A week of waste, an assessment

Waste assessment is a basic first step for the zeroish-waste curious. This can be done by looking at the garbage in detail or looking at the incoming stuff. I’ve recorded all incoming items for our 2-adult household and the volume of outgoing garbage. It’s not pretty, brace yourself, and show me your numbers afterwards!

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Monday, August 19

IN

Lentils + glass jar + aluminum lid.
White beans + glass jar + aluminum lid.
Pickles + 2 glass jars + 2 aluminum lids.
Artichokes + 2 glass jars + aluminum lids.
Pickled beets + glass jar + aluminum lid.
Pickled sprouts + glass jar + aluminum lid.
Mayonnaise + glass jar + aluminum lid.

Soy milk + tetrabrick + plastic screw top.
Barretxa + 4 plastic baggies.
Cheese + plastic wrapper.

Cherry tomatoes + 2 plastic wrappers + 2 cardboard trays.
Chocolate + 5 paper wrappers + 5 aluminum foil (wrappers.

8 receipts, still unclear how much BPA-laden are those and if I’m fucking up all my recycling with this.

OUT

1 small compostable bag of organic garbage.
1 empty paper bag.

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Tuesday, August 20

IN

Bread + paper bag. Will be used afterwards to collect our paper trash, though.

OUT

1 small compostable bag of organic garbage.

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Wednesday, August 21

IN

Snickers bar + 2 plastic wrappers.

Nectarines + 2 cardboard trays + 2 plastic wraps + 9 fruit stickers.
Aubergines + 2 cardboard trays + 2 plastic wraps.

Watermelon + 2 plastic wraps.
Pimientos de padrón + plastic baggie.

Loose carrots in my own mesh bag.
Loose cucumbers.

Receipt (14 paper).

OUT

1 small plastic bag (from Sunday’s bread) of organic garbage.
1 plastic bag of plastic/aluminum recycling (in a bag that Marina had used to cushion her last package).
1 paper bag (from last week’s bread) with paper waste.

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Thursday, August 22

IN

Museum ticket.
Restaurant reservation note.
3 receipts.

Watermelon + 2 plastic wraps.
Cream cheese + box + lid.

OUT

1 small compostable bag of organic garbage.

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Friday, August 23

IN

Bread + paper bag.

Beer + 4 cans + 2 plastic bags.

OUT

1 small compostable bag of organic garbage.

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Saturday, August 24

IN

Chickpeas + glass jar + aluminum lid.
Turkey + plastic envelope + cardboard wrapper.

Potato chips + 2 bags.
Smoked salmon + plastic envelope.
Melon + plastic wrap.
Watermelon + plastic wrap.
Pimientos de padrón + 2 plastic baggies.

Mushrooms + 2 plastic trays + 2 plastic wraps.

Loose lemons + 2 fruit stickers.
Loose avocado + fruit sticker.
Loose nectarines + 7 fruit stickers.

Loose potatoes in my mesh bag.
Loose bell peppers.
Loose zucchini.
Loose cucumbers.
Loose lime.
Loose cherry tomatoes.
Loose onions.

Receipt.

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Sunday, August 25

OUT

1 small compostable bag of organic garbage.

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Totals

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Alternatives

As usual with waste, avoiding most of these would require me changing my routines and doing more housewifing. And that, as usual, circles back to the extent I am willing to dedicate more of my time to the pursuit of less waste (I already wrote a rant about this a year ago)… In order of ease of change, these are the ways of reducing our waste:

A) Designate a bread bag and stick to it.

B) Deciding that buying zero waste is more important than ‘we are throwing these out’ discount trays of fruit and veggies (this week: nectarines and aubergines). This is an unfortunate choice I’m not sure about… a classic in the universe of sustainability decision overwhelm.

C) Switching to buying beloved watermelons (and just melons) whole with the risk of buying an overripe and garbage-ready fruit it entails. I already had three of those this year, and really hate that disappointment after paying for and carrying those 5-8kg home.

D) The next step would be choosing my lemons and avocados based on if they have lost their stickers already. Bah! Or changing my fruit vendor. Changing would also be needed for pimientos de padrón and mushrooms. And adding an another shop – after finding one that’s fine with filling my own containers – to our shopping routine for all animal stuff.

E) Then, making legumes at home. We don’t own a pressure cooker, hence stovetop legumes imply several hours of some vigilance, and additional heat and humidity that life in Barcelona does not need. I’m still very unsure if this way of cooking beans is more energy efficient than the industrial ones. But buying cooked legumes leave their jars behind.

F) Mayonnaise. I have never tried to make the proper traditional mayonnaise (as opposed to several vegan options and replacements) but what I know about the care to be put into it does not make it appealing…

G) Soy milk. We tried it once with my grandma but without knowing that it has to be boiled. Internet says that dry soy beans can be used, so this sounds quite plausible although not that attractive. Again, time…

H) Beer. Buying on tap and in growlers is an options…

I) All the pickled stuff, ugh… we have done some very basic pickling, and olives can be easily bought zero waste here. Anything beyond that would rather mean foregoing then starting a wide pickling operation here.

J) As for other forms of preserving produce, only now – after 5 or so years of mild interest in the zeroish waste movement – it dawned on me that I would eat some stuff very rarely or never if they have to be zero wast, namely the veggies I usually get industrially frozen. In my case those would be green peas and edamames. A kilo of green peas in shell cost around 4-6 €/kg here when they are in season. Mostly they are not. Even when you get the fresh ones – and if you are not a green pea monster and are actually able to shell them without eating them all – a tiny bowl of green peas is what you get. And there would be no edamames… or only the very overpriced restaurant edamames that most probably came from the same frozen plastic bag that the ones I buy now. Well, one of my big issues with zero waste has always been the assumption that ‘if I didn’t see/touch it, it’s not my waste’…

K) Industrial shit, like Snickers or Philadelphia cream cheese, are not really an issue. Those happen quite rarely here. As for snacks like barretxa and potato chips… I’d have to explore the zero waste shop in St. Antoni.

L) Chocolate. For all my love for Casa Perris, their chocolate (no wrapper) is very much meh in comparison with our Blanxart favorites. And Blanxart’s supply chain is clearer and more eco. Ugh.

M) The amount of unnoticed paper going around is just annoying, and the Spanish internets do not agree about the recyclability of the receipts. And, as far as the alternative is giving people my email to send me the receipts, I’m not sure what’s worse.

N) And don’t even get me started on fruit stickers. I’m currently doing a little artsy project with them, as to channel my annoyance.

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As for the garbage, it is summer in Barcelona – hot, humid, and full of gnats wishing to make sweet love in our garbage – hence avoidance of the immediate compost is a priority. Public health first. And, no, home composting is not an appealing idea for us. C is outright disgusted by the thought, and I don’t feel strongly enough to try to cajole him. Rigorous separation for the city organic fraction is how far we are ready to go.

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So, I’m not very happy or inspired after this. I feel guilty, but I’m not willing to add more places to go to my shopping list… Also, a curious observation: I am more willing to do zero waste with stuff that lasts more. For example, for the quite occasional Casa Perris or Safareig trips I get all prepared, with a tight list and all corresponding containers. But I am far more relaxed about the plastic wraps that go into the garbage almost immediately. Minds work in curious ways…

Are you doing anything to reduce your waste? What have been the easiest steps? And the hardest? It is painful to understand how a life dedicated to zero(ish) waste would be possible if only we were ready to to actually dedicate much bigger chunks of time to it or restrict our consumption to only the easily available… neither is an attractive option.