One rubbish and recycle bin used for the whole year

Principle 6: Produce no waste

One year on, and mission of only using one rubbish and one recycle bin achieved. Christmas tree with mostly home made decorations made from recycled paper in background.
Our 'binimum' mission of filling one recycle bin and one rubbish bin in one year has been successfully completed! There was even a little bit of room left for more recycling, but we wanted to hang onto some of our containers because they are so useful.
I was pretty sure that we wouldn't make our rubbish goal with a couple of months to go, but some gentle persuasion (jumping on rubbish) we managed to get all of our household and shed waste into the rubbish bin. Unfortunately it was so well compacted that only half came out when the bin was 'emptied'!
The recycle bin was less of a challenge, though it is twice the size of the rubbish bin. We reused a lot of the containers that we bought, and even asked for more from our neighbours when we were preserving. I'm sure that there is a limit to how many you can hold on to, but I'd still like to get some more of those oil cans to turn into drawers.

Here are some of the things that we did to reduce our waste:
  • Old or underused clothing gets given to friends or sent to the Op-Shop if it's good enough, if not we cut them up and use them for once-off baby wipes which are then composted (not synthetics). Other old clothing material is used as rags before being thown in the bin or composted as appropriate.
  • Underused toys or electronic gadgets are given to friends or sent to the Op-Shop if they are good enough. If not they are disassembled to recover anything useful (like screws) or recycle what we can before the rest is thrown out. I even unsoldered a circuit board from a broken toy organ today and recovered a number of LEDs, a switch, speaker and electronic bits & pieces. I wonder if I'll ever use them?
  • Plastic bags and containers are washed and dried if they are good enough, so we can reuse them. Some are given away with excess produce to friends, most end up recycled or in the bin.
  • Soap nuts were used for washing dishes and clothes. Bi-Carb, vinegar and 'Sard Wonder' soap for other cleaning.
  • Our philosophy is to grow, make and use as much as we can ourselves, which avoids most waste all together. 
  • We try to swap or exchange with local friends who also grow
  • We try to source what we can from local farms, buying in bulk (like wheat and olive oil). 
  • We buy bulk foods using our own containers where possible, and use the supermarket as a last resort (it is really handy at times). 
The experiment of radically reducing waste is not only possible but fun and creative too. We wont continue the challenge in the new year, but will keep track of how many bins we put out. I'm curious to see how much waste we produce over the coming year now that we have become more established in our home and are more aware of how to reduce and even eliminate rubbish altogether.

Many containers reused in the shed.  Three old doors and offcuts used to make the working bench and shelves.
Particularly useful are the old oil tins that have their sides cut out of them, making fantastic drawers. Smaller tins are used to divided them up.
Some tin cans were kept in the shed for use later. I've found the sardine cans useful in the garden as beer traps for slugs and slaters.
An old paint tin used to store small metal scraps that will be recycled when I go to the transfer station next
Some extra beer bottles left over from my 40th that are yet to be cleaned and reused for preserving or brewing
Jars and beer bottles reused for preserving some of our boysenberry harvest. We made cordial, jam, sauces and just plain fruit.
Bottles reused for purchasing liquids in bulk and for storing Kunie's kombucha
Other jars and containers are washed and kept inside for storage or preserving
Paper, boxes and excess produce scraps are fed to the compost. Tasty produce and food scraps fed to chickens and worm farm.
Kai in the tree house serving up a imaginative meal of 'carrot and pumpkin soup with lollies', reusing broken toys, beer caps and old containers.

UPDATE: 31st December 2011
I was contacted by a social worker in India recently with this question:
"We have no government/city waste management available here. We compost our food waste, burn our paper, reuse/recycle our plastic bottles...but we have nothing to do with wrappers (for potato chip bags, candy wrappers, etc.).
We don't have a lot of these items, but we want to know what to do with it. How we can bury it so that it has low impact on the soil."
At the time I responded with:
"One thing that you may want to consider is looking at the properties of the material. The fact that it doesn't break down could be useful. Perhaps they could be twisted together and made into something else that is useful, a basket perhaps? Be creative and think outside the square...

Of course it would be better not to buy them in the first place."

The question has stayed with me and I mentioned it to my builder mate Pete who suggested that the material might make good insulation. Crumpled up and stuffed into bags it could be used in the roof space or wall cavities. Then I realised that a lot of the chip and lolly wrappers these days have foil inside and I wondered about finding a way to stick the wrappers down onto a sheet of something flat (even sew them on some material) and use them like building foil to reflect heat.
They could also potentially be used to replace foil in conjunction with other waste plastic to replace the paper (for insulation) in the making of solar cookers like the tyre cooker from the video below.


Kristy said…
Ah brilliant - have been trying to come up with a use for the large olive oil tins and now have found it - thankyou :)

Now... to get our shed looking anywhere like neat... ha!

Richard said…
Just had a question about the oil tins having sharp edges - I use a small grinder to cut them and a metal file to take the sharp edge off.
Ramsey said…
Hi it is a very impressive feat your Family achieved with the yearly rubbish total.
I also loved the idea with the oil containers.
Your Cubby-Tree house is absolutely amazing.
How are the solar panels going?
AdamG said…
Very impressive Richard and fam!
TC said…
Well done on the 'binimum' - I've been waiting for the result!! I hope to follow in your footsteps.
And belated congrats on the town rebranding victory.
Richard said…
Re: Solar panels, at the end of the year we generated 1077kW and exported 917kW over about five months. Haven't received an account from my retailer yet - very slack. Will write a post soon.
Liz said…
Nice work Richard and Kunie. :-) Oli and I managed to keep last year's household rubbish to one bin (one of the old school round types), with a little bit of squishing towards the end of the year, but there's only two of us! And we also have a piled wheelbarrow load of building rubbish (though at least some of it was already going to waste from elsewhere before we grabbed it and salvaged the useful bits and just have the parts that we can't possibly think of a use for to go to waste now). There'll be more building rubbish to come for us I'm sure, but hope to keep reducing the household rubbish, and keep the building rubbish to a minimum.
Didn't keep very good track of our recycling this past year, think we might have had about 4 or 5 total of those old style black tub/crate style bins full of plastic/metal/glass plus a couple of boxes of paper/cardboard but we already took some to the transfer station earlier in the year so I'm not sure.
It's been inspiring reading what I've read about you've been doing over there. Yay! :-)
Joanne said…
This is really inspiring! I live with 5 housemates who are all relatively eco conscious but everytime the bin goes out I feel a twinge of horror because it is so full! Imagine what people who don't even care are throwing out! I'm going to try and reduce my waste like you have and hopefully this will encourage my housemates to do the same! Your idea about the chip packets as insulation is lovely, I recently went to the seminar series by Michael Reynolds at the Sustainable Living Festival and found his ideas for using other people's trash to create really thermally efficient buildings so interesting, like you said all you need to do is start thinking creatively!

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