Waste Free Feb is our annual campaign run by the Waste Education Team, a challenge which encourages people to become more aware of the rubbish they produce and take active steps to reduce it. The ultimate challenge is to reduce all your waste to the size of a jam jar for the whole of Feb, but any reduction is a positive step and we had people taking part for a day, a week or the whole month.

This year we had almost 500 people get involved, which saved an estimated 8 tons of waste from the rubbish bin – amazing!
As you'd expect, one of the most challenging aspects for people was avoiding plastic packaging. It’s tricky, but people found it could be reduced by pre-planning and finding alternatives.

Some great changes people have pledged to continue include taking their own tubs to the butchers or deli counter, using community recycling points for the hard to recyclables (check out Terracycle.com and Recycle Now), using cloths instead of kitchen roll and reducing food waste by planning your meal and only buying what is needed. By taking part in Waste Free Feb, participants have made some achievable changes which will soon become the ‘norm’ in their daily lives - and these long-lasting changes will have the biggest impact on waste reduction.

Matt, our Estates Officer describes his journey to waste free living:

“Our Waste Free Feb journey began back in January 2018, and slowly but surely my wife, Jenna and I have improved our daily lifestyles by reducing the single use plastics and adopting waste free alternatives.

Having only really been attempting to be waste free for a month at that point, Waste Free Feb in 2018 was difficult - very difficult - however we managed to reduce our waste destined for landfill or incineration from 50 litres to about 15 litres. That was for 2 adults, but we knew we could do better.

Throughout the rest of 2018, Jenna and I avidly shopped around for alternatives for everything in our house, and I mean everything. It’s taken some time but when you’ve got a child (who is now 18 months old) that is the way it has to be. We started to buy bamboo toothbrushes, stopped buying disposable washing up sponges and reduced our meat intake.

The difficulty comes when you need to change your habits; it’s easy to do your weekly shop and pick up what you are used to. Jenna and I ruthlessly plan when we are going to be near a waste free shop and make sure we have our reusable tubs with us; it doesn’t always work out especially when a small tub of fruit and nuts costs as much as a small car!

Where budget does not allow, we go without. We just don’t buy it. We still eat well, we just source the best food we can within our budget. Occasionally a small piece of plastic gets purchased or the odd expense is incurred, but this happens less and less often. We collect any of the hard-to-recycle wrappings; mostly biscuit wrappers as well as the odd crisp wrapper which comes our way, and we make sure they go to the relevant community Terracycle collection points.

Where we have removed single use plastics, we've often opted for recyclable products instead; although we’d rather reduce, we know recyclables are a better alternative to single use plastics. The only things left in our home that are single use plastics are cheese wrappers, milk tops and toothpaste tubes; the latter is Jenna’s choice, she refuses to go over to toothpaste tablets whereas I think they are great. It may take some time to persuade Jenna, but we'll get there one day.

During Waste Free Feb 2019, we were still trialling a few things; making our own pasta has been great although I broke the machine and am waiting to get it repaired. We were making oat milk which became a little too much effort - though tasted pretty good, and were buying cheese and fish from the deli; these items were slightly expensive and the assistant serving us would always wear a disposable plastic glove or line the scales with a plastic sheet. This was frustrating and felt pointless, although with more people taking their own tubs to the counter the message to 'reuse and reduce' is reinforced with deli staff.

Recent habits that we have adopted include regularly making our own bread and baking our own snacks, shortbread, flapjack and brownies. The only downside is the washing up!

All of the changes we have made added up to a very successful month, January's waste (after Christmas) was a 25L sack of rubbish which we got down to a single jar, a mere 40 grams during February, mostly cheese wrappers, milk tops, Weetabix wrappers and the old bit of broken plastic.”

Matt achieved this reduction of waste with a family of three, but Waste Free living isn’t just for February. So why not join our Waste-Free Feb Facebook Group to help reduce the rubbish in your life.

Here's an infographic about this year's results: