Litter is a huge problem worldwide, and the news has been full of reports surrounding marine waste pollution in particular lately – most of which is made up of plastics, including single-use carrier bags, bottles, or microbeads. As has been reported recently, this toxic waste is having a detrimental effect on wildlife, marine life, and our planet’s environment in general.
Science Alert published an article yesterday which announced that researchers in the US and China have conducted studies which found that the humble mealworm could be able to help us with our plastic problem. It has been found that this larvae can safely eat and digest plastics such as styrofoam, which are otherwise unrecyclable and therefore get sent to landfill, or end up littering our streets and oceans.
The mealworms which have been eating these plastics have remained healthy throughout tests, and their droppings also appeared safe to use as soil on crops. The mealworms biodegrade the plastics in their gut, meaning that what they pass out of their system in stools is environmentally fine.
This research could be a breakthrough in waste management. With further research, scientists could find a way to mirror the worm’s stomach enzymes and successfully degrade plastics previously sent to landfill. And, could a marine animal also do what the worm has proved it can do?
In the UK we love animals, and according to a survey conducted by the PFMA, around 46% of us own at least one pet; 24% of us own one or more dogs, and 17% of us own one or more cats. In total, the UK is home to around 58 million pets, so it’s clear that not only do we adore animals, but most pet owners own more than one.
With pets come extra waste, unfortunately, and many of us just bin it without really thinking about it – even if we’re quite good at thinking about the waste we produce ourselves. The main problem is that some of the waste produced by pets isn’t very pleasant, and so our first instinct can be to just dump it in the bin, out of sight (and smell).
Below we look at the ways in which our favourite pet types produce waste, and how we can attempt to lower this using reuse and recycling ideas.
When training your puppy, you can end up getting through a LOT of puppy pads – in fact, the amount of pads you get through daily equates to a third of the nappies used by a newborn human baby. If you’re using standard training pads, that’s a lot of waste being sent to landfill. Alternatives are to try biodegradable pads – which are 100% eco-friendly, and compostable – or to try not using training pads at all. The latter idea may sound crazy, but some have managed it – however, if you do go down this route, bear in mind that your carpet will need a deep clean afterwards!
Leaving dog mess on the pavement, road or in woodland is littering, and also disgusting! However, if owners scoop the poop 3 times daily, they will be sending a staggering 1000 plastic bags per year to landfill. If you choose this method, you could reuse old plastic bags from home (but check for holes!) Otherwise, you could look into other waste disposal methods, such as burying it in the garden (away from your house), or flushing it down the toilet. Flushable, non-plastic bags are available, which dissolve in your toilet and are environmentally friendly.
Processed dog food tends to come in tin cans or plastic bags. Whilst the tins are recyclable, the bags often aren’t. If you have to buy packaged pet food, try to stick to the cans, or bagged dry food only if it is in recyclable packaging. However, why not try cooking your own dog food? There are plenty of books on the market full of recipes, your pooch will be getting all the right nutrients (which is debatable for processed food), and you’ll be saving on waste.
Dogs love toys, but many on the market aren’t built to last, and then you have to throw them out. Instead, look out for long-lasting toys made from earth-friendly/recycled materials, or machine washable fabrics. These toys are becoming more widely available, but if you are struggling, try a search on Etsy. An alternative would be to make your own from old clothes, which you could fix with a needle and thread when it tears.
The majority of pet cats in the UK do go outside, however if you have kittens or an indoor cat then you will know all about the joys of keeping a litter tray for your pet. 2 million tonnes of cat litter gets thrown into landfill every year. Most of us start out using the clay type, but some of us move away from that to other types, as it can be messy and create a dust which isn’t good for your cat or you to breathe in.
More environmentally friendly options are soil or sawdust, which can both then be used in the garden when solids have been removed. Some owners use their wood pellet litter in fires in winter, whilst others compost this (just don’t use it on compost destined for placement around food crops, just incase). There are also recycled paper litters available, but remember to change litters over slowly if you do change – otherwise your cat may protest outside of the tray.
Processed cat food containers present the same problem as dog food containers. Aim for the recyclable packaging at least, or try making your own – there are books on the market to help you do this. Cats require more specific nutrients than dogs do from their food, such as the amino acid, taurine.
