Can we live a zero-waste lifestyle?
This week, residents in one part of London are attempting to get through a whole week without throwing away any rubbish that can't be reused, recycled or composted.
Sound easy? Think again. It might be just seven days, but the North London Waste Authority's (NLWA) <i>Watch Your Waste Week</i> challenge is tougher than you might think.
After signing up for the challenge, I quickly realised how easy it is to throw rubbish without even thinking about it.
I measured my weekly rubbish in a normal week before the challenge started, and found that once recyclables were taken out, I was left with a (slightly bulging) carrier bag full.
Not bad, I thought to myself. Surely it would be easy to cut that down to nothing? How wrong I was.
The night before the challenge was due to start, I took myself off to a well-known organic food chain with branches across London thinking that surely they would have considered the environmental consequences of packaging.
Sadly, they haven't. Although the prices reflected their wholesome organic reputation, the amount of packaging certainly didn't.
Eventually, I left there disappointed, with my purse nearly £7 lighter and a (canvas) bag containing just one loaf of bread in a brown paper bag, a tin of coconut milk and some eco-friendly washing liquid in eco-friendly packaging.
Day 1 dawned, and I realised straight away that I hadn't thought this through as I tried to make my essential morning cup of tea.
Not having a compost heap – or access to one given that I live in a second-floor flat – I decided I'd better forgo tea so that I don't have to throw out the teabag. I'd normally get through about 30 a week, and being unable to live without caffeine, I've had to switch to coffee instead.
I also realised I couldn't use the dishwasher anymore, as all the dishwasher tablets come in little plastic packets.
Lunch is proving to be the biggest problem so far, as all my usual sandwich fillings, biscuits, cereal bars and yoghurts come in plastic packaging.
Hunger got on the better of me at 4pm on the first day and I succumbed to the temptation of the office vending machine, only realising an hour later that my Crunchie wrapper isn't exactly recyclable.
Despite being pretty hungry by the evening, dinner consisted of just a tin of soup, as at least that can go in the recycling. If nothing else, I might lose some <i>waist</i> doing this.
By Day 2 the lunch problems were definitely starting to get worse, as the leftovers in the fridge that I'd been taking to work in Tupperware pots had dwindled to just a small amount.
Although an apple core could usually be composted, I also had to add that to the waste pile until I can find somewhere to compost.
I also jotted a phone message down on a Post It note, when I later screwed up and threw away before wondering whether Post Its are recyclable. After a Google search failed to answer that query, I had to consign it to the rubbish pile to be on the safe side.
After two days, the waste tallied one plastic Crunchie wrapper, 1 piece of cardboard (contaminated by food so unrecyclable), 1 apple core, 1 Post It and two pieces of cotton wool (from taking off my make-up).Kate Martin