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Friday, 24 October 2014

Recycling Polystyrene

Yesterday I was asked this question on Twitter…

Technically the answer is 'Yes' - Polystyrene can be recycled and I learnt when I visited the Resource and Waste Management Show in Birmingham last year that it is recycled in the UK.

The map on this link shows you where in Britain you can find polystyrene recycling points.

But likely the more practicable answer here is NO.  Why?  The problem lies in collecting waste streams for stuff that is not an everyday waste item.  In addition, polystyrene is very light and bulky- it is actually 98% air!  That's the reason it is a good item for packaging, but a bad item for recycling.

In West Oxfordshire we are asked to put polystyrene into our grey rubbish bins - the ones for residual waste.  Would I do that?  NO WAY!

Polystyrene is one of those things I actively avoid whenever I can so I don't get a lot of it.  For instance I won't buy something in a supermarket that is packed in a polystyrene food tray.  I don't understand why a food processing company would choose a material that is so rarely recycled to package something they want us to buy on a regular basis and so I won't give them my business. Plain as that!

However, I have found that people will bring things to my house that are packed in polystyrene and occasionally I have had parcels arrive protected by polystyrene or filled with polystyrene pellets.  So what do I do with them?

I turn it into a resource and reuse it.

A timely project for polystyrene right now is for potting up my geraniums to bring them indoors for the winter, which I do every year towards the end of October.  Of course, I save the polystyrene from previous years but each year my geranium collection grows by about half a dozen plants as I take cuttings and separate bits of plant that have naturally rooted during the year.  So I always need a bit more polystyrene or broken crock for the bottom of the plant pots. For this purpose, I keep a bucket in my garage into which any bits of polystyrene or broken cups and plates get stored until I need them.

This is last year's stock about to get used this weekend.

A couple of other projects that have used up my stock of polystyrene lately:

This planter that Mr Pitt made for me out of some recycled wooden planks needed quite a lot of drainage in the bottom.  Polystyrene was ideal for that as it does the job of rocks and pebbles - but without the weight.  It keeps the soil in but allows the water to find ways through and creates a dry zone between the soil and the wooden base of the planter so that the wood doesn't rot.

You may notice that it also used up my collection of bits of oasis from various flower arrangements acquired at weddings, several cricket dinners and a few other events.  I always knew I'd find a use for it eventually!

Secondly, my local community shop that raises lots of money for our village clubs and societies sells quite a few fragile things, so I recently took a bag full of tissue paper and some polystyrene packaging pellets to them, which they said they were always in need of.

If you don't have storage space for your polystyrene in a garage for example then you could maybe put it on Freegle.  I often find things will go same day or within a couple of days.  People use polystyrene sheets as insulation in greenhouses.  It would make a reasonable substitute for oasis for dried flower arrangements too.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Zero Waste Week 2014 - Day 7

Well, with a week of sorting out and de-cluttering my house should be looking lean and green, but that's not really the case!  This has served to highlight that we have way too much stuff in our house, because just like last year, you would barely notice that anything has gone.

Of course, my de-clutter was on nothing like the scale of last year's exercise, but I have still managed to re-home a fair amount.  This year was much easier than my last year's attempt - and that was largely a psychological thing as I felt there were lots of people doing it with me, throughout the Zero Waste Week community and the helpful ideas and the encouragement were a great inspiration.

The most noticeable improvement in the Pitt household is without a doubt the tool shed.  Take a look!

In the sort out we managed to Freegle a few things we no longer need and best of all I found the paint I needed to repaint the wooden supports of the barn, which took up most of yesterday but what a pleasure that was in the sunshine!

I still have a few items from the tool shed awaiting re-homing via Freegle, but I think these will be collected later today and I have a few bags in my hallway awaiting a trip to the charity shop and to various specialist bring banks, such as the one for CDs and video tapes.  These will go over the next few days.

But the crux of my Zero Waste Week pledge was to GET MENDING!

What have I actually repaired? Feeling my report card might say 'must try harder' I thought I'd do a quick check.

I repaired the boxes of a few games and puzzles so they could go to the charity shop. I patched a pair of jeans, which I'm really pleased with so I'll definitely patch my other pair one evening this week.I washed the clothes of some porcelain dolls, so they were smart enough to give to the charity shop, but one lovely lady remained behind with a broken foot.
Just a couple of stitches needed now
I've glued her foot, but while I was doing that the ribbon detached from the shoe, so when it is good and fast I'll have to try to put a couple of stitches in to attach the ribbon again and then I'm going to pop her on Freegle to see if I can find her a new home.

So actually, I'm thinking all in all not too bad.  I said I would mend and mend I did.

