Waste self-audit

When going zero-waste, guides tend to tell you to assess your rubbish heaps regularly, usually weekly. Now, I’m not trying to go zero waste as such, but I did propose myself to the University of Brighton c-change department that waste audits could be carried out in student halls of residence. Considering that I see the rubbish trucks come in regularly to collect our waste, I’m assuming that there is no sort of waste audit currently going on at the University of Brighton residence halls.

I was provided with a trash can when I moved into my halls of residence. I empty it when it overflows, but as I keep on reusing the same bag, I know what goes in and out of my rubbish bin. It’s now the beginning of December and I’ve been here for just over two months, and since the start of term I’ve been doing ongoing self-assessment when it comes to what I throw into my bin.

There are three types of trash I throw out:

  • Trash I throw into the small rubbish bin in my room,
  • Trash I throw into the big rubbish bin in my flat’s kitchen, and
  • Trash I throw into bins located outside my hall of residence, whether that be on campus, in the street (not onto the street, but into rubbish bins located in the street), or at cafes.

The first type – trash that goes into the small rubbish bin in my room – is composed largely of crisp wrappers, chocolate wrappers, oatcake wrappers, biscuit packaging, used tissues and kitchen towels, and leaflets etc. that I no longer need, unless I can recycle them. There’s also used sanitary products (pads and liners) which go into the sanitary product bin in our bathrooms. I didn’t make this a separate category.

The second type – trash that goes into the big rubbish bin in the kitchen – is empty frozen vegetable bags (I know that they can be recycled when you take them to collection points in large supermarkets, my nearest point being the big Sainsbury’s next to Shabitat), frozen meal plastic trays, oatcake wrappers, bread & buns foil and plastic, used aluminium foil, baking paper, and kitchen towels, vegetables plastic packaging (lettuce, courgettes, carrots) and film (cucumbers), and bits and pieces such as milk bottle seals, yoghurt pot lids, frozen and chilled meal film, and hummus pot seals (on some brands of hummus).
There are also plenty of recyclables I leave in the kitchen: food cans (baked beans and soup), cardboard boxes (oatcakes, tea, hummus, frozen burgers), glass packaging (coffee, mayo, sandwich pickle, jam), plastic containers (peanut butter, ketchup, hummus), plastic bottles (milk, diet coke), drink cans (cider, diet coke), and glass bottles (beer). However, I’m focused here more on the completely disposable, non-recyclable waste, though all kinds of trash should obviously be minimised.
I also throw vegetable and fruit scraps into the general waste bin, because we’re not provided with compost bins in our accommodation and there’s no compost waste collection nearby. These things include: courgette and carrot tops, apple cores (rarely), bell pepper cores, and used teabags.

The third – the trash I get rid of while out in town – consists, I have to be fair, mostly of coffee cups. I stopped using my reusable cup around when the pandemic began because coffee shops first closed and then refused to accept reusable cups. It seems that now most of them accept reusable cups, but I no longer carry mine with me. If I had a reusable cup with metal inside, I’d be more likely to use it in cafes because the metal ones don’t smell as bad and don’t get as grotty as the plastic ones. I have two reusable cups at the moment and one is plastic, the other is glass. I never take my glass cup outside of my flat because I’m scared that I’ll break it, and it’s a really nice cup. I’d always wanted a glass keep cup and I got it from my friends a few months ago.
The other component of my out-in-town trash is any food packaging that I bought in the shops, such as sandwich packaging or snack bar wrappers. This is because, unlike in Edinburgh (or while living at home and studying from home), I don’t bring homemade lunch into campus. I stopped cooking altogether in Brighton and my ‘cooking’ goes as far as boiling broccoli and peas from frozen or baking curly fries. (I also hard-boil eggs). I could potentially make sandwiches, but the amount of waste I’d produce if I bought all the ingredients for my sandwiches would probably bigger than the combined amount of waste produced by buying ready-made sandwiches at Morrisons.

So here it is, my waste self-assessment after two months of living in Brighton as a University of Brighton student. Are your waste habits similar to mine? Maybe they were, but you figured out a way to tackle them? Either way, I’d be very happy if you managed to share this with me. Waste is super interesting!

The top of the little rubbish bin in my dorm, at the time of publishing this post (noon, 3rd December 2021).

Published by kotersey

Graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a First in geography, and from the University of Brighton with a Master's in history of design and material culture. Probably drinking iced coffee and thinking about buildings.

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