As you can guess from the title of this post, I purchased an eye-wateringly expensive cardboard box this week. £117.62 worth of cardboard box to be exact. There it is in the picture above, in all its glory. Isn’t she lovely?
Have I gone completely off the rails you ask? No, I have not. For this isn’t just any old cardboard box, it’s a Terracycle No Separation Zero Waste Box. What this box will enable me to do is to recycle almost all of the final few bits of landfill waste I’m still creating. The stuff that is just too difficult for me to give up, at least right now.
Terracycle are a company who pride themselves on recycling the bits and bobs which aren’t easily recyclable elsewhere. The range of things you can recycle with them is huge: items such as tennis balls, sponges, crayons, backpacks, cassette tapes, safety goggles, flip flops and about a million other things. They do a range of boxes for different types of waste, and if you get one focused on a single area of waste, the boxes are much cheaper. For example, their Kitchenware and Utensils Zero Waste Box starts at £76.03 for the small box.
Boxes come in three sizes, depending on your needs. I’ve gone for the smallest to start with. As a guide, here’s the box next to a dining chair for perspective:
In our household of two adults we’ve worked on reducing our landfill waste to a small carrier bag per three months on average. I’m hoping the box will take around a year to fill up, but this is just an estimation at this point really. If it does, that will be a cost of £9.80 per month to divert almost all of our landfill waste. That could be wildly optimistic, but I feel that being aware of how much it costs may also influence my purchasing habits further as well.
The items I have that I know will be going into it are:
- Toothpaste tubes – yes, I know there are a million DIY toothpaste recipes out there, including some which the users’ dentists have approved. But as I’ve explained before, I am terrified of dentists and dentistry work and this is a line which I’m not prepared to cross. Fluoride and I are not parting ways.
- Toothbrush heads – I usually brush with a lovely compostable bamboo toothbrush, but I also have an electric toothbrush purchased from pre-zero waste days. I feel it gives an extra deep clean which is nice sometimes (see above bullet point).
- Medicine blister packs – it seems to be virtually impossible to buy packets of aspirin or paracetamol tablets these days that aren’t in a blister pack. Although I try to keep my usage of all non-prescribed drugs to a minimum, some will always end up creeping in somewhere along the line.
- Crisp packets – these are now a very occasional treat. Our local recycling seems to offer varying information about whether these are recyclable or not, so to be on the safe side the rare treat of a packet of Popchips will end up in here.
Now before you say it, I know that recycling still isn’t a great option, and it definitely isn’t the solution that it’s widely presented to be. It uses up resources and fossil fuels to make something old into something new. Of all of the ‘Rs’ of sustainability, it should still be the last resort one. (In case you’re wondering what the Rs are, they are a guiding series of principles on how you should think about waste. The most simple iteration of how they’re used is in the phrase ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, however there are many more that are being added over time, such as refuse, repair and rot (the last being another word for composting, not landfilling). A brief overview can be found on this BBC school revision article.)
So, it’s not the ‘best’ option, but for these last few items it’s the best option available to me right now. I think purchasing this box will encourage me not just to think about the last few landfill items on my list, but to remind me that all disposable products we bring into our homes carry a cost. Even when we don’t see the price we’re paying for a rubbish disposal service when it’s hidden in our taxes, we are all still paying for it. What we also need to realise is that we’re paying for it environmentally too.