December 16, 2020

How to do a Rubbish Bin Audit + Throw Less Away!

How to do a Rubbish Bin Audit + Throw Less Away!

Ok a rubbish bin audit might not sound like the coolest thing in the world BUT, sending as little as possible to landfill and being mindful about your bin use… is absolutely SO cool. Right?

So after Cathedral City and Terracycle helped us divert one of the problem items that showed in my last audit, I’m partnering with them on this blog post to show you how we do a quick audit of our rubbish bin to make sure we’re using it the right way and constantly moving forward with what we put in there.

Why should we do a regular rubbish bin audit?

Our rubbish bin is the way most items leave our homes to go to landfill. They can become the easy out for cleaning our home and a quick place to put things, but really they deserve a kind of revere and real respect. The items we put there all go somewhere, and as we have the fortune to be able to send them out of our homes, they don’t go away or stop affecting people and planet. In the moment we can’t ask all these questions as we pop something in there, but we can check in regularly and see what habits we’re making with our bin, and how we can move forward towards less waste.

There are absolutely items that need to go in there, and I don’t believe all rubbish is waste, but I think periodically taking a look at what we’re putting in there can be a great tool to assess our shopping habits.  It also lets us zoom out and think about what we bring IN to our home and how we can potentially shift the way that happens.

What’s in your bin? Audit time!

We start with either keeping the contents of your bin for 2-4 weeks, or writing down every single thing that goes in for that time.

Then we’re going to sit down with your bin or your list to audit the contents.  Notice which things appear most in your bin. Are there any (like cocoa tubs for me) that you didn’t realise you were throwing so many of?

For each thing ask, yourself a few questions to see what your next steps to reducing waste could be and to just know more closely what your’e putting in there. Here’s what I ask:

1. Could this item of rubbish have been recycled?

Look at your local area and what can be recycled in your area through kerbside recycling or local collection points. Thanks to Terracycle and Catherdral city this now includes all those cheese wrappers – if you’re in the UK click HERE to find your closest drop off point or to get one set up in your area. You can also see HERE what Terracycle options are available where you live – click the little flag to find your language/country.

2. Could this have been composted?

Lots of what goes in the bin is food waste that could be composted. Not every council in the UK provides doorstep composting but if you have that make sure you use it or ask about it for your local area. Food doesn’t break down in landfill the way it does in compost so redirecting it away from landfill is an important step. There are many methods of garden or even indoor composting so you could also look into those and see if there’s one that could make sense for you. You could also save it (freezing is a great way!) and take it to a farmers market or local community composting point – or to a friend!

3. Could this item instead be repurposed so it doesn’t need to end up in the bin?

This is a question for food and many other things! So often things end up in the bin from a lack of planning or as an easy out. But with planning and repurposing, we can avoid a lot of food even needing to go to the bin. Things like putting leftovers on pizza or into a stir fry, or making a meal plan so that nothing is purchased to eat without a plan for how it will be used.

The same goes for other things. Could a jar be saved as a to go coffee cup or a food storage container? Just ask it of every item!

4. Is there a new way I can bring this into my home that it doesn’t end up in the bin?

Like the cocoa packets that showed up in my last audit, the only thing I needed to change was how I brought it into my home so I could change how it left. Is there a way you can buy package free for the item in question? Or a different way of bringing it in that reduces the amount that goes in the bin? Maybe only eating certain fruits in season when they’re available with no packaging or from a farm locally. Or buying in a bulk package so the packaging is reduced. There are often lots of potential options when you start asking the question!

5. Can I reduce my consumption of this item so less goes in the bin?

You can halve the waste an item creates by using it half as much! For some things this doesn’t apply but for others it totally does! Ask yourself, can I do this/use this a few days a week rather than every day?

6. Can I just stop using this item so I don’t create this piece of rubbish?

Sometimes there are things we put in the bin and when we think about them, we could just stop using the item. It might be a challenge but it’s really possible on so many things. Kids have for sure made it harder as we have to lots of explaining on why we don’t buy things the way lots of other people do, but saying no is a money saving, waste saving move a lot of the time! Hi small snack foods, I’m looking right at you!

7. How can I stop this item entering my home so it doesn’t end up in the bin?

Sometimes there are items that end up in my bin – I actually found it was a decently high proportion over the month – of items where I hadn’t chosen to bring them into my home. Junk mail that couldn’t be recycled, free things that had got into our home from different places, things we hadn’t asked for at a restaurant that we got handed before we could say no.

These ones take thinking ahead, but taking your name off mailing lists, asking ‘what comes with that?’ when you order at a restaurant or a quick explanation that you try to create no trash and don’t need extras, asking questions when you order something to be delivered. It does all take time and it is journey to find the sweet spot but start just thinking about it as you look over the items in your trash.

My last audit: the results + solutions

Happily, because we compost, recycle and eat minimal meat our rubbish bin is all dry waste. This lets me actually keep it for the whole month and look at it. Last time I did this there were three items I saw a lot of in the month that I didn’t really think about as I put each individual one in:

Cocoa tubs, things we’d been given in one way or another, and cheese packets.

  1. Cocoa tubs have recyclable lids so those should at least have gone in the recycling but I could easily move to buying bulk, I just hadn’t been thinking about it. Easy win!
  2. Cheese packets were not recyclable. I looked into buying it in wax but after looking at wax and realising it doesn’t compost, it’s made from paraffin and I wouldn’t want to burn it later as a candle, I decided that wasn’t my option! If you do end up with wax, you can save it to make fire lighters so we did that with the bit we had. Then there’s buying from a cheese counter which would be my top option if you have one where you shop or can go to one but in 2020 bringing my own container wasn’t the option it would have been prior. Also the cheeses can be more pricey bought at the counter – we definitely choose more expensive options to help the planet and we budget for that but it’s not an option for everyone. It’s also not an option available everywhere.
  3. Things we’d been given in some way were HALF our rubbish over the month. Extras we’d got when we ordered food out, things we’d been sent unknowingly, gift packaging from friends and relatives. These things feel so hard to eliminate and the only way is with planning, preempting, and having some conversations.  Phrases like ‘does that come with anything else?’ when you order food, and having conversations before birthdays and holidays with family make a massive difference. For kids parties for example, we tell people that we don’t need any gifts but if they want to gift, something pre loved from their own home is wonderful.


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