My household is not a zero waste household by any stretch of the imagination, but it is most definitely a reduced waste one as we have strived to throw away less and less over time. It doesn’t always go to plan though and I’ve put together a list of how to avoid these easy to make zero waste fails!
- Food left in the oven accidentally overnight. Sometimes I put bread dough in a warm oven to leave it to rise or I leave food in it after I have finished cooking to keep it warm but then for whatever reason it gets forgotten about and left in there overnight. It is so frustrating because it is such a waste of food and money! Nowadays if I leave food in the oven after I’ve cooked it I set the timer so it will beep and remind me to take the food out of the oven.
- Freezer door problems. Freezer doors don’t beep like fridge doors do when they haven’t been shut properly. Sometimes something obstructs a freezer door from closing and it can get left open by accident. Always make sure there are no obstructions that could prevent the freezer door from shutting properly (a particular problem for us was things being stored in the freezer door space). If you are likely to forget stick a sign on the freezer to make sure you will do it!
- Putting leftovers in the fridge and then not getting around to eating them in time. I have found most of the time it is far better to freeze leftovers straight away because then you can use them again at your leisure.
- Eating stuff because you don’t want it to go to waste. I’m a firm believer that if I don’t need it or want it, then eating it is just as much of a waste as putting it in the compost. I try to avoid making too much by weighing out things like rice and pasta. I try to avoid serving too much, by not putting all of it on plates straight away, so if there are leftovers they are less likely to be scraped off the plates. If there is leftover food on the plate though I put it in the compost bin or sometimes (depending how much of it there is) I put it in a container for the next day.
- Putting things in the recycling that probably shouldn’t go in there. I feel better about putting something in the recycling than in the bin, but it is really important to follow the rules about recycling. This is because otherwise it can contaminate a batch and means that the whole batch needs to be chucked away – a massive waste and so upsetting if you have gone the extra mile to recycle! Play it safe by following these recycling rules:
- Follow your councils rules! Only put the stuff in the recycling that the council says you can and make sure you put things in the right places – this means using the right bins for the right things e.g. separating out the different types of waste as per your councils instructions. For ages I thought I was following the rules by putting batteries in a separate bag, but I put them in with my paper and card recycling, when I was meant to leave them on top of the bin. I really hope it didn’t cause any problems!
- Make sure it is clean! Before you put it in the recycling wash out jars and tins and avoid putting paper and cardboard that has any food remains on it in there.
- Double check that it is what you think it is! What seems like paper and card actually may have thin layers of plastic in it and often wrapping paper can’t be recycled especially if it is covered in glitter.
- Composting stuff that shouldn’t be composted. Only natural fibres are biodegradable and can be put on your compost heap – synthetic fibres should be sent to landfill. This means that if there is a possibility your dryer lint, the contents of your hoover or a holey piece of fabric might contain synthetic fibres then it is best to throw them away. On the other hand if you know that they only contain natural fibres, you can put them on your compost heap. Getting to know what fabrics your carpet, clothes and soft furnishings are made of will help with this!
- Trying to do it all at once and feeling overwhelmed. At times I have found some zero waste activities completely out of my comfort zone. I think the best way to approach being zero waste is to take it one step at a time and if something seems like too much at any point stop doing it. Do the easy things first, congratulate yourself on your successes and come back to the things that seem tricky another time. It is important not to get too overwhelmed as otherwise it is much more likely that you will feel like quitting altogether.
- Rushing out and buying the kit. Before you start buying reusable bottles, bamboo toothbrushes and reusable lunch boxes, spend some time reading a few reviews. I prefer to go for plastic free options, but glass breaks and metal dents and if they don’t last that long it isn’t really a zero waste option in the end. You have to find the material that is right for you! Biodegradable brushes may have non-biodegrable bristles and if something says BPA free, but still contains plastic, it doesn’t mean it is necessarily safe to use. Also take a look around your own home to see what you can make use of already before rushing out and buying something new.
- I forgot! It is so easy to forget to take your bags to the shops, to forget to say no straw please, to forget to take a reusable mug with you and so on. With the reusable bag problem there are various solutions – leave them everywhere you might need one and replace them when you are done. You could do the same with the mugs and the straws. Also I mainly shop in local shops and I have made such a big deal about using my own bags I would actually feel embarrassed to buy stuff from them without them now.
- They forgot! You asked for no bag or no straw but you got given one anyway. Visual prompts help – I sometimes take my kids plastic straws that they got from parties (but rarely use) and show them to the waiter or waitress when I ask for no straws please (it helps to remind me too!).
What are your zero waste fails? Have any of these things happened to you? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!