I've also found myself inspired to try to go for a few more reusables rather than recyclables or things that would end up in my wood burner.  I found these lovely refillable Christmas crackers which I'll be buying this year and refilling with lovely reusable things such as makeup wipes from Made by Gituce.
Re-fillable Christmas Crackers from Keep This

Another highlight of the week was the various attempts at crisp making.  Yesterday, inspired by this tweet from the Rubbish Diet I made the potato peelings from the Sunday roast into delicious crisps, using up a bit of sunflower oil left in a pan along with some fresh rosemary from the garden.  Yummy. Whilst sharing the crisps with family, it was nice to hear Junior Daughter reporting the crisp making attempts from earlier in the week.  She loved the butternut squash crisps and they have the added advantage of being made with no oil, so a totally fat-free and highly nutritious snack with ZERO packaging.
Butternut squash crisps ready to go in the oven

We managed to save a few for another day!

One green habit that I'll be resurrecting is to use Freegle more.  I hadn't used it for a while and it has become a lot easier recently, so now I know how easy it is to use, I'm going to make sure I use it more often and make sure I don't keep things I don't need.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Zero Waste Week 2014 - Day 6

Looks like today's Zero Waste Week email was written specifically for me! (Or are you thinking that too?)

I was feeling very pleased with myself yesterday after cleaning out my fridge and de-cluttering my kitchen.  But that was before I looked behind the curtain. (What else are curtains for but to hide the clutter behind them?)  This is what awaited me this morning on my kitchen table.

I will have to find a home for this lot today but last last night I couldn't be …

Yep… procrastination!!

So, where's it all going to go?

Well, the stamps, foreign coins and beads will go to Against Breast Cancer, so that's easy as I have a permanent box on the go for them.  If you don't know anyone who collects this sort of thing and several charities do, then maybe you could set up a collection point at a local school, playgroup, library or cafĂ©?

There are some safety pins, which have a place in my sewing box, but this makes me think that I actually have so many safety pins I really could part with a few, so I'm going to put a packet of them together for Junior Daughter's ballet school - where they often need them for emergency costume alterations, repairs and keeping the halter-neck catsuits in place when the velcro fails!

There are some odd bits from games, which I will re-house, for now in my box for lost games and puzzle pieces (yes…more procrastination but..).  It might just mean that another game gets completed and so can then find a new home.  There are several metal screws, washers and nails and a picture hook, which will be put in their proper place with the tools in the utility room and a couple more bits of metal and hard plastic to be housed in the appropriate containers in the garage.

I need to do a bit of research on the contents of the hand-warmer as, if I don't know what's in it, I don't know how to dispose of it safely.  TAKE NOTE MANUFACTURERS OF SUCH STUFF!!! IT MAKES ME MAD, MAD, MAD.  I try not to buy anything that I don't know how to dispose of at end of life these days, but I haven't always had that at the forefront of my mind and I also have to deal with things other people bring into the home.  It really should be made illegal not have accurate information about what something is made of, or if it needs to be a closely guarded secret for commercial reasons then it should be the law to provide an address to send it back to for whatever form of reuse or recycling is possible.  Don't you think?

Anyway, I'm procrastinating again!  What I was really going to say was… Wish me luck… I'm going in..and Dad's coming too! 

We may be some time ;)

Friday, 5 September 2014

Zero Waste Week 2014 - Day 5

With today's Zero Waste Week email being all about food waste I just had to zone in on the kitchen today.

A topic that could fill a book - it sure can.  After writing a section on food waste in my book 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free, I felt I wanted to concentrate  my next book on just the subject of food waste as there are so many things we can do to make more of our food.  I'm hard at work on it and I hope it will be finished before the end of the year.   If you have a top tip for reducing food waste that you'd like to share in my book, please do message me in the comments and I'll be in touch.

Needless to say, with researching and writing about reducing food waste I've become pretty nifty at using up every scrap.  I started my book, coincidentally, on the first day of Zero Waste Week 2013 which, as you may know was all about how to reduce our food waste.  I learnt lots from the tips that the Zero Wasters shared that week and I've been gathering tips and trying out recipes ever since.

So, today I had a CORN lunch, having first picked out what is going to go into tonight's bean casserole dinner. There was some tomato and onion pasta sauce and I picked out the cucumber and apple pieces from a bit of last night's salad - the rest is peppers, spring onion, carrot and celery all of which can go into the casserole.  What was left looked like the makings of a couscous lunch - it had been pork filet in a tomato sauce, and it turned into a tasty couscous sauce.