Cat toys tend to last longer than dog toys, and also tend to be made more from fabric, which means that when kitty tears it with her claws, you are able to fix it for her with a few stitches, ready for further playing. My cat’s toys have lasted her years because of this. You could also make your cat some new toys very easily by reusing cotton reels, and many other household bits and bobs.
Hay, straw and sawdust can be added to your home compost bin. If you were to make your own bedding from shredded paper, or purchase this, you could also add this to your compost bin. Recycled paper is readily available as bedding in pet stores, which is great if you don’t have time (or a shredder) to make your own.
Entertainment for rodents tends to be long-lasting unless it is food, however they do love to chew things for fun; why not try items such as your old toilet roll tubes, to give them a second use, and save yourself some money too.
Let us know below if you have any other suggestions.
The concept of ‘zero waste’ can seem daunting, especially if it is new to you. We live in a country which has for too long relied on disposable items for help in carrying out many everyday tasks. This is especially true in the kitchen, where we are faced with frequent use of cling film, plastic bags, egg boxes and kitchen towel, amongst other items. If you are wanting to explore a zero waste lifestyle, or start your waste-free journey, your home kitchen is an excellent place to begin making changes.
Why Zero Waste?
In a nutshell, the less waste the better – for the environment, and also for your pocket! Waste which gets sent to landfill creates greenhouse gases, which is terrible news for the environment, and leads to global warming. There are also other major concerns linked to this, such as the impact of the waste on wildlife, who ingest waste or get tangled up in it.
Total zero waste is a huge challenge, but even just attempting one of the below tips could start you off on your path to a zero waste lifestyle. You’ll probably find that once you start being mindful of these things, it is impossible to switch off from it – wherever you are, and whatever you are doing! And that is great news for the environment, and also, you will find, for your pocket.
9 Zero Waste Kitchen Tips:
Swap disposables for reusables
This means swapping out kitchen paper for a reusable cloth, sandwich bags for reusable containers, paper napkins for cloth ones (perhaps made from old fabric), and cling film for a plate lid or homemade linen food covers.
For food storage in the kitchen, use glass containers such as Mason jars, which can be reused for years and years.
Say goodbye to plastic bags
You don’t need plastic bags in your home, even if you think you do! Stop using them in your bins; just use the bin without, and wash it. If you usually reuse your plastic bags for supermarket or other shopping, invest in a cloth bag or bag for life instead.
Embrace tap water
You don’t need to buy bottled water. Tap water is generally fine, but if you aren’t so keen on the taste of yours, add something to it, such as a squeeze of lemon or a slice of apple. Not only will it taste nicer, but you’ll be adding nutrients too.
Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk means a lower product to packaging ratio, which can only be a good thing when it comes to waste reduction.
If you’re visiting a specific bulk buy outlet that sells food products from large bins, take containers with you from home, such as jars and cloth bags, so you don’t require any packaging there.
Find new uses for food waste
Coffee grounds are great for keeping ants at bay, over-ripe bananas are perfect for baking, and spring onions regrow in a jar with some water. Get imaginative with your food waste, and you’ll be surprised at what you can reuse.
Create less food waste
By scrubbing some vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, instead of peeling them, you will be preserving more nutrients and also stopping the scraps from becoming waste. Win-win!
Create a compost bin
Whilst this could be argued to not be ‘zero waste’, I am including it, as it is good for the environment, and an excellent option for the few food scraps you will be producing when living a low-waste lifestyle. Some non-food items can also be added. Our guide to creating your own compost pile can be found here.
Prepare lunches at home
Food on-the-go tends to cause many problems with waste packaging, so why not prepare your work day and school lunches at home, and save waste as well as money? You’ll also no doubt be eating food that is of higher nutritional value, and generally better for you!
Try a lunch box with various compartments, so you can carry several food types whilst keeping them separate – and without using foil or cling film. Don’t forget a reusable bottle for your drinks, too.
Minimise gadget numbers
Do you really need that new spiralizer? Kitchen gadgets are often faddy or end up breaking, which then leaves you with waste. Remember that when it comes to cooking, Google is your friend, and will often provide you with alternative methods of doing kitchen tasks without the need for a specific (and often expensive) gadget.
