My decluttering over recent weeks has turned my attention not only to how much 'stuff' we store permanently in our home, but also to the transient stuff - packaging, junk mail, food waste, personal care items, that sort of thing. Obvious sound ecological reasons aside, there are some pressing personal reasons for wanting to cut down our waste tally. Firstly, I live in a small house with a small yard; and I can think of better things to do with that space than fill it with rubbish and recycling receptacles. So why we insist on producing two or three black refuse sacks and 2 boxes worth of recycling every week is any one's guess - although I would place good money on laziness and inertia as being the main culprits.
A large proportion of the waste we produce is kitchen waste in the form of vegetable scraps, egg shells, egg boxes and teabags, around 1/2 a refuse sack per week. The other half of that sack comprises bedding, wood shavings and guinea pig poo (which just happens to be an excellent compost activator or even direct manure) from our two guinea pigs. Our new compost bin is now installed on our allotment and is already eating prodigious quantities of kitchen and hutch waste.
So, now for the rest of our bin. Our biggest guilty secret is our sons disposable nappies - we gave up on terry cloths after he turned a year old. I had plans to get him completely potty trained early, but he wasn't buying it; and now 14 months on he uses an average of 2 pairs of pull up pants a day. That amounts to about half a refuse sack per week. Which means that the rest of our bin consists of plastic food packaging; and I suspect quite a few recyclables that neither of us can be bothered to fit into/balance on top of the overflowing recycling box. Part of the reason the box overflows is Nick's absolute refusal to crush tins and bottles down to size, despite weekly promises to begin doing so. The contents of our overflowing recycling box consists of plastic milk cartons, tomato and cat food tins, paper and card.
The ultimate solution of course is to redesign our lives to consume less, full stop. In the UK, there has been quite a lot of complaining about 'waste rationing', with local councils moving to fortnightly collections or even contemplating the introduction of charging schemes. I can see that this would be a concern for many, but most of that concern once again comes from the inconvenience of having to stop and examine your habits - and possibly find them to be improvable - which very few people relish. I feel a twinge of guilt when I put our rubbish out and look at our elderly neighbours half-full recycling box, with a small carrier bag of rubbish perched on top; and I know that I could do better.
By the beginning of March I want to have scaled our waste tally down to an average of 1 refuse sack and 1 (contained!) recycling box per week. This is a workable goal, but requires some life redesign and new habits. We have to start carrying reusable shopping bags without a second thought, a habit we have gradually fallen out of. We need to stop buying over packaged snacks and sweet things on a whim and instaed need to start a regular baking schedule. We need to take lunch to work every day, because the waste we dispose of away from home counts as ours too. We need to investigate reusable pull up pants, which is what we should have done all those months ago. We need to put up another 'no junk mail sign' on our door, something we should have done the moment the first one began to fade.
We need to stop buying so much stuff.