After lunch, before returning to the delights of explaining anaerobic digestion in a fun and exciting way for teenagers, I decided to blitz the kitchen clear out. One thing that has been driving me mad lately is that my collection of plastic pots (two drawers full when none are in use) was a mess of pots and lids but never the right pot with the right lid.  So I emptied out both drawers and sorted the pots and lids putting together the ones that matched.  I put a few margarine and ice cream tubs into the recycling as they didn't have the right lids and a few pot-less lids went in too.  The rest are now neatly stacked in their wicker drawers and harmony is restored at least to that quarter the Pitt kitchen.

The other area of the kitchen that bothered me was the kitchen dumping ground - a wooden trolley.  I had no idea what was there, but the general rule was that if it didn't have a place, that's where it ended up.  But my kitchen, in theory, has a place for everything.  Which could only mean one thing, if it was on the bottom of the trolley, it wasn't needed.

Before :(
Most of what was on the trolley went into either the recycling boxes, or one of two pots in the garage for odd bits of scrap metal and odd bits of hard plastic, neither of which we can put in our recycling boxes.  The scrap metal pot gets emptied occasionally at the local recycling and reuse centre when we are passing or have something else to take there.  The bits of hard plastic just accumulate as nowhere takes hard plastic in this area.  But the pot is an ice cream tub and it isn't yet full, so I'm happy for it to sit there in the garage for now.  I will say though, there has been more than one occasion that the 'hard plastics pot' has been raided for a gizmo - or at least a piece of plastic that can be used to make or fix a gizmo.

A couple of glass jars went into the dish washer and will be added to the slowly building jar collection which we'll use for making jam and chutney in the coming months.

Sadly, my lovely cast iron cook pan that has been broken for many years is awaiting a trip to the WEEE recycling so it can be taken apart to begin a new life.

And here's the result of my whirl wind sort out session…

After :)
How long will it last?  I estimate somewhere between 10 minutes and 10 days, but for now, I'm feeling good about myself and a few resources are on their way to find a new purpose.

There was nothing added to the charity shop bag, so I picked out these from various shelves and cupboards… I've never used them, but maybe someone else will?

Off to the charity shop
Oh yes, here's my attempt at mending my jeans - I'm not quite sure why I decide on pink embroidery thread, but oh well, the main objective of no more bum on show is achieved!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Zero Waste Week 2014 - Day 4

I loved yesterday's Zero Waste Week email all about textiles.  In 2013 I challenged myself to a year of buying only 2nd hand clothes and I loved it.  I have had a couple of high street items bought for me as presents this year, but I have to say that my clothes shopping habits have been changed permanently.

I have made a couple of visits to charity shops when something has caught my eye in the window but I haven't had any desire to 'go shopping'.  Truth be told, I think I got a little carried away last year with my 2nd hand chic, and probably bought more 'new to me' clothes than I normally would in a year, so I'm still enjoying my relatively new outfits.

But, one thing I have to face up to is the plain fact that my jeans (I have two pairs) are worn out. Both pairs have several holes in them.  I always find it hard to find just the right pair of jeans, so I think that might be a challenge to replace with second hand.  So, inspired by yesterday's Zero Waste Week email, I've decided I'm going to extend the life of my jeans by patching them up with some nice floral fabric.

Jeans in need of attention
I acquired some fabric at Low Carbon Oxford for making bunting. It was an old sheet, I think. So I'm going to cut out some more triangles for the bunting and use the off-cuts to patch my jeans.  I'm not feeling brave enough to get out my little-used sewing machine (used to be Mum's), so I'm planing to hand stick the patches.

As for my big clear out...with yesterday's email being all about textiles, I decided that I'd make today's clear out zone my bedroom.  This Salvation Army bag arrived on the doorstep yesterday, so first thing this morning I decided I'd fill it with a few things in my wardrobe that I hadn't worn in a long time.  It took me less than 5 minutes.
A timely arrival

Ready to go!
As for today's email, I'm one of the lucky ones who can put Tetra Paks in my curb side collection box, so it is very easy to recycle them and I wash and squash - well, swill a bit really, but I like the rhyme of wash and squash!  Before Tetra Paks were recyclable I actually avoided using them.  Now I embrace them and I watch the developments with interest.  Before long they will probably be made from entirely renewable sources.

Inspired by the 'feeling crafty' section of today's email, I thought about my yet to be disposed of incandescent lightbulbs.  I had a vague recollection about seeing ways to upcycle them, so a little Google searching came up with this: There's got to be a project in there for me!

There's good news on the broken smoke alarm - it only needed a new battery.  The saddle and bridle have also been re-homed.  The collection of dolls from Day One is gracing the window of our fantastic community shop - they look like they are about to start baking in a Victorian kitchen. (And I confess I came very close to buying that mixing bowl. I managed to remind myself I have three already).