As more and more of us become increasingly environmentally aware, many of us are taking an interest in our food waste, and what we can do with it. Some councils collect it from residents’ houses, but for those that don’t, composting may be the solution you are looking for.
It is also worth checking what your council does with their food waste if they do collect it; if it is sent to landfill, why not deal with it yourself at home instead? Read about the benefits, below.
Benefits of composting
Less waste to landfill
Waste that goes to landfill is bad for the environment – it creates greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn contributes to global warming.
Composting at home for one year saves gases equivalent to those your kettle produces annually, or the gases your washing machine produces in just 3 months!
Creation of nutrient-rich compost for your garden
The compost you produce from composting your food waste at home will be a great fertiliser for your garden. It will be full of all the nutrients your plants need, such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. This means it will also keep your soil pH balanced, and its condition improved. Why buy compost when you can create such a good, natural one yourself?
How to compost
Choosing and placing a compost bin:
Place your bin somewhere sunny, and on soil. If not on soil, ensure there’s a layer of cardboard or old compost on the base, as liquid will escape through the base.
There are a variety of compost bins available to buy, or even better – make your own, using wooden pallets or other wood you have lying around. Whichever you choose, ensure you have a plan for how to remove your ready compost from the bottom of the pile.
What you can compost
It is suggested that you create a 50 / 50 mix in your compost pile of ‘green’ items and ‘brown’ items. Green items rot quickly and contribute nitrogen and moisture, and brown items decompose slowly and bring carbon and fibre to the mix. If you layer them, it will create the perfect environment for compost creation.
Green items include:
Fruit and veg peel and scraps
Teabags and coffee grounds
Weeds and plants
Brown items include:
Egg shell and egg boxes
Vacuum bag contents
If you’re not sure if you can compost a certain item, always check! Never add dog mess, cat litter, or any cooked food to your compost pile.
When will my compost be ready?
It generally takes 9-12 months for compost to break down and be ready for use. As you wait, continue to add a mix of green and brown items to your pile. If it gets dry and doesn’t seem to be rotting, add more greens. If it is too moist or smells, add some browns.
You will know your compost is ready to use when the pile has shrunk in size significantly and the items you put in it are no longer recognisable, except perhaps some eggshell and the odd twig here and there. Just fish those out of the mix, and add them back on the top of your compost pile.
Do you have any tips for composting? Add them in the comments below, and help others.
“A whopping 24 million slices of bread get thrown in home bins every day in the UK.”
I imagine that quote from Slow Food caught your attention! Sadly it is a fact. A fact that desperately needs to change, and soon. In the UK, 38.7% of all lettuce ends up in the bin, along with 25.5% of every melon, and the average UK family bins a whopping 12 weeks’ worth of groceries every year; that’s almost £60 worth of food per month.
We are going to take a look at the history of food waste, the problems it causes, how it occurs, and what we are all doing to tackle the issue.
A brief history of food waste
The Women’s Institute was set up in 1915 and food waste was one of their key initial (and current) campaigns. This idea was, at this time, new to the general public. During the First World War, rationing came into effect, but it was far more extreme and strict during the Second World War; people would grow their own in order to bulk out the meagre rations they were allocated. By the summer of 1940, a law had been passed which meant people were to be imprisoned if they wasted food.
Sadly, as time went on after the war, the importance of not wasting food was forgotten by the masses; in its place nowadays we have supermarkets offering a plethora of BOGOF (buy one get one free) deals, all-you-can-eat restaurants, and a culture of burger ‘challenges’ which we seem to have adopted from the States!
Why food waste is an issue
Most wasted food in the UK ends up in landfill, which in turn adds to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore, climate change.
There is also the huge issue of global hunger; around 1 billion people worldwide are going hungry, yet 1.5 billion people worldwide are overweight, and 400 million are classed as obese.
Big changes need to be made to address these issues – we need to feed the world, by dealing with the excess, and keep food out of landfill. Within the UK alone, there are people going hungry whilst others are throwing masses of food away each week.
How food waste occurs
Some UK dwellers are lucky enough to have council-supplied food waste bins at home, and others have compost bins in their garden, but the vast majority don’t, meaning rotten fruit and veg, and food scraps all go straight to landfill.
Supermarkets are famous for their high levels of food waste. Before produce even hits the shelves, supermarkets are highly selective with the fruit and veg they want to sell; ‘ugly’ fruit and veg gets rejected, if it’s too small, large, or misshapen.
