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Zero Waste Week – Cut it out!

7 September 2021

9 mins

Guest Blog – Louis Guest, ENVA.

Hello and welcome to zero waste week, this is the first of two blogs this month on waste and the waste hierarchy. My name is Louis and I work for your universities waste management company, Enva, where my role is to support customer engagement. The idea behind the engagement is to increase knowledge and participation in sustainability and waste management. This first blog on Zero Waste Week focusses on “Reduction” and “Reuse” to help lower the amount of waste you produce.

What is Zero Waste Week?

Zero Waste Week occurs from the 6th to the 10th of September. The premise of the week is to make people aware of the incremental changes they can make in their day to day lives to limit the amount of waste they produce. The “Zero Waste Week” Campaign was first introduced online in 2008, gaining rapid traction due to its catchy title and lofty ambitions.  As of 2017 the campaign is participated in by over seventy-three countries around the world, with many countries also adopting their own zero waste week initiatives independent of the original non-profit campaign.

Why not give it a try?

One of the more daunting barriers when deciding to participate in zero waste week is that it seems like an unachievable target. It’s important to stress that adopting a few of our tips and tricks can make a massive difference without a radical overhaul in your day-to-day life. Within this blog we aim to empower you to decide which changes would lessen your waste footprint the most and urge you to try them out.

Which trick suits you?

Sustainability, it’s a hairy subject:

Ditch your plastic razors! Plastic razors are not able to be recycled because of their sharp edges meaning that they are categorised as “general waste”. Statista reports that 60.7 million single use razors are thrown away per year in the U.K. So, what can we do to bring that number down and make a difference? Safety razors!  These are fantastic and most of all they are often cheaper than buying disposable razors. They also come with the benefits of a closer shave and less razor burn. If that hasn’t sold you, this might. Most safety razors are made from stainless steel meaning that if they do break, they’re 100% recyclable… but they don’t often break. You can still find antique razors for sale from 70 years ago! The trouble with this option comes when you need to recycle the safety blades. The most effective way to do this would be to purchase a recyclable tin that would serve as a razor blade collector. It should hold around 100 used razor blades and once in bulk most recycling centres will make it easy for you recycle. Some councils may even allow you to put your full recyclable tin in the recycling bin. However, it’s probably best to check with them first!

Rechargeable electric razors are a more ecofriendly option than the disposable razors because they can often last for years. This style of razor also offers other cost and environmental benefits in that you don’t need to use shaving cream or water.  While unfortunately some of the electric razors still need to be plugged in, thankfully most use rechargeable batteries and some even solar power!

Sanitary Sustainability:

Unfortunately, one of the UK’s leading sustainability issues is sewage related debris commonly known as (SRD). Essentially that is anything that we flush down our toilets, and included in that are sanitary pads, feminine wipes, applicators and tampons.  According to sustainability pioneer “Mooncup” Women will use around 11,000 sanitary products in their lifetime, and everyday 27,900 used tampons, towels and applicators wash onto the world beaches every single day. Other elements to consider are the plastic backing strips, the wrappers and the top sheets, none of these items are biodegradable.  Since they began in 2002 Mooncup claim their product has reduced the amount of sanitary products ending up on beaches or in landfill by 2.8 billion. The Mooncup is made of medical grade silicone, is reusable and can last for years, potentially offers greater comfort and eliminates the risk of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome), with users likely to breakeven on the purchase in six to eight months.

An alternative is “here we flo” (HWF) pads and tampons. HWF offer products made of oeko-tex bamboo, organic cotton and plant friendly materials. These materials are all 100% compostable, biodegradable and recyclable. The liners and applicators are 100% plastic free. On top of all that good stuff the outer packaging is made of FCS-certified recyclable cardboard and they’re vegan and cruelty free. The product itself doesn’t sound so bad either, HWF 100% organic, PH-respecting & never over drying. Zero irritating synthetic fibers, pesticide residues, bleach, dyes, fragrances and all that other nonsense! Why not give them a try?

