Could you live 24 hours rubbish free?

The main downfalls: coffee, flowers and chewing gum. Pic: Victoria Brush

Four intrepid ELL journalists decided to try. Here’s how we got on.

Whilst it is easy to say waste is bad, four journalists wanted to see whether zero waste is possible for everyone.

Throughout this experiment, we faced problems that we didn’t realise would be an issue. From flowers to chewing gum, the little things we had not thought of completely threw us off course.

We thought this would be an easy experiment to conduct (hint, it wasn’t).

Gregory: To cup or not to cup

I have considered buying a reusable coffee cup for a little while now. Not only are they adorable, but lots of my friends have them and I want to join the club. Spoiler alert, I’m not a big coffee drinker. Spending £18.50 on a reusable coffee cup as an occasional coffee drinker is not ideal for my bank account. This means I end up using the plastic ones from Costa.

I discovered that only one per cent of all hot drinks at Costa are sold in reusable cups. The figure isn’t much better at Starbucks, coming in at just under two per cent. However, I invested in a reusable plastic water bottle which I bought from Ikea for only £5 and is way more useful for me than a coffee cup. Reusable coffee cups and water bottles seem to be on the way to becoming a fashion statement.

I realised there was much more for me to consider during my zero waste week than I originally thought. Although I use a water bottle and avoid using plastic bags from shops, I accumulated a lot of waste from meal deals and buying the occasional iced latte. It is important for people to embrace some zero waste tactics to help save the environment. Some tactics, like avoiding carrier bags and using a reusable water bottle, proved easier than others.

Lisa: Did not succeed, but did not fail  

Packed Salad for the day. Pic: Nicolle Okren

My 24 hours as zero waste got off to a good start. I’d prepared a salad and snacks the night before and packed them into my Tupperware, ready for a zero waste lunch.

What I hadn’t prepared for was my mid-morning coffee craving. Recently, I was gifted a fancy Stojo coffee cup, but today I had left it at home. Now, I realise I have no excuse not to keep my super-handy foldaway cup in my bag at all times.

Though I didn’t buy any food in the afternoon, I did realise that eating sultanas I had previously bought – and had in my bag – meant I had failed to have a zero waste snack time. (Can you actually get package-free sultanas? Must look into it.)

The evening brought more disappointment. Being a student, my being is powered mostly by soup which, of course, comes in a tin – or a cardboard box if you’re dining on a fancy brand like I was yesterday. My ‘New Covent Garden’ soup was another nail in the coffin of the environment and my zero waste day.

Though I didn’t succeed at going completely zero waste for the day, I didn’t completely fail either. I was able to recycle the packaging I bought and transport my pre-bought food using Tupperware. It’s a start.

Nicolle: Smell the roses….but throw away all the packaging first

There is one thing I buy once a week: fresh flowers. It is part of my routine and makes me feel like a human. With such an adorable weekly routine, I obviously assumed that I was going to dominate the zero waste week challenge. My interests are so wholesome so obviously, my imprint on the environment was also insanely wholesome and small.

Turns out that was all a lie. A flower bouquet is not so innocent.

On Tuesday, I showed up at my favourite nursery. I saw a beautiful bouquet of yellow tulips. I needed them. Alas, the stems were wrapped in paper with a plastic overlay and then taped down over the stems. Wrapped over the tape were two jumbo sized rubber bands. This was definitely not a zero waste experience especially because the second I got home, I was going to rip off the rubber bands, tear off the paper and plastic and throw everything in the bin. It was all going to go straight to that landfill far away.

I asked one of the employees if they could sell the bouquet to me without the paper, plastic and rubber bands. The employee was nice and smiled and then said, “Sure, but then I will just throw it all away.” Interesting predicament. Either way, I was going to be contributing to our local landfill.

In honour of the zero waste week challenge, I had to forego my beloved ritual. Unless I am picking flowers from the literal earth, it is not a zero waste practice.

 Victoria: In Chewing Gum Denial

A reusable keep up alongside Cassie. Pic: Victoria Brush

I try to be zero waste when I can: I have a litre metal water bottle and a small Keep Cup for coffee. I thought that because I already have waste-reducing habits, this was going to be a breeze. I even found out that the Co-Op gives compostable carrier bags, which was a game changer.

However, when I looked at my week’s waste consumption, I did produce some waste from a sandwich or two (I’m only human). But what really shocked me was the amount of chewing gum I threw away. It was a lot.

I knew that chewing gum is bad for the environment, but I wasn’t sure why. In my mind, the odd package a day wasn’t that bad. What harm could it do?

During my zero waste research, I have been put off the appetite suppressor. Seriously, I had to take out my gum whilst researching. Gum creates over 250,000 tonnes of waste in one year. Only 10 per cent is even thrown away in a bin.

If it was recycled correctly, it could be used to create rubber and children’s toys. I am now trying to find plastic-free, biodegradable chewing gum (which is provided in Iceland). It’s tough, but I need to say goodbye to the chewing gum I once knew.

If you want to know more about how to live a zero-waste lifestyle, check out our Instagram page @ellnews, our Twitter @eastlondonlines and follow the hashtag #ELLzerowasteweek.

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