Food products and produce which has reached his ‘use by’ date is deemed not safe to sell, and thrown out. In the past all of this ended up in bins, which then went to landfill. Thankfully, supermarkets are starting to listen to advice regarding their waste. For example, this month Morrisons began a partnership with charity, FoodCycle, which means they will be donating rather than sending to landfill.
Restaurants/pubs/public food outlets
Restaurants and other public food outlets produce a large amount of food waste; out of date food, fruit and veg peel, and leftovers. What happens to this waste depends on each outlet, but in the past this will have all gone to landfill, no questions asked.
Tackling UK food waste
The Real Junk Food Project has taken off really well; set up by chef, Adam Smith, it began life in Armley in Leeds, but has since spurred the opening of over 50 other pay-as-you-feel cafes across the country (and beyond). It is an initiative run by volunteers who create and serve up meals cooked using waste food from supermarkets, greengrocers and foodbanks, which has been diverted from its original landfill destiny.
Locally, in Bradford, a new food waste hub is being set up to help feed those in need in the community – The Storehouse. It will collect food from local markets and supermarkets, and redistribute it to people in the Bradford area who need it. They have acquired a bus for food package drop-offs, and are expected to open a pay-as-you-feel cafe on site too.
What You Can Do
At home, people need to plan meals and not buy too much food, so less waste is created. Also, buy the ‘ugly’ veg that nobody else will buy; it’ll taste just as nice! Businesses need to ensure they are using an environmentally-friendly waste management company, who don’t send food to landfill.
Forge Waste & Recycling create energy from all of the food waste we collect from our customers.
Of course, the food waste problem is global. Whilst countries like ours waste food in the above ways, developing countries unintentionally waste food through poor infrastructure and equipment, etc. A shocking 30% of the world’s agricultural land produces food that will be wasted.
Do you know of any local or UK-wide schemes for tackling food waste? Let us know in the comments – let’s share our knowledge.
Zero Waste Week is a week in September which focuses on protecting the environment through sending no waste to landfill. The 2015 theme is ‘reuse’, which is great as it will help people realise that by reusing items, we are benefiting the environment and our purse/wallet.
This video explains National Zero Waste Week really well:
Ideas for your Zero Waste Week pledge
What will you pledge to do for NZWW 2015 – at home, or at work with your colleagues?
If you’re an individual, you could try:
Preparing all your lunches at home for the week (not buying packaged lunches)
Commiting to using only reusable carrier bags – no plastic bags
Repurposing all glass items you use in that week
Repurposing all tin cans you use in that week
Using a refillable cup for coffee shop drinks
Using a washable alternative to facial wipes or cotton wool for make-up removal, such as a flannel or reusable eco cotton pads
Using reusable and washable cloths for cleaning rather than paper towels or other ‘disposables’
At work, you could try:
Preparing your lunches at home
Using a refillable cup each for coffee shop drinks
Reusing any paper that is printed out: utilise both sides instead of just one
After shredding confidential documents, reuse the shredded paper – it can be used for packing items up, or as cat litter or animal bedding
Reuse all jiffy bags and boxes you receive deliveries in
Setting up a compost bin for fruit peel, coffee grounds, tea bags, etc., which staff members can then take home for their garden
Switching to a fabric hand towel instead of paper towels
What do Forge Waste & Recycling already do to reduce waste to landfill?
We are committed to helping the environment, and as a company who collect around 200 tonnes of waste per week, we don’t send any to landfill. Anything that can be recycled, is, and any leftover waste is turned into Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF), which is then used to create electricity.
Even our plastic waste collection bins are recycled; when they are no longer fit for use, we remove the wheels and the plastic is shredded and granulated to produce other high quality items.
Of course, in an ideal world there would be nothing to recycle, but in 2015 there is still a lot of work to be done on this issue. This dedicated week is a great help though, so why not get involved?
What will Forge Waste & Recycling be pledging for Zero Waste Week 2015?
When we gave this some thought, we realised everyone in our office has been drinking bottled water to keep hydrated in the hot weather. Whilst we, of course, recycle these bottles, we know we need to eliminate them completely. So we pledge to reuse all of the plastic bottles we currently have for as long as possible, and not buy any more – ever!
