Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Day 3 - waste at work

One thing I didn't count up last week was what went in my bin at work, but this week I will take it all home in my (accumulating) lunchboxes to add to the total. However we are actually reasonably lucky with recycling in the office, and so there is not much waste.

Our desk bins are recycling bins, taking paper/card, and clean plastic bottles and tins. Battery collection has also just started in a small way. Elsewhere in the office are larger (communal) wheelie bins which take the non-recyclables. (This is actually a bit of a pain as things like tissues and chewing gum I just want to get rid of immediately rather than traipsing through the office! But it does make you think about your waste.) We can take glass to bottle banks near the shops, but there is no food waste collection in offices, communal areas or food outlets.

Being in Environmental Sciences, there are some green-minded people about who come up with their own solutions in the office. For example, sometimes people will put small compostables bins in one or another of the kitchens, and take them to their home or allotment, but the problem is there is always more waste than space! As I bring a lunch box every day, I can take my fruit debris and teabags home that way, and this week I am making a real point of doing so. But I noticed when attending a workshop at Leeds University last month that they have various recycling bins in communal areas, including ones for compostable waste. I was only in one area of one department, but I saw at least two - I think that's excellent and I will try and chase up why we don't do that.

I also said I would investigate the waste-free lunch possibilities. My quick and unscientific survey was not encouraging, unfortunately. However, we have a few more options than your usual canteen as there is a small supermarket on campus. The packaging waste potential is there, as you would expect:
  • poly wrap and paper/cellophane bags (sandwiches, cakes)
  • waxed paper sheets, trays and cups (paninis, potato wedges, veggie meals, soup, hot and cold drinks)
  • condiment sachets
  • plastic cups for water and smoothies
  • all the usual hot drink detritus: cups, lids, wooden stirrers, sugar sachets (but milk in a jug), individually plastic and cardboard wrapped tea bags (!) in some outlets
  • rigid plastic pots (salads - all with spork!, chunky fruit/veg pots)
  • the usual crisps, sausage rolls, flapjacks, confectionery, bottled and carton drinks
  • lots of shop options e.g. Asian pot noodley things (polystyrene cup, shrink wrap, flavour sachets)
  • I think the "winner" is sushi from the shop: 2-part plastic tray, plastic/wood extendable chopsticks, plastic "fish" bottle of soy sauce, plastic packets of ginger and wasabi.
The best food options seem to be:
  • eat-in meals (but more expensive)
  • pizza slices, samosas and other snacks on unwrapped cardboard trays
  • fruit - unwrapped everywhere except for some bulk items in the shop
  • loose veg in the shop - e.g. peppers and carrots (if you can prepare them)
  • individual bread rolls, cookies and doughnuts from the shop, which can go in paper bags
  • sandwich fillings from the shop could include tinned tuna, peanut butter in a jar, er... Jam? Nutella? Spam? It's a bit limited after that.
Whenever I can't make myself lunch, the aspect I usually worry about is getting a healthy meal, but if I was going for zero waste as well, the choices would be even smaller! Long live the lunchbox is all I can say. I will stick to my salads, fruit and cakey things. I also usually have a packet of almonds on the go in my desk drawer, but have given those up this week (which may be why I snacked on chocolate yesterday, thus negating any saving!)

I went to a gig tonight (this is an unusually social week for me, honest) and ate my dinner in the campus canteen beforehand, so no direct waste there. All I have managed to generate today is a very small tangle of sellotape, some tissues, one piece of chewing gum, and the disposable earplugs (with little plastic bag) I had to ask for at the gig because I seem to have turned into an old fogey. I didn't bring it home but I hereby admit to one plastic beer cup too (if I drank rubbish like Smirnoff Ice I could have had it in the bottle, but not St Peter's Organic Ale!). Mark contented himself with a tin of soup for tea and a quiet night in (bless).


  1. Nice work Katy! Don't worry, you're not an old fogey. I thoroughly recommed earplugs at gigs and I wear them all the time to stop me going deaf. Why not invest a tenner in some plugs such as Docs Pro Plugs or the like....they are reusable too and last ages!

  2. Thanks for the tip Alex! Do you think we will need them for Eddi? ;)