Monday 8 June 2020

Lockdown Day 77 - Small Steps - Part 1

In this blog I mention a few small steps that most people can take to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable in their everyday lives. Now, not all changes will possible for all people, whether that be through location, accommodation type, financial ability and so on, but it is my opinion that everyone can do something.

1. Recycle all you can. Look at what a product is packaged in when making the purchase.

This can be difficult. Not all councils collect all types of currently recycled material. Some may be doorstep collected but some may need to be taken to a collecting point, whether that be at a supermarket or car park, or council waste centre, which may be some distance away. However, we currently recycle the following at some point:

  • Plastic bottles including milk, shampoo and fabric softener bottles 

(we rarely get plastic milk bottles as we use a milkman)

  • Plastic yoghurt pots, margarine tubs (I am a bit disappointed that there's not many recyclable yoghurt pot lids yet)
  • plastic food trays
  • Plastic chocolate boxes - we always try to choose Easter eggs that have the minimum of packaging or have recyclable packaging.
  • Clean ready meal trays (plastic or foil) - very rare we get a ready meal but at least we can recycle the package should we need to
  • Empty aerosols (I think there is just the shaving foam for my legs but at least it can be recycled!)
  • Glass bottle and jars
  • Clean foil  including takeaway containers (not often we have a takeaway but as well as recycling, we have used some of the clear plastic rectangular tubs you often get curries in for our own leftovers in the freezer. 
  • Empty tins and cans

I was going to start recycling crisp packets via this scheme (which covers a lot of other recycling options as well) but my nearest collection points are schools at least four miles away and given the current coronavirus restrictions it would, I think, be a mistake to go calling at a school with these just now. 

Tetra Paks - we take to a collection point at a Askham Bar Tesco near York, there's quite a lot of collection points for these at many supermarkets. 

Milk Bottles - we send back to the milkman

Paper and Card - doorstep collection

Boxes have a variety of second uses although we do recycle some. 

Yoghurt pots also have a second life with us as plant pots, with a hole drilled in the bottom. Similarly for cottage cheese pots. 

Batteries and electrical equipment and light bulbs - should we need to dispose of any - go to our council recycling centre. 

Jiffy bags have a second life used for sending out presents and other post. 

However, it is better to try and not use plastic in the first place - we get most of our vegetables and fruit from a farm shop and a greengrocer in paper bags and those we get from a supermarket we use paper bags for or end up really annoying (not deliberately) the checkout assistant with lots of loose fruit as we have some padded bags that we put apples or oranges in to protect them on the way home!

There doesn't seem to be a way of not getting meat wrapped in plastic or in a plastic bag from our butcher (unless we were to take our own containers) and in any case we often buy in bulk so need plastic bags for meat put into the freezer. 

As you can see, even just covering recycling there are sometimes compromises to be made - for instance getting our meat from a local butcher supplied by farms within a few miles radius is of course a really good thing, but then it uses plastic that can't be recycled easily.

All our waste vegetable and fruit peelings, stalks etc go into composting. Some councils have food waste bins that cover a wider set of food waste.  

Hopefully it will be back open again soon, but we had started using a zero-waste shop (which used to be known as "scoop shops") near where I work for loose dried fruit, pasta, rice and other dried goods. These are often fairly good value too. 

Re-use of items, turning them into something new, is also good if you have the skills or opportunity - this blog covers a few things that we have re-used. A long time ago an old upholstered chair got turned into a dolls' house three piece suite! Old worn out clothes can be used for rags, used for patching (or indeed doll's clothes if you have children!) or to make a face mask, or can be sent to rag recycling via various charities that then get some money for them. Of course any still sell-able clothes can be donated to charity shops along with bric-a-brac and many other items. I am really quite happy to be part of that process of the circular economy in my job in a charity shop and we can also send away for recycling many items that can't be sold - damaged clothes, sharp knives, broken silver/gold jewellery and some other items that we can't sell for a variety of safety reasons, and receive some money for these. 

I appreciate that this can take a little bit of forethought and remembering to separate things out, which can take a few minutes, but we only generally one third fill our household general waste bin every fortnight. Some people go a long further into the zero waste methodology than we do, but we do look for ways in which we can improve - like I said, everyone can do something for sustainability and the environment!

In Part 2 I look at local food options. 

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