Identify your Top 5 Waste Generators

After successfully implementing an organic waste bin, I began to become much more aware of exactly what it was I was throwing away. In my previous post, I talked about how I had changed my behaviours regarding food waste. Next, it was time to turn my attention to the big one; the general waste.

My general waste bin used to be a stinking mess of leftovers and packaging. As I was no longer throwing food into the general waste, it was no longer a huge mess. This allowed me to rifle through my rubbish bag every time it was full to see what were my top offenders (judge me if you must, but this method worked for me).


By looking through what it was that we, as a household, were throwing out, I was able to easily identify our Top 5 Waste Generators. In our case it was food packaging for pasta, rice, bread, cheese and meat. Now it was time to eliminate the waste, without eliminating the food that came inside. I did this by doing the following:

Address your recycling doubts

First thing to do was to check with my local recycling facility if they accepted plastic trays used for food (I’m not sure about your area, but here, there is a lot of doubt over many items and whether they can be recycled, as different waste companies have different restrictions. As it so happens, in my area, plastic trays used for meat and poultry are perfectly recyclable as long as you remove the foam padding and the plastic cover (and of course wash).

Check with your waste company for a detailed list of items they accept. You might be surprised by what extra things you can recycle (and what you can’t!)

Shop around

So that was one of my big 5 moved instantly to recycling. None of the other products I was buying were in recyclable packaging. It was time to shop around.

Most of us are creatures of habit when it comes to the weekly shop. We buy the same food, the same brand. I knew that there must be recyclable alternatives out there and hoped they wouldn’t be hard to find. I decided to spend a little extra time on my shopping last week (this was very out of character for me!) searched the aisles for alternatives for my four remaining Waste Generators.


The same products can be found in different packaging materials. You may just need to look a little harder

For both rice and pasta I was able to find 100% recyclable cardboard packaging. I was chuffed! Not only did this new find help reduce my general waste, as they are boxes, they stack much easier in the press so I can pile them high!

Note: Bulk stores are not very common in Ireland yet, so for now I will be using recyclable packaging over zero packaging for my pasta and rice. But I feel its definitely a step in the right direction.

This left only two more on my Top 5; cheese and bread. I was quite surprised I couldn’t find any recyclable options for both in my local supermarket. I was onto my third option.

3. Buy from specialist shops

It can be a pain sometimes, having to go to separate shops to get everything you need. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who will find all alternatives in one shop. For me, I decided to get my cheese in a Polish shop where they have the large blocks of cheese sealed in wax and simply slice off what you want. Despite, the occasional odd look, most staff were more than happy to put the cheese into my tupperware.


As for the bread, I found that bakeries were the place to go. They normally use paper packaging, which can be recycled provided its not soiled. If you’re a fan of sliced bread, why not try Lidl where you can put your loaf into the slicer and then your paper bag.

I was really happy to be able to find alternatives for my Top 5 Waste Generators and have already noticed a significant reduction in the amount of waste I’m throwing out.

The plan now is to reinforce this new habit for my Top 5 and repeat the cycle over and over, finding alternatives for my next Top 5.

Why not try finding out your Top 5 Waste Generators and seeing what ways you can reduce the waste without necessarily removing the product?

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