Week 18 – Recycling regroup

When we began our rubbish free challenge we tried to clarify as much as possible exactly what we are able to recycle through the kerbside collection scheme – a task that proved to be quite difficult. We spoke to various people at the city council and ultimately received an invitation to visit the city recycling plant five weeks into our challenge. For those first five weeks we worked on the understanding that we could only recycle glass, cans, paper, number 1 and 2 plastic and supermarket plastic bags. At the plant we were encouraged to continue with this and saw first hand how cleaning containers and leaving the lids off greatly affected the quality and weight of what goes into a shipping container. Then we were also told that other plastic ‘bag’ like materials were also recyclable (carry bags, bread bags, gladwrap, cheese packaging etc, see blog week 5). This suddenly made our challenge a whole lot easier, but because we had already sewn cotton bags for fruit and vege etc and were already in the habit of making bread, we didn’t change a lot… initially. Over the last couple of months we’ve bought more and more bread, a pack of bacon and a long awaited block of cheese (when a friend who had been making cheese for us discovered, at the end of a two month process, that it had gone rancid).

Last week, however, the fair weather ended. A gentleman from the recycling marketing division called to say we had been misinformed and that the only bags they accept for recycling are supermarket bags. Apparently other types of plastic bags can contaminate the plastic they sell and jeopardise their overseas markets for it. We are of course very keen to follow the official party line when it comes to recycling, and so will go with this proclamation. I’ll have to call my unpredictable cheese making mate and urge him to get back on the horse.

But this story has an interesting twist in the tail. Yesterday we learned of a Christchurch man, Matthew Darby, who has developed a machine that can recycle any type of plastic into shipping pallets. The process involves warming the plastic so that it can be molded, whilst not heating it so much that gases are produced (www.rangeindustries.com). The irony is he can’t get enough recycled plastic – because it all gets shipped off overseas. Both Mr Darby and the city’s recycling plant want our discarded plastic to turn into profit. One picks up from the kerbside, but the other is locally based and takes everything. Hmmmm decisions, decisions. It seems so weird that there is actually competition for our plastic ‘rubbish’ and we have choices as to who to bless it with! However, we have decided to continue the challenge using the kerbside recycling service as our preference has always been to reduce and reuse rather than to buy whatever we wanted just because we could recycle it.

Week Two – Dinner for Eight

Despite having three degrees and numerous post-grad quals behind us, Waveney and I are still struggling to understand the rudimentary basics of how cyberspace works, and have now, sub-consciously at least, retreated into a wonderful world of internet ignorance. Because psychotherapy has yet to free us from this state, we have relied heavily on two very good friends to help us create our website, leading us to throw a dinner party to thank these wonderful saviours – Geoff and Fi – and also to celebrate the start of Rubbish Free Year.

The idea of a rubbish free dinner party wasn’t actually that frightening. However, the anxiety levels were raised slightly with the realisation that not only did it need to be rubbish free, but also gluten, yeast, dairy and potato free, in order to cater for the dietary requirements of our guests who are also predisposed to a fish eating, vegetarian state of mind. Rubbish Free Year so far, has been sending us down a path of simplicity, with many of the solutions to problems actually being quite simple, the obvious example being to reduce buying things that create waste in the first place. Therefore, this was the approach we took to the dinner party. Cucumber mixed with mint, and tomatoes mixed with basil, made two salads from ingredients found within our garden. Wild rice with various nuts met the carb needs of the meal and for the central dish we went to the fish monger who wrapped a whole salmon in paper (without any cellotape holding it down) which we stuffed with lemons and garlic and cooked in foil (our scrap metal dealer takes foil once cleaned) for 30mins. So all in all the evening was very successful.

This week we received good news on two fronts – cheese and cleanliness. A friend has contacted us and in return for us supplying the milk and some loaves of bread, he is going to make us a block of cheese – gotta love bartering and we’re looking forward to lasagna! Also we received some amazing 100% natural handmade soap this week from Kathryn Bellamy. She is a soap maker from Masterton and her packaging is brilliant – brown paper with string. The soap looks and smells beautiful, Kathryn is contactable at alchemist@goddess.co.nz.

Jan 19 Post

Yesterday we went to Bin Inn and did a mammoth shop. I have been lamenting all the extra time needed to shop for food at various local stores when I realized that all of the stuff we buy at Bin Inn are dry goods. So yesterday we bought enough for a month. Hopefully. We bought all sorts of things that I think I know what they are but I actually don’t. We bought pinhead oatmeal, polenta (flour from corn), wheatgerm, wheatbran and stoneground wholemeal flour. With it we will make muesli bars, Irish bread, tortillas and naan. We also bought lentils, chickpeas, cous cous and black beans for dinners; sugar, raisins, sunflower seeds, peanuts and porridge oats; and stacks of baking soda and salt for cleaning etc. A month’s worth for only $65

I have never soaked beans before, and my recipe for cheesy bean burritos said I needed one can of black beans, so I guessed that half a can of dry beans might equal a can of ready to go ones. I think my beans are still expanding and I have well over a cans worth. I’ll try one third next time.Today I went to the Farmers Market in Lyttleton, it was small but had lots of fresh produce, speciality breads, cheeses etc. I had gone hoping to find cheese and honey. The honey I found, 2kg of clover for $11, in a white plastic tub. The guy encourages people to bring their old container back by giving a $1 discount on the next one. I didn’t find any cheese for us though. This means our burritos wont be very cheesy tonight. Tomorrow I might go to Riccarton Market. Fingers crossed. I am really missing cheese!!

