As we enter #ZeroWasteWeek, I find myself taken back to my youth and the often-used words of my mother: "Waste not, want not" - words from a childhood growing up in wartime. Only two days ago, I stood, transfixed, in front of a big shop window, but this was no ordinary shop; it was a library of things. Frome, Somerset, is one of those places where sustainability has begun to mean something practical to local people and 'Share', its library for items of all kinds offers a great way to deliver on mum's obsessive saying.
Share, borrow, donate: what a way to ensure that we 'waste not, want not'. Libraries of things are popping up all over the country, as people seek a more sustainable way of using and reusing stuff
You see, the trouble is that we've got ourselves into a mindset where we buy, own, use and then throw away. The problem is that there is no 'away'; things don't just disappear without trace. How inconvenient for us! As ZeroWasteWeek put it "Away isn't some magical place; it's landfill, an incinerator, the bottom of the ocean, litter or the stomach of an animal. It's always somewhere else..."
So, what's the solution? It's pretty straightforward, actually: we need to reduce waste through reuse, recycling and repurposing material for a longer life. Easy to say, but quite another to do. Where do we start?
It remains the case that many - the majority of - people are confused, unsure what the issue is and what role they can possibly play in tackling it. So, why not start by getting the message out. Begin by explaining the zero waste idea. Why is it so important to keep things out of landfill?
Why not put forward a few simple tips people could do to reuse things – basing these on your own experience. Ditch those plastic bags when out shopping, by taking your own reusable bags to the shops; get a refillable bottle and fill it with water before you go anywhere; reuse food leftovers as ingredients for another meal, either at home or by donating food to local food waste charities; reuse glass food jars for storing small items; take unwanted items to a charity shop or offer on Freecycle (or similar online platforms, e.g. Share Peterborough - my local favourite) so someone else can reuse them; join the car boot sale community - a great way to make a bit of money and find new owners for those unwanted items clogging up your loft, shed or spare room; make inventive use of plastic food containers (which can often be difficult to recycle) - as flower pots, for storing food in the freezer. There's so much to do.
It's amazing what you come across at a car boot sale, and undoubtedly a great way to get new life out of old, unwanted items.
Not all of it can be done alone, though. Local authorities need to step up and ensure that they explain recycling facilities and processes clearly, while making it as easy as possible for people to take part. They need to explain how people can recycle things from the kerbside at home and signpost people to where they can find their local facilities. However, they also need to know how and where they can recycle things when out and about.
I'm always struck by the plethora of recycling logos and the general confusion these cause for people. Perhaps it's time that we shared information on basic recycling logos and how people can recycle those items.
So, I've got myself a lot of actions to take over the coming week. Little by little we can make zero waste a reality. We have to - there is no 'away' after all and it's about time we got back to mum's adage of 'waste not, want'. It's not about wartime austerity; it's about ensuring a sustainable future for the planet.