The Sequel to “How to Live a Rubbish Free Life”
After 6 months in the new house, the bin-less situation is still working well. We have made some additional swaps and changes which have reduced the wastage further and this in turn has led to a decrease in recycling centre visits. These changes have been small, mostly painless and not terribly time-consuming (at least in […]
After 6 months in the new house, the bin-less situation is still working well. We have made some additional swaps and changes which have reduced the wastage further and this in turn has led to a decrease in recycling centre visits. These changes have been small, mostly painless and not terribly time-consuming (at least in our household – luckily my working hours make local shopping easier).
I recently found a book called ‘Get Rid of your Bin‘ written in 2009 by Féidhlim Harty. It sums up a lot of the changes we’ve been trying to make in the house and explains the logic far more eloquently than I can. The main message that I’ve taken away from both our bin-less experiment and from reading Harty’s book is awareness. For example, he explains that ‘…seeing the connection between what we purchase and what we pay in terms of disposal is a matter of re-educating ourselves, and then changing our habits to reflect what we want’ (p49). On the subject of plastic packaging in shops, he advises being ‘ruthless’ in your purchasing habits since;
‘…all these wrappings are surplus to your requirements,
why pay for them twice? Once to buy and a second
time to throw away. Three times even, if you consider
the environmental costs’ (Harty, p47).
Even before reading Harty’s book, the main change we had made is to consciously avoid, or at least reduce, the amount of food items purchased in plastic packaging. I discovered a fruit and vegetable shop nearby which sells the majority of its produce without plastic as well as a local butcher who is very friendly and amenable to putting meat purchases into a container I bring with me instead of into plastic bags or trays. These two changes have drastically reduced the amount of plastic packaging in the house.
Before the switch, I found that the recycling container for plastic filled up twice as fast as the paper/cardboard one, and that a trip to the recycling centre every 2 weeks was necessary. Now, since the switch, the plastic and paper/cardboard containers fill up at the same rate and I can comfortably go a month without bringing the recycling to the centre. Personally, if I buy apples in plastic bags only to go home and immediately bin the packaging before putting the apples in the fridge, I deem that a waste of money. Unfortunately, the manufacturing companies don’t seem to follow this logic – I’ve noticed it’s usually cheaper, sometimes by half the price, to buy items in plastic compared to loose. I’m very grateful that I can still have the option to choose the loose, more expensive option and I’m aware that there are many who can’t do this, either for cost or convenience reasons.
There have also been similar changes within Fingal County Council, which is great to see. There are now compostable, rather than the previous disposable, cutlery and cups, in the canteens and of course, there have been separate food waste bins at the staff kitchen areas for a long time. Nationally, there have been a number of movements, both community action groups and state-sponsored, which are aimed at raising awareness of the environmental issues and also proposing alternatives. It is very heartening to see that so many have been successful recently in both of these aims. For example, Wicklow is now able to boast of having a number of towns in its popular tourist regions which are proudly ‘plastic-free’ in shops and cafés (http://www.thejournal.ie/reusable-cups-3915550-Mar2018/ ) and Galway is planning a major festival to highlight the problems associated with single-use plastics (https://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/actors-rugby-flanker-and-restaurateur-sign-up-for-plastic-free-challenge-in-galway-1.3372703). There is also a lovely farmer’s market in Skerries Mills each Saturday, which hosts a variety of stalls. My favourite stall is Bear Necessities, which provides store cupboard essentials (dried fruit, dried beans and grains etc) all packaging-free and at a very reasonable price. There is also a great meat stall which sells produce from a local farm. Another of the regular stalls is a natural, zero-waste cosmetic and personal grooming stall called Peachy. The best way to source information on this market is their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/skerriesmillsmarket/.
There also seems to be more publicity and media reporting of environmental issues, such as the unfortunate cases of marine animals washed ashore with huge amounts of plastic refuse clogging their intestines and causing death, in many cases (http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/marine-animals-are-dying-because-of-our-plastic-trash/). In addition, the huge floating islands of plastic waste that have gathered in various oceans have been getting increased media attention recently too (https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/03/great-pacific-garbage-patch-plastics-environment/) Governments and citizens alike are being confronted with more and more evidence that this is not a problem that we can continue to outsource and pretend it doesn’t affect the planet. Closer to home, a recent report conducted on the Skellig Islands has found that a large number of the marine bird nests are composed of plastic waste (https://afloat.ie/marine-environment/marine-wildlife/item/39516-plastic-problem-for-gannets-on-little-skellig ).