Lastly, I pulled these smoked glass lampshades out of my attic last year when we attempted a clear out. They are from a 1960s style chandelier, which we took to the WEEE recycling.  But I thought these were a prime candidates for some creative up cycling.  Somehow, though, they managed to get hidden again, but now they are on Freegle and they too are about to be re-homed.

Here's a taste from Low Carbon Oxford 2014 - you might spot me in one of my workshops and cutting up lovely fabric for bunting!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Zero Waste Week 2014 - Day 3

Day Three of the big clear out…

So far, so good. It's onto the landing - another dumping ground.  First stop is an old games chest.  Well, to be honest, until this morning when I lifted the lid for the first time in ages, I'd forgotten it was an old games chest.

I'm not sure how or why we missed this out last year, but it is not going to escape this time!  All the games were complete, but some required a little taping of the box corners.  Then it was swiftly into the charity shop bag.

Next, this lovely puzzle.  It was sitting on top of the toy chest, and has been there for more than a year! The annoying thing was, I didn't know if it was complete or not, and the outside of the box didn't say how many pieces should be there.  The really annoying thing was… I remember 'doing' the puzzle last year to find out if it was complete, but I have no recollection of whether it was all there or not - I'm not making that mistake again!  I've done the puzzle - isn't it lovely :) and I've mended the box and now it is in the charity shop bag, ready to go.  Someone will love it, I'm sure!

Next is this little corner of shame.  Everything from old light bulb to broken (I presume) smoke alarm is hidden behind this curtain.  This might be a challenge.  I don't know of anywhere that recycles old light bulbs, for instance.  The local collection point clearly says 'low energy bulbs only'.  I'll need to do a little research.

I've had a few suggestions for my saddle and bridle…including The Blue Cross, Riding for the Disabled, local riding schools and even up-cycling the saddle into a stool!  I'll need to make a few phone calls at some point today.  I've also listed it on and on freegle, so maybe it will find a new home.

The makings of a cool stool?

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Zero Waste Week 2014 - Day 2

Day Two of my big clear out….

Today it is time to tackle the utility room… ahh! I knew this would be a tough one, so I had a little look before breakfast to get an idea of what I'd be up against.

This room gets treated as a bit of a dumping ground.  Does anyone else have that problem?

We went to a lot of effort last year to tidy it up and sort everything out and we tried to get rid of the stuff we never used. We came to the realisation that Mr Pitt is a bit of an Imelda Marcos, but we persuaded him to part with three bags of shoes and as a result the shelves are are lot more organised.
However, I still found a nice stash of textiles of various sorts, particularly odd socks awaiting attention on top of the washing machine.
 I managed to rescue a few pairs of socks and I've added the rest of the odd socks to the rag bag.

This pile of jackets needed attention too.  How many sets of gardening clothes does one need, after all? I washed the jackets and decided three of them were only fit for the rag bag, but the others are now dried and hung back up ready for chilly days in the garden.  Among these, I found my favourite fleece jacket, which had been abandoned  after getting covered in burdock.  As this week is all about giving things attention, I decided to invest the time picking out the burs from the fabric.  The only solution!

It took me about about 15 minutes, but the jacket is now good as new and back in my wardrobe.

The one thing I'm left with now is this saddle.  It needs a clean (and I'm going to try to bring myself to do that this evening), but once it is cleaned, what can I do with it?  Does anyone have any ideas how to part with an old saddle?  Could be a tall order!

Onto the the daily email all about swapping disposables for reusables.  I have to say, I'm not one who is going to be swapping to reusable toilet roll, lovely as it looks.  I have a septic tank, and just like a compost heap it needs 'brown' and 'green' contributions to keep it healthy.  The 'brown' contribution is, in fact, the toilet roll,  and the 'green' contributions,well that's the … you know!

However, I am going to play swapsies!  Firstly, I'm going for reusable sanitary pads.  I've already given them a try, so today I've ordered everything I need from Made by Gituce.  Previously I burnt our sanitary pads in the wood-burner, so it is not going to reduce my landfill.  But it is far better to reuse than to burn resources and for a little outlay today, I reckon I'll be making savings within a year.

The next thing I'm going to work on is razors, as that's something that does end up in our landfill bin at the end of the year.  I'm still undecided as to what exactly to get. Can anyone suggest an alternative to disposable razors that work well for teenage girls?

Oh yes!  The crisps didn't happen last night after all, but they did happen today, and they are going down very nicely right now!

Junior Daughter was first taster and the conversation went like this:

Me: "So, are they alright?"
JD: "They're lush!"
JD:"Anything home made always tastes better."
Me:"Why is that?"
JD: "I don't know, but I think it must be the little spoonful of love that you added."

Homemade crisps