Meet the woman campaigning for zero waste in Hackney

Bettina Maidment at the National Park City celebration. Pic: Plastic-Free Hackney

A Hackney mother of two has only emptied her bin bag once this year due to her zero-waste lifestyle.

Bettina Maidment, 38, is the founder of Plastic Free Hackney, a campaign that encourages a zero-waste lifestyle and raises awareness of single-use plastics, litter pick-ups and planting projects that benefit both the community and natural world.

A zero-waste lifestyle is one where you produce as little waste as possible, and any waste you do produce can be broken down easily (recyclable).

Maidment told Eastlondonlines: “In a nutshell its whereby you produce no waste, you embrace a fully circular lifestyle so any waste you do produce can fully break down.”

“It sounds pretty extreme but I think we can all live this way to a greater or lesser extent.  It’s basically a shift from the mainstream consumerist society we live in and moving towards a slower more sustainable form of living whereby we buy vastly less.”

Maidment switched to a zero-waste life in January 2017. She said: “I just had enough! I have two small children and just had a moment of realisation that we can’t keep smothering the earth in plastic and not have any repercussions in their future. Thankfully it’s now a really mainstream issue and everyone is waking up to the reality of what we’ve been doing.”

“In my immediate family, my boys are still quite small so they don’t really know any different and my husband is pretty low maintenance, I can’t remember the last time he bought anything in fact!”

The campaign doing a litter pick in Hackney. Pic: Plastic-Free Hackney.

After switching she established Plastic Free Hackney. She said: “After reducing my own plastic consumption I realised that it would be much easier to go plastic-free if there were readily available alternatives out there, so I decided to do something about it.”

Asked about her cravings, Maidment said: “Yoghurt is the bane of my life, I keep meaning to make it but never get around to it so I buy it for the kids – I buy those jumbo pots and have stopped eating it myself.”

In a message to people thinking about a zero-waste lifestyle, Maidment said: “Take it slow, otherwise it can feel overwhelming and you’re likely to give up.  Any step you take to reduce your waste is a step in the right direction so swap things out as and when is necessary, use up what you have and just be more mindful of what you do buy.”

“In terms of food packaging is there an item in a box rather than plastic? For all other things question whether you really do need it, and want and need are two very different things!”

Maidment has referenced that a goal of hers is to get to as low waste as a mason jar, she said: “It’s an ambition but I’m defo not there yet! Saying that, I’ve only had to empty the kitchen bin once this year so that’s one normal bin bag size bag in four and a half months.”

Bettina’s bin after four-five months. Pic: Plastic-Free Hackney

Hackney as a borough in 2001 only saw one per cent of its materials recycled but now sees just over 25 per cent.

She said: “It’s great – there is an absolutely dedicated team at the council that I know are working so hard to increase these figures. I find it pretty infuriating that the council makes it so easy for people to recycle including providing a composting service for food waste yet some people just seem to not care.”

Hackney is below the nation and city average for household recycling. Hackney council have said the reason for them being below the average is because of the high number of flats.

Maidment explained: “It’s true, waste management is increasingly difficult in flats – it just takes one household to use the wrong bin for it to create a snowball effect and all the waste becomes contaminated.”

“I’ve spoken to the team a lot about this and it’s a really difficult issue – you can’t have bins outside flats due to fire risks and having them further away from the building seems to cause the problems. It’s a tricky issue.”

When asked about the significance of producing little waste, especially now, she said: “Look around! Plastics are a product of the fossil fuel industry; climate change and plastic pollution are two sides of the same coin. As has been highlighted in the news, we are also shipping our waste to countries ill-equipped to deal with their own waste causing so many issues there.”

“We have a decade left to make radical changes and society’s consumption needs to be vastly curbed to enable this.”

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