I follow various ‘Zero Waste’ online communities and forums and, while the ideal of living completely waste free is pretty much impossible, there are changes that everyone can make that will help in some way. Some people on the group’s website are messaging about living off their allotments or making their own cosmetics and cleaning agents, while others are starting out by changing their disposable coffee cups for KeepCups or similar (another incentive that Fingal County Council are bringing into the staff canteens). There are varying degrees to which people can afford, either financially or time-wise, to change their existing usage patterns and this will always be the case. No-one should be judged or made to feel guilty if they continue using what is freely available and convenient. The only problem is that we’re already playing catch-up. So much damage has been done to the environment throughout the Industrial Era (the majority of it in the most recent decades) that it is, effectively, impossible to repair. However, the way I see it, we have to try.
The most important change, as far as I can see, is to get people talking about the issues and raising awareness. I was chatting with a colleague recently about how, years ago, people bringing their own reusable bags to the supermarket might have been considered a bit odd whereas now, it’s actively encouraged. Hopefully, the same will soon be true of the overabundance of plastic – that, with public awareness and governmental support, the easy, wasteful option will no longer be feasible for the manufacturers and they will be forced to take responsibility for the huge amounts of unnecessary plastic that they release into the consumer market, only for it then to be released into the environmental domain to wreak havoc.
Other small changes we have made at home include buying a battery recharging unit and some AA and AAA batteries and this has gotten great use just for small nightlights around the house and in closets. I have also been working to replace my large Tupperware collection with glass containers as they are easier to clean and far longer-lasting. I have been a fan of charity shops since my teens and I have difficulty passing one without going in (and usually buying something) but I have been limiting my purchases to things that are necessary either around the house or for adding to my wardrobe which already pretty much solely consists of charity shop purchases (mainly due to my teenage and adult frugality rather than environmental concerns). Because of this, I’d say we’re probably oversubscribed in the ‘Reuse’ department and are now catching up in the ‘Reduce’ and ‘Recycle’ areas too. We can always do better however; I find that inspiring and look forward to the next challenge.
Fingal Libraries provides lots of inspiration to support your recycling efforts, both online and in your Library. We have a wide range of FREE online magazines such as National Geographic, Save our Seas, EARTH, The Eco Living Book, Creating an Organic Garden. Discover answers to your questions on the environment and waste management with the assistance of PROQUEST, a FREE newspaper article database from over 700 newspapers around the globe. PressReader is also a FREE digital newspaper and magazine resource and includes 29 publications from Ireland. The book, Get Rid of your Bin‘ written in 2009 by Féidhlim Harty, is available to borrow from Fingal Libraries. Why not browse our Online Library Catalogue today and discover more materials in this area.
By Aileen Coffey, Fingal County Libraries
- Afloat. 2018. Plastic Problem for Gannets on Little Skellig [ONLINE] Available at: https://afloat.ie/marine-environment/marine-wildlife/item/39516-plastic-problem-for-gannets-on-little-skellig [Accessed 20 June 2018]
- Harty, Féidhlim ‘Get Rid of Your Bin and Save Money’ 2009 Mercier Press; Cork
- Irish Times. 2018. Actors, rugby flanker and restaurateur sign up for ‘plastic-free’ challenge in Galway. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/actors-rugby-flanker-and-restaurateur-sign-up-for-plastic-free-challenge-in-galway-1.3372703 . [Accessed 20 June 2018].
- National Geographic. 2018. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Isn’t What You Think it Is. [ONLINE] Available at: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/03/great-pacific-garbage-patch-plastics-environment/ [Accessed 20June 2018]
- One Green Planet. 2018. Marine Animals are dying because of our plastic trash. [ONLINE] Available at: ‘http://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/marine-animals-are-dying-because-of-our-plastic-trash/‘ [Accessed 19 June 2018]
- The Journal. 2018. Every café in this Wicklow town now offers a discount for reusable cups [ONLINE] Available at: ‘http://www.thejournal.ie/reusable-cups-3915550-Mar2018/’[Accessed 19 June 2018].