Some thoughts on waste and our ‘throw-away’ society

Looks horrible doesn’t it? All that waste just dumped on landfill.

I think the more you “get into” recycling the more preoccupied you get with this mental image of what you throw away ending up just laying there rotting (or not rotting as the case may be) on landfill. I know this is the case for me. I have started to feel so bad every time I throw something in the “general household waste” bin that trying to find ways of avoiding throwing things away has become a daily preoccupation. For instance, my son’s new school sent home a list of items they would gratefully receive including food boxes, buttons, fabric, old greeting cards, wrapping paper, plastic containers, etc. and I was quite genuinely excited about this (maybe I should get out more! ;-)) But seriously, how wonderful that all these items that we would otherwise consider to be rubbish or which we have around the house but don’t use can be put to good use and genuinely enjoyed by school children for their arts and crafts! So I have been sorting through our clutter and have managed to put together quite a few bags already full of these various items, which is great for me as I’m having a little clear out (and diverting certain items from ending up in the bin) and great for the school as they get some much-appreciated resources!

But what about the waste that you can’t find a good home for? I read an article a little while back about a couple who made a commitment not to generate any waste (zero waste) for a year which led me to thinking about whether this would actually be possible for me to achieve given my current lifestyle. Right now we compost our fruit & vegetable peelings, teabags, grass cuttings, etc., we recycle everything that our local council will collect for kerbside recycling, i.e. paper, magazines, cardboard, tins, glass bottles, plastic bottles, etc., I have made a (very) tentative start with growing my own, we try our best not to waste food and we make a point to recycle our toys, furniture, clothing, etc. and yet we still put our bin out each week with rubbish that will end up on landfill. In essence, a commitment to creating zero waste (which would be a whole other blog post!) would involve some serious lifestyle changes, and while I do try my best, I know I could try harder on many levels.

For instance, (and this is why this subject is on my mind) today we had a party for my son who just turned 5 years. This was held at a local soft-play venue and we were responsible for feeding almost 30 children. I knew this situation would have the potential for a lot of waste and I was very conscious of this. When we arrived at the venue I was pleased to see they had a recycling bin in their kitchen – always a good sign – but I was immediately disappointed, however, to find out they were using paper plates for the children when I could quite easily have brought my own re-usable plates for everyone (and which was something I had enquired about beforehand) but I made a point to recycle these at the end (although still a horrible waste). Then, of course you have all the children grabbing handfuls of food that you know they won’t all finish – and which they didn’t – which invariably meant a lot of this got thrown in the bin. If I had had my “green” head on (instead of my crazy manic mum head!) I would have saved the untouched food from the kids’ plates (not the half chewed or spat out food of course!!) or at least rescued the poor abandoned carrots for composting but amidst the chaos that is a kids birthday party I didn’t enforce this – in fact, I started to feel a bit nerdy for even wanting to recycle the plates as I think the staff there were more used to just sweeping everything into a big bin liner at the end to be left outside for the bin men, so I’m pleased I at least managed that. However, I felt really bad afterwards that I allowed things to get thrown away which could have been disposed of in a better way. It opened my eyes to how difficult it can be to stay green in this fast-paced throw-away society in which we live. Because everything was so rushed and I wanted to focus on my son I overlooked my green principles for that moment and now I feel bad because of it…

I’m not going to dwell overly on this because at least I learned a lesson from it and it did highlight to me that I can try harder. It showed me that sometimes all it takes is some aforethought, a little time spent thinking ahead about “how” to generate less waste and having a plan when you know you are going to be in situations that might distract you from your green principles… If nothing else today’s experience has given me food for thought and I will learn from this and move forward towards ‘greener’ pastures….

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2 thoughts on “Some thoughts on waste and our ‘throw-away’ society

  1. Well, for what it’s worth, you’re already doing a whole load better than most people in Western Europe… Don’t feel bad & I hope Z had a fab birthday party ! 30 five yo, blimey, it must have been erm… chaos but nice for them ?
    But generally, yep, you’re right, trying to avoid waste and disposable stuff is not always easy. xx

    • Thanks E. It was a frustrating situation because I watched those poor carrots (and other food) going into the bin and wanted to rescue them (I’m not kidding- it’s getting emotional now ;-)). I felt genuinely bad and that I’d compromised my beliefs for the sake of rushing…still, yes, it was hectic. Not total madness as it’s Z’s new class and so quite new friends and thus not as loud as I’m sure it’ll be on the next bday- but time pressured I guess!

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