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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year!

If you've read my blog before, you might know that I love a New Year's Challenge.  In 2013 I did a year of Swishing which changed my attitude to shopping completely. This year I pledged to buy no  new books (except as birthday presents).  I've managed far more trips to the library and got pretty organised about ordering books for collection - a great service that libraries provide.  I've also given away 10 books each month - well - at least up until November.   When I finish this blog post I'm going to select my final 10 books for 2014 and then contemplate whether I can possibly carry this on into 2015.

But even if I do carry on the book challenge, I always like to have a new challenge too.  And next year will be, without doubt, the toughest yet…

A year without single use plastic.

This is not something I've just dreamt up today… oh no.  I, or rather we - the Pitt family - have been contemplating it for a while now.  I think it was around October time that I first suggested the challenge to Mr Pitt.  He was tucking in to a packet of crisps at the time.  "Can't be done!" was the initial reaction.  But then gradually came more and more comments like "We won't be buying anymore of these, then."  Soon after that came Mr Pitt's home-made potato peel crisps.

We've been doing our bit for naked shopping for a while now, so we are well practiced at buying fruit and veg packaging free and in recent months I've discovered options for buying a whole range of goods packaging free.  You can read more about this in previous blog posts.

A fairly typical Pitt shop.

So why are we doing it?
Firstly, we have been a 'Zero-Waste' household for quite a while now.  It is many years since we had a rubbish bin in the house and because of that we always think of our 'rubbish' not as 'rubbish' but as 'resources' and as such we put what ever it is we have finished using into the appropriate place to be reused or recycled.  We don't just 'throw away'.

But, over the years that I've been researching waste management and recycling for my books, and talks as well as my own family life, I've started to look more carefully at what I do and at what businesses and organisations do in terms of waste.

As I see it now, there are two schools of thought about Zero-waste.  There's firstly the 'Zero-waste to land-fill' school of thought and that's what we've managed to achieve for many years now.  But how?  Well, there has for a long time been very little in Oxfordshire that doesn't get collected for recycling.  The local council here even collect quite a lot of 'flyaway plastic' as long as it is clean and bagged up so that it doesn't fly away to pollute the countryside when they are collecting.

But there're still a few things that aren't recyclable - and guess what - these are all mainly plastic or plastic based packaging items.  We have generally tried to avoid such items, but when we have had them, we have disposed of them by using them to light our wood burning stove and wood-fuelled cooker.  Plastic is much better than paper at this task, doesn't stink like firelighters, but I don't know the full extent of the pollution it may be causing in the atmosphere.

The second school of thought is not just Zero-waste to landfill, but Zero waste at all. And that's where I want to be a year from now.  I'm not wanting to demonise plastic completely, but it is responsible for a great deal of pollution on our lovely planet.  Our oceans are full of the stuff and it is high time we did something about it.  So I've taken a good look at what we consume, how we consume it and how we pass it on to its next purpose - whether that  is to be reused, recycled, composted or burnt by us or by the local council at its new energy from waste plant.  My conclusion is that to move from Zero-to landfill (we are 99.99% there) to being Zero Waste, it is the single use plastic that we have to say goodbye to.

Home-made potato crisps

Home-made butternut squash crisps

Dry goods you can buy in your own containers at SESI, Oxford

Weighing out dried mango at SESI

My packaging free dry goods will come from SESI.  It is easy
 to buy and store enough for three months.

Now why do I think it is going to be so hard?

Our lives are so full of plastic.  It is everywhere we turn.  In the last couple of months I've been really taking note about how much stuff we have that came here by means of plastic packaging.  We use plastic all day, every day it seems.  If we wanted to say that from the 1st of January to 31st December 2015 I would use nothing that involved plastic a whole lot of stuff would go to waste - and we don't do WASTE.

So what can we do to achieve our plastic free - zero waste lifestyle?

These are the Pitt family rules for our plastic free 2015:
1. Buy nothing new that has any plastic in it or around it.
2. Collect and weigh all recyclable plastic that arises from purchases already made in order to raise awareness of the plastic in our lives.  We will recycle or keep this plastic for reuse.
3. Collect and weigh all non-recyclable plastic that arises from purchases already made.  We will accumulate this and photograph it and hopefully see it diminish month by month.

A selection of oils and vinegars I can buy in my own containers
I will hopefully be keeping you posted of our progress as we gradually eradicate single use plastic from our lives.  If not then I'll be sharing a moan or two.

Locally made washing up liquid.
  I'll take my own bottles to refill.

Can we do it?  How long will it take to be single-use plastic free?

One month?
Six months?
A whole year?

We'll see.  Bring on the 2015 challenge. Happy New Year!