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Zero Waste Week: the Finale

Phew. That was an interesting week, but I’m glad it’s over!

What do you think?!

Before I go into what’s in all the bins in a little more detail, I thought I’d start with the positives and share some of the good stuff we managed to do.

Firstly, I want to tell you about our Zero Waste beer discovery. We went to a friend’s birthday a couple of months back and met a guy who was really into his beer, and had his own draught beer in refillable bottles. I don’t drink beer but my boyfriend does, and I love zero waste, so I got chatting to him about it.

It turns out that there’s a beer shop in Perth that sells draught beer in returnable containers. They have up to 8 beers on tap (the selection changes), and they have 1litre or 2litre glass refillable containers. You pay a deposit for the container, buy the beer per litre, and once it’s finished you can return the bottle and buy a refill.

The machine uses carbon dioxide so the sealed bottles last a couple of months. Once open, they need drinking within 24 hours. My boyfriend assures me that won’t be a problem!

Beer Fridge Side
Beer Guy
waste free beer poured

We’ve bought two 1 litre containers. The shop is quite close to where my boyfriend’s parents live, so we’re confident we should be able to get there reasonably often. Unfortunately in the excitement my boyfriend managed to finish off the beer before Zero Waste Week actually began, but it was the challenge that forced us to go and check the place out, so it still deserves a mention!

My boyfriend headed to our local farmers market at the weekend for eggs (we shop here as the seller takes back the empty boxes for re-using) and this mystery Christmassy-looking sack:Bulk macadamias returnable sack

Intrigued? Can you guess what’s inside?
Bulk macadamias

No, not Maltesers. Macadamia nuts!

We bought a macadamia nut cracker a while back (they need a heavier duty nut cracker than other nuts) so that we could crack our own nuts. These shelled macadamia nuts are $5.50/kg and locally grown. There’s nothing better than buying local. I chatted to the guy and he said he can take the sack back for reusing.

nutcracker

My toothbrush-soaking experiment was a success. After soaking for 12 hours, i was able to pull all off the bristles out. Interestingly, I discovered each bristle clump is held in place by a tiny piece of metal. As I lack a compost bin, the bamboo handle is heading for the worm farm. I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to eat it, but if I leave it long enough it might decompose. Seems silly to buy bamboo toothbrushes and send them to landfill.

Bamboo toothbrush parts

That was the good news; here’s the bit about the waste we generated. Trying to commit to zero waste is hard work – even if I have the best of intentions, the world around me hasn’t quite got the message. Particularly the postman. Not that it’s his fault, of course, but on Friday a whole heap of letters arrived in the mail. More envelope windows and unnecessary paper. Plus one item was wrapped in plastic!

ZeroWasteWeek post

I finished off our honey, which left me with an empty jar. I buy things in jars very rarely, and probably generate less than one jar a month. But this jar was emptied this week, so I thought I’d mention it, even though it’s not technically waste as I save the jars for reusing.

Zeo Waste Week empty Jar

The Zero Waste Week Bin Audit

In one week, here’s what we generated:

The worm farm caddy: this took all the kitchen scraps excluding onion and citrus peel, eggshells and any bulky.food waste. I also put scrap paper like envelopes, toilet roll tubes, cotton buds, hair and floor sweepings. In one week this container was completely filled. I’m not sure the worm farm could cope with that much organic matter every week, however.

The bokashi bin: this took the citrus peel, onion skins, eggshells and bulky food waste that didn’t fit in the worm farm caddy. There’s still plenty of room left so I think I’ll be able to keep using this for several weeks before it’s at capacity.

The recycling bin: in addition to the wine bottle from Wednesday, we gained another wine bottle at the weekend. There is also a handful of receipts, some glossy paper from the post extravaganza that I didn’t want to put in the worm farm, and a milk bottle top.

The rubbish bin: we reduced this to a handful of plastic toothbrush bristles and the plastic milk bottle label. I’m not sure whether this would be recyclable, so it went in the bin.

I thought it might be interesting to break down what plastic we consumed this week:

The plastic tally:

1 x milk bottle top (metal lid but plastic lined)
1 x milk bottle label
Toothbrush bristles
One plastic wrapper covering an item we received in the post (it was promotional material, but was addressed to us).

The milk bottle lid goes for recycling, as does the plastic bag (our local supermarket has a bin for plastic bags and food packaging, so what little we get we save up and take there).

In fact, this is our third collection of plastic since the start of January this year:

plastic waste

Zero Waste Week: What I Learned

This challenge wasn’t easy, and it took a lot of extra effort to reduce our waste to this level. It isn’t something we could currently keep up longer than a week or so either. We deliberately didn’t buy things that we knew would generate extra waste – fine for a week but not practical long-term.

So what were the big lessons?

  • We use too much paper. We get too many receipts, we receive too much in the mail, and it just seems to miraculously appear. Paper also makes the flat look messy, so if we can reduce our paper use, we can have a tidier flat. Definitely something to work on!
  • I’m not going back to sending food scraps to landfill. I’m going to investigate whether I can use the local school compost bin, or figure out a system for making the bokashi bin a permanent fixture. I just can’t send all that potential compost to landfill!
  • There’s nothing like a challenge to force you to do all those things you’ve been meaning to do but never quite get round to!

Now I want to hear from you! How do you think I did? Did you try a Zero Waste Week too, or are you tempted to give it a go? Do you have any other tips or ideas to keep waste down? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

The weekend and the washing

laundryjpgI had a really great weekend. Friday night sushi and a rare trip to the theatre with my boyfriend (Death of a Salesman by the Black Swan State Theatre Company), a Saturday afternoon afternoon trip to Fremantle then dinner with friends on Saturday night, and lunch with family on Sunday afternoon. Busy, fantastic company, amazing food, loads of fun. Read more