Waste reduction: 6 months of trash

It has been 6 mouths since we moved to San Sebastian and since we ‘seriously’ started our waste reduction journey. I have seen people fitting their trash in a glass jar 6 months in their zero waste venture, but this requires more dedication than we have time for. Instead we focused on making simple accessible changes:

  • composting,
  • buying fruit, veg and cereals package free as much as possible
  • favouring glass, cardboard and paper packing over plastic
  • avoiding pre-processed food and cooking a bit more
  • avoiding buying new things unless we really need them
  • replacing disposables (kitchen roll, water bottles …) by washable and reusable alternatives

The result? We reduced our waste volume by  more than 12!

The compost

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We are lucky to have city compost in San Sebastian. In the summer, we have been taking a small bag of compost out per week. Now that the weather is a bit colder, we can wait 2-3 weeks until the bag is actually full. I would rather not use a compostable bag, since it uses energy and resources that could be spared, but it wouldn’t work with the city collection system. All this organic matter will be used to make natural fertiliser, sparing the use of chemical alternatives, instead of being burnt or berried.

The recycling

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In six months, we filled a crate of cardboard (a few deliveries, pasta and chocolate packaging mostly) and diverse papers (advertisement stickers don’t seem to be taken seriously). For the rest of the recycling, we have:

  • a few glass bottles (beer, wine and oil),
  • a couple of glass containers that I could not get presentable enough to re-purpose,
  • white vinegar plastic bottles (we use it instead of conditioner in the laundry and for all-purpose cleaning),
  • one month of milk bottles from before we found the zero waste alternative,
  • plastic beer bottles that we brought back home from a festival to make sure they would be recycled,
  • plastic bottles left by guests (no, we don’t kick people out if they bring waste),
  • a few other stuff like the empty hotel soaps I am trying to finish up, a few cans, and rare plastic pots.

This corresponds to about the same volume of recycling we use to get out every two weeks in London.

The garbage bin

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The photo above include all the none compostable, none recyclable trash of the last 6 months. That’s right, we only took it out 4 times and in small carrier bags as well! And we didn’t deprive ourselves to get to this result. For example, we didn’t find an easy zero waste source of cheese so we buy it from the supermarket. Same with the little meat we buy and a few other treats. I would bet that the content of those 4 bags would more than fit in the trash bags we used to get out every two weeks in London.

At first, I wanted to reuse the same carrier bag over and over, like we do for the recycling. I used a relatively resistant bag that could fit 2 months of trash, but there is too much fatty stuff in there so we moved to smaller thinner bags that last only one month.

Full disclosure

Because it’s easy to make things look more perfect than they are, here are a few points that hopefully make you feel that it doesn’t have to be perfect to make the effort worth it.

Full disclosure #1  There is also a few pizza boxes that went directly to the big street bin.

Full disclosure #2  I kept a few things that would go into the recycling for up-cycling craft projects that have high chances to end up in trash next time we move, as they are piling up faster than I actually make crafts.

Full disclosure #3  We recently re-subscribed to a weekly organic seasonal fruits and veg box and this is likely to raise our trash again as there is more packaging than needed and they don’t re-use the boxes like they used to do in London. When I opened the first box I was a bit bummed, but it makes our lives much easier since it reduces the shopping chore a lot and gets us to eat healthier. Once those veggies are in the fridge, we have to cook them! So I have decided to stick with it for now and see if I can convince them to consider waste reduction.

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Every fruit or veg type is in its own plastic bag. Help!

Full disclosure #4  We normally have lunch in the city centre and when it is sunny, we take a sandwich away to eat on the beach. The said sandwich is wrapped in aluminium foil and comes in a plastic bag with paper napkins. We haven’t found a good way to prevent this waste. If it doesn’t get too dirty I keep the plastic bags to use as trash bags, but we generate those faster than we use it. I keep the napkins to use as kitchen paper and throw them in the compost, but the aluminium foil often ends up in the city bins and is thus not counted in the inventory above.

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