Was it possible for Hedgerley to become a zero-waste home? It astonished and depressed me how much waste our household created. Several bags went to the recycling centre each week, some for recycling (half-good/half-bad, since some of these materials could be re-used, but only with much human effort and at an energy cost) and some for landfill (all bad).
It seemed unlikely we could ever achieve a zero-waste target, but I thought we should at least try reducing the amount of damage we did. Maybe reduce our landfill rubbish by 50% in the next 3 months? And maybe, by the end of a year, notch this down a further 25%?
I had no idea how much sooner the number of waste bags would actually start to fall!
I began the process last Tuesday, by discussing the idea with the other members of the household. We had long ago organised three different containers for kitchen waste – one for compost, a second for recyclable materials and a third for landfill – so now I started to make a smaller version of this trio for the rest of our household rubbish.
First step, find three small wastebins. Easy. We’ve always had an inordinate number of wastebins, one in each room, and one even in the corridor and another in the walk-in closet. Come to think of it, we’ve always had an ordinate number of wastebins around every house we’ve ever owned. After buying our first house, we had no money left for beds, chairs or tables. A small square of cloth spread on the living room floor was our dining table till well after our first child was born. But each empty room, with its naked lightbulb, had a wastepaper basket without fail.
I guess it was an early warning to ourselves not to accumulate too much. Yet all that has changed over the years. Now we have more beds, tables and chairs than we could shake a stick at. How this change came about is another story.
These days, we typically fill three medium-sized white plastic bin liners each Thursday, two of recyclable materials and one of landfill, and take these to the wheelie bins at the end of the long path through the woods to the main road, or down to the recycling centre a mile or so from our house. (And sometimes there are additional post-weekend bags on a Monday too.)
So how full were our bags this Thursday? Instead of the usual two bags of stuff for recycling, there was just half a bag. Result! And how full was the landfill rubbish bag? That was the crunch question.
We didn’t have a landfill bag this Thursday. How come not? Because there wasn’t any landfill rubbish to put in it.
It hadn’t taken a year, or even three months. There had been a huge change overnight. Ok, over three nights. Of course last week might not have been a representative week, and we may not have solved the landfill question in the best possible way. But still…!
In the next thrilling instalment, I’ll explain how this astonishing change came about.