Where can I find out more?
If you’d like to know more about Zero Waste Week, the official website is here. The couple who run it have their own brilliant website too, which can be found here – take a look for year-round hints and tips on living waste free. Small changes can make a big difference if we all work together. Let’s be Zero heroes! What will you pledge this September?
Summer is here in the UK, and for some of us this means only one thing: festival season is upon us. Music festivals (and others) grow in popularity year on year, and new additions to the circuit get added frequently. We can’t seem to get enough of live music in fields!
Glastonbury Festival started out in 1970 as a festival created under the ethos of hippie counterculture – peace, love and green living. However, is Glastonbury environmentally friendly now? Are any mainstream festivals actually ‘green’? Also, how are festivals going about tackling their litter and environmental problems?
The main challenges festivals face when it comes to keeping it green are:
Litter (including abandoned tents)
Essentially, festival-goers are living in a temporary town/city for a weekend, and so with that comes all the environmental problems a real town would face when overcrowded; lots of litter, danger to wildlife, and high carbon emissions. Plus others, including people toileting where they shouldn’t. Glastonbury in the 1990s became a hazard to fish in the nearby river due to urine-induced high ammonia levels (due to people peeing on the ground). The organisers have, of course, since added many, many more toilets, including lots of compost loos.
The Glastonbury 2015 Clean-Up
Glastonbury 2015 involved a clean-up operation requiring 800 voluntary litter-pickers to collect and sort 1650 tonnes of waste. The entire clean-up cost around £780,000. This waste included 5000 abandoned tents, 9 tonnes of glass, 54 tonnes of plastic bottles & cans, and 41 tonnes of cardboard.
135,000 people on one farm results in quite a lot of waste, and way too much litter! Glastonbury does, however, skip a year every 5 years, to give the natural environment time to recover and replenish from the crowds and their effects.
Dealing With The Problem
Each large festival seems to have their own approach to dealing with green issues, and all appear to be trying – albeit, some a lot more than others.
Most festivals now seem to be aware of their overall carbon footprint and how that is impacted upon by the thousands of people travelling to and from their site. In fact, 68% of the total emissions caused by the average festival come from this travel. To combat this, festivals now promote car-sharing schemes, and the use of public transport. Also, bicycles are suggested, although I imagine that’s not as handy for carrying your tent etc.!
Glastonbury, for one, rewards those revellers who use public transport.
Litter and Water
Leeds and Reading Festival run schemes which encourage people to collect litter or at least bin their own; there’s a 10p cup and water bottle deposit, and collecting a bag full of cans equals 1 free beer at the recycling exchange.
Festivals such as Beat-Herder and Blissfields take a £5 refundable litter bond from attendees, who are expected to collect 1 full bag of rubbish during their stay.
Many festivals have cut down on the use of plastics and some, such as Shambala, have done away with plastic bottles completely – encouraging people to re-use one they bring with them instead.
T In The Park organisers – frustrated at the litter problem, and in particular the abandoned tent issue – launched a huge campaign and asked fashion designer, Iona Crawford, to make a dress from discarded festival tents. This highlighted the problem of discarded tents, and promoted alternative uses for damaged tents if people took them home.
Inherently Green Festivals
Of course, Green Gathering is, as the name suggests, a sustainable festival which is powered entirely by renewable energy; the stages are solar, and wind power is also used. They even run workshops on how to create renewable energy at home, and have speakers from the environmental movement too.
If Green Gathering can manage it, surely the others can follow suit in time? If some go back to their roots, they may rediscover their environmentally friendly ethos and potential solutions.
Many think of litter as unsightly and, at worst, a nuisance or perhaps a bit unhygienic. However, certain types of litter can actually be very dangerous, and can kill. Here we take a look at both sky lanterns and helium balloons and how they impact upon the environment when they fall back to Earth as litter.
Sky lanterns are still a relatively new item for celebrations in the UK, and are commonly released on New Year eve, and for weddings, birthdays, memorials and other similar occasions. Due to the novelty factor, the cheap availability, and simply the beautiful appearance of the lanterns in the night sky, these items are very popular. They can be written on with pen directly or sometimes sentimental notes are attached, depending on the occasion. Continue reading How Sky Lantern & Balloon Litter Can Kill