We also popped into Piko, (our local organic store) to get detergent, and toilet paper, then a really quick stop at Pak n Save for cans of tomato and corn and some spices. (We can buy spices at Bin Inn but buying the Gregg’s cardboard box range saves time) Again, we bought at least a month’s supply in both of these places. Its good news is how cheap everything is turning out, we really only need to buy fruit and vege now, so we are hoping it will turn out a lot cheaper than the old regime.

Researching Alternatives

In the lead up to the Rubbish Free Year challenge we are of course trying to create as little rubbish as possible, but there is a persistent myriad of mostly plasticy things filling our bin. The following catergorises the offending items into food, toiletries, stationery and misc. Looking at both the problem and the solution.

Food

Food relentlessly reappears as a rubbish problem every week. Food packaging is our household’s biggest contributor to the landfill, (the food itself is easily dealt with). We have so far come up with several ways of obtaining food without its non-recyclable packaging.

Product comparison: By simply comparing products a solutions may be found. For example I thought buying herbs and spices would require sourcing bulk produce, but upon closer inspection I realized that Gregg’s cardboard box range is completely plastic free. Another problem I assumed was moisturizer, but once I actually checked a few I found one large recyclable plastic #2 bottle that I think should see out the year (or more). Consider loose fruit and veg (with your own bags), tins rather than frozen, glass jars rather than plastic.

Bulk food stores: To make the most of these places you need to be well organised (which we aren’t yet!). Places like Bin Inn provide plastic bags (which defeats the purpose) but its pretty easy to reuse bags or make your own more durable ones. I am also taking my own containers, and refilling with its original contents, e.g refilling an olive oil bottle with olive oil. I am still looking around op shops for big glass jars suitable for housing rice etc. Our local Bin Inn was a place I had meant to go for years, even now we still haven’t actually shopped there, as it seems like such a big deal. But it will be a life saver next year; aside from items like dried fruit, seeds, nuts, flours, rice, pasta they also have honey, jam, soy sauce, bleach, spray n wipe, jif, liquid hand soap… If ‘ethical’, ‘local’, and ‘organic’ are music to your ears then you could try out your local eco grocery store too, we can get a wide range at our local, Piko Wholefoods (corner Kilmore and Barbadoes) http://www.pikowholefoods.co.nz/

Butcher, Baker, Green Grocer: Smaller stores seem to be easier on the packaging. I imagine they would be happy let you take their produce away in your own container, or in something recyclable.

Farmer’s Markets and Organic vege box: A great way to avoid packaging is to get it straight from the source. We are hoping to get cheese this way – because anything else will be a no go. Its cheaper, fresher, local… its all good. If you can get on to a Vege Box Delivery scheme in your neighbourhood then thats the easiest thing of all.

Baking: If all else fails!!! We both like preparing and eating home made food, we just struggle to get organized and to find the time. Things that will fall into this category will be: biscuits, cake, muesli bars, hummus, pesto. We are thinking of having an evening once a week allocated to the task. See how we go, so far I have at least gone out and bought baking tins and measuring equipment…

Abstinence: Yup, there will be certain yummy things that we may just have to do with out 😦

Toiletries

• Toothpaste and deodorant: We found almost 100% recyclable packaging with a natural health companies products, Weleda (bought at the wholefood store).

• Toothbrush: Don’t know yet.

• Toilet paper: So far have just found one company using paper to package, Safe (available at the wholefood store)

• Soap: easy enough to buy in paper, having to by single bars though. Trade Aid soap is packaged in recycled paper and a little waxed paper bag. Cheap too.

• Shampoo and Conditioner: Check for recyclable plastic, or use bulk dispensers. Some quite good brands are available.

• Dental Floss: Don’t know yet.

• Headache pills: Don’t know yet. But honey is good. So is sleep and having a stress free life!

• Shaving: Electric Shaver or blade shave (wow)

• Period products: Mooncup (reuseable cup, comfortable and convenient) washable pads. (I haven’t researched either of these properly yet but I am sure you can buy it all online.

• Make up: check for recyclable packaging. Use less? Google what Cleopatra used? Ask your grandma?

Stationery

• The humble pencil is simple genius

• Pens with refillable cartridges, not disposable ones

• No vivids (permanent markers), try pen, pencil or paint.

• No felt tip pens, try colouring pencils, crayons etc (artist quality products have excellent colours and will last for years)

• Blutack, metal drawing pins and paper clips

• Wooden rulers, steel staplers, card ring-binders etc

• No twink (correction fluid). What did people do before twink?

• No sticky tapes, except for masking tape

• Real brown string, not plastic string

Misc.

In addition to most of the short life span items mentioned above, there are other slow rotating items, that will, over the course of a year give up, empty out, wear out, and break down. Batteries are a great example, instead of continually throwing them we bought a recharger (only $30 on Trade Me). But this is a huge category of products that we are only very recently starting to think about. Many things that used to last for decades, even a life time are now so cheap, and poorly made that we almost think of them as disposable, think about paintbrushes, buckets, seed trays, shoes, water bottles and other longer lasting things like electric jugs, toasters, toys, electronics and clothes. Next time we replace something if we can afford it we will buy quality, non plastic products that might just last us a life time. And if its non plastic its probably recyclable when it does break down. If we can’t afford it we could try buying second hand, to save something from the land fill, and we can sell it if /when we get the money to buy something better.