Use your loaf:

We all lead busy lives and this can sometimes mean that we dedicate less time to those day-to-day mundane tasks, like making lunch. We all know it’s the most cost-effective solution. However, did you also know that lunch on the go creates 11 billion items of packaging waste annually. Much of this isn’t easily recyclable. 76% percent of those who purchase “lunch on the go” say they purchase a sandwich. Unfortunately sandwich packaging is typically laminated to maintain its freshness, this means that the normally recyclable cardboard packaging cannot be recycled.

Further detriment to the meal deal is the crisp packets. While specialist recycling brand teracycle can collect used crisp packets throughout the U.K and recycle them in bulk, they cannot be recycled in mainstream recycling.  In fact, the only no specialist recyclable crisp packet out there comes from the Hertfordshire based brand “Two Farmers”. The downside however is the cost of this crisps. £21.99 is a large price to pay for a pack of twenty-four crisps considering the same twenty-four pack cost £4.00 from walkers. So, what is the answer?

Bring back the old, packed lunch! Think of the nostalgia! Less waste, more taste. Simply using an old lunch box and bringing a premade sandwich from home instead will significantly lessen your waste produced if you’re someone who eats out for lunch regularly. It might even be as easy as making more food than you need and simply having it for lunch the next day, and who doesn’t make too much pasta anyway? Finally, many lunch packers have success using a Bento Box, these are fantastic! Bento boxes function like a normal lunch box however, the built-in segregation in the box allows you to keep your lunch time salad separate from the brownie you brought for a desert!

The disposable dilemma:

Another trait of a busy life is coffee on the go. Regrettably this is another harmful habits currently plaguing our culture with 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups used per year in Britain?  Only one in every four hundred of these cups is recycled effectively. On top of the massive amount of waste, there is also the issue of the resources that are used to create these cups. It is alleged that 1 million trees are cut down and 1.5 billion liters of water are used to create these disposable cups. Thankfully we can keep our coffee cravings and by being sustainable we could also save some cash! Bringing a reusable cup to your favorite coffee shops can often get you a discount. 50p at Pret A manger, 25p at costa and Starbucks and even 20p at Greggs. All for bringing your own cup. Sounds like a no brainer to me.

At Loughborough University customers are charged a 25p supplement for a hot drink in a disposable cup.

Wasteless water bottles & Fountain fill ups.

Stay hydrated! Water is important, everybody knows that but is your hydration habit causing unnecessary waste? In the United Kingdom 38.5 million plastic bottles are used every day, just over half of those bottles make it to recycling while the other half may be end up being incinerated or worse still in landfill or our oceans.  This trend isn’t dying down either with some believing that plastic production is set to double within the next twenty years. Perhaps “Zero Waste week 2021” could be the time to make a good new habit and commit to taking a reusable water bottle with you instead.

Feel good fashion:

Finally, the big one, we are all guilty of buying some new clothes for a night out or an event. We live in a world where there are always new clothes to buy, and nobody can deny that new clothes make a person feel good. Unfortunately, it is reported by the Intergovernmental panel on climate control (IPCC) that fast fashion is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions every year. Fast fashion also needs a tremendous number of resources to be produced, it is estimated that 1.5 trillion liters of water are used annually within the industry. Another issue plaguing the industry is the distance the materials must travel to make a fast fashion product; some items travel the world as air cargo several times before their manufacture. This is a growing trend within the fashion industry, it is estimated that products being flown rather than shipped could result in over 100% more carbon emissions.

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Sustainability relates to all aspects of our life, even if the outfits we have right now would last forever it is unreasonable to expect people to stop buying clothes, it isn’t socially sustainable. Individual fashions change and that is a part of what makes us unique. The question becomes how our fashions can remain ever changing and reflective of our personalities if we cannot buy new clothes in a sustainable manor. Thankfully there is a solution, Sustainable shopping. Recently popularized by sites like Depop and Vinted, thrift shopping has never been more popular in the U.K. Buying clothes that will stand the test of time from quality materials greatly reduces the need to continue to purchase more and you can find great quality brands at a cut price when shopping second hand. Due to the fast-moving nature of fashion much of it has hardly been worn! Finally, becoming a thrift shopper can serve to make you some money! Selling your old clothes that don’t get much wear anymore online can free up some space in your wardrobe and fill up some space in your wallet.

Sustainably Speaking

Loughborough University Sustainability Blog

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