As a starting point, we needed to understand how much waste we were actually throwing away, so we started to weigh our bins each week, separating general rubbish from recyclable materials. We did this for a couple of months and calculated that each month we were throwing away, on average, 20kg of recyclable material and 50kg of general waste – that’s 240kg of recyclable material a year and 600kg of general waste for a family of four (including two children under 2). The most shocking part of this is that those staggering figures are significantly below average! British residents throw away 592kg of waste per person per year!
This was an interesting realization as it acted as a real motivator at home: simply put, we throw away our own body weight in rubbish every 6 to 7 weeks.
We took a closer look at the content of our bins and looked for the easiest fixes. Besides nappies, it was packaging from ready to eat meals and products bought online that were the most prevalent, so we started by focusing on those. Getting rid of ready to eat meals simply meant that we had to cook from scratch more, but getting rid of packaging when buying vegetables turned out to be difficult because of the lack of alternative options. In London, most vegetables are bought in supermarkets in a tray and plastic film; there are only few specialised vegetable shops or markets where all fruits and veggies can be bought loose. We even looked for specialized bulk markets where we could potentially buy other food items without packaging but again the options were very limited. There is one bulk retailer in the whole of London!
What came as the biggest barrier to reducing our waste was how time consuming it is. We have to travel further and to more places to find the products we need. The lack of alternative options only highlights the responsibility that retailers have in the transition to a more sustainable consumption. In the meantime we will keep exploring various solutions and I hope we will have significantly reduced our household waste by the time I write my next post!