one third full 5cm deep||none|
If you want a more precise measure you could weigh your rubbish. Place your black bags and recycling bag/box on the scales and record the weight of each bag/box.
- Wrap your bathroom or kitchen scales in a plastic bag to keep them clean and dry.
- If you put your recycling loose into a wheeled bin to make it easy to measure out it in plastic bags on the scale and empty the recycling into your bin.
Look at what is already in your bin
If you’re feeling brave you could take a look to see exactly what’s already in your bin. Before you do this, please change in to clothing you don’t mind getting a little messy, if something in your bin is damp or has spilled you could end up with it on your clothes. It’s a good idea to do this outside and put down a large plastic sheet before emptying your bin bags and sifting through it with your rubber gloves on. But you could simply put on your marigolds and have a root around whilst the bag is still in your bin for a quicker and easier alternative.
Write down the items that feature in your bin and start to have a think about how you could reduce or re-use these items. Ask us for a bit of advice or post on the Facebook page and see if others taking the challenge can assist with some good ideas
Record what you’re throwing away
A less messy thing to do is to record items as you throw them away. Put a piece of paper on or next to your bin so you can put a tally mark on it as you throw something away. Have a quick think and draw up a table listing the most common things you think are in your bin and just put a mark against them when you throw it away. Items could include – plastic film from magazines, cling film, foil, cotton wool, disposable nappies and bottle tops.
Record food going in the bin
If you don’t fancy looking at everything in your bin, you could focus on food. We know that up to 40% of the content of a bin bag is food and throwing away food costs many households up to £60 a month. Whether it’s peelings, out of date food or what was left on the plate after dinner there will be some food that ends up in the bin or in the food recycling collection. Use our 7-day food waste diary to see what doesn’t get eaten.
Something to do this week
- Have a look at what you’re currently throwing in your bin and how much you’re recycling. If you find you’re throwing a lot away consider taking part in The Rubbish Diet, it’s now in Harrow and they have their very own Bin Doctor. Originally undertaken by Karen Cannard in 2008 to reach zero waste, you can join in the challenge and start with the basics of seeing what is in your rubbish. If you don’t live in Harrow don’t worry, West London Waste will help you with your very own Rubbish Diet, we’ll publish more details after Christmas…
- Reduce how much rubbish is in your bin by recycling a little bit more. If you’re not sure what you can put in your recycling collection check out your local council recycling web pages – Brent, Ealing, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow or Richmond.
- Start collecting some of the things you normally throw away that could be re-used to package Christmas presents. For example padded envelopes, newspapers, bubble wrap, glass jars with lids. We’ll be talking about wrapping next week when we look at gift lists.