Zero Waste - but with just one slip-up

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WHEN I floated the idea of slimming our bin at home, the room fell silent...then came hoots of derision and slow acceptance of the journey ahead.

For my part, when I mentioned the idea to Bury’s recycling queen – and soon-to-be Bury Free Press columnist – Karen Cannard, I did so very tentatively. I’m a child of the 1960s and black bin liners were something you piled up for burly binmen to sling in the back of their dustcart back then.

In the 60s and 70s, we recycled, but it just wasn’t called that. I recall wearing some of my sister’s hand-me-downs. I inherited her Raleigh Shopper. We had chickens who mopped up food waste and produced edible replacements. We grew fruit, vegetables, had a greenhouse and mum made preserves galore. Dad would bring back pheasants, hares, partridges and rabbits and we even grew our own mushrooms one year. This was The Good Life before Richard Briers had even met Felicity Kendall.

Then came the late 70s, 80s and 90s and we simply got out of the habit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to start bringing home roadkill from the A14, although there are a few rather large pigeons which often strut across my lawn...

No, when I thought about Zero Waste Week and what we could achieve as a family, I felt a real challenge to do well and to cut down the number of black bags you may recall from my bin a fortnight ago.

Well I have good news to report – and news of an ‘incident’ which derailed the good intentions for a while.

Monday was the start of 2012’s Zero Waste Week and on Tuesday, out went my black wheelie bin a lot lighter than usual. There have been days when I’ve had to really squish the bags down to get them in – but our efforts have been rewarded with just a third of a 50 litre bin bag of landfill rubbish. This was the remains of three tea-times of over-cooking and last week’s ‘incident’.

The ‘incident’ in question related to a rather nice traybake. We had been to Bury Market and bought some asparagus, spring onions and broccoli, all carried home in a reusable bag (you get the idea). That baked away with some salmon and produced a lovely smell on Saturday evening. I prepared a bed of noodles and was just serving up when the whole tray decided to crash to the floor, food and porcelain everywhere. Without the ‘incident’, our bin would have been even slimmer.

The effort to get to this place has been fairly reasonable. A bit more washing up, three trips to the Rougham Hill Household Waste Centre and the results have been amazing. We’ve even discussed getting rid of the shiny 50-litre Brabantia kitchen bin.

My difficult areas have been food waste, vacuum cleaner contents, chewing gum and some plastics. I’ve since found answers to two of those – so this year’s theme of each of us finding One More Thing to recycle has been met.

It hasn’t been without incident and it has taken a shift in behaviour, but if my family can come out the other end with one third of a bin bag full of rubbish, there’s hope for the planet yet.

If you’ve been inspired, tickled or just want to find out more about slimming your bin and recycling in general, have a look at