Zero Waste movement aims to reduce household waste

The Zero Waste movement aims to reduce houshold waste to zero, Ailín Quinlan hears from its growing number of supporters.

HERE’S how much domestic waste Timi Konya puts into her rubbish bin every month; just enough to fill a coffee mug.

About a year ago, Timi and her fiancé Michael decided to reduce their waste.

Now, when Timi buys meat, her butcher puts it into a special glass box that Timi brings with her.

Timi has stopped using disposable nappies and baby wipes for the couple’s 17-month-old son Max, and has instead opted for re-usables, which she sources from a website,, the online source for a shop in Newry.

She uses cloth bags for grocery shopping and has also dispensed with paper towels and bin liners in the kitchen of the family home in Swords. Timi avoids buying pre-packed fruit or vegetables and uses un-packaged soap rather than shower gel and a solid shampoo bar instead of a bottle of shampoo.

Timi and Michael clean their teeth with bamboo toothbrushes and Timi makes her own deodorant from boiled, cooled water and baking soda, scented with a few drops of lime essential oil.

“Zero Waste is about sending minimal waste to landfill or incinerators,” says Timi, one of the moderators of a thriving Facebook group, Zero Waste Ireland, whose membership has multiplied in the last 12 months.

The group now boasts some 2,000 members from around the country, all of them aiming to share information on how to live a Zero Waste lifestyle.

Timi joined the group last January, when there were just 200 members.

“The information about Zero Waste moved very rapidly and people were intrigued by it.

“We saw a big increase just before the proposed pay-by-weight bin charges last July — I think it focused peoples’ minds.” Zero Waste an international trend which is becoming an increasingly common and necessary part of everyday life, Timi believes:

“Zero waste shops are popping up in the rest of Europe,” she says, adding that the concept is really about going back to the way many people lived 50 years ago.

“We started to reduce our waste last January and at the moment we produce less than 200g of landfill waste a month, which is about enough to fill a large to average-sized coffee mug,” says the 34-year-old Hungarian economist who has lived in Ireland for nine years.

One of the benefits of Zero Waste living, she says, is the amount of money you save — Timi, for example, no longer has to subscribe to a waste collection company, she says because her waste goes into a little jar, pictured here.

“The jar on the picture contains two month worth of rubbish and it is not full yet,” she explains.

They also save money on not having to buy disposable products like baby wipes, disposable nappies, paper towel in the kitchen or sanitary products.

“I spent approximately €20 in total on my washable baby wipes, which is significantly less than buying packs of disposable ones over and over again.” The savings the couple makes, she says, allow them to afford the organic veg-box from a local farmer which, she believes, is probably cheaper than buying them in the supermarket.

“I truly believe there are benefits for the family’s health and its finances,” says Timi.

After hearing about the Zero Waste movement last year, Elaine Butler, 42, decided to join. As Chair of the Green Party’s Policy Council, the mother-of-two from Churchtown, Co Dublin is strongly eco-conscious.

”The first change was to consciously seek out products that were packed in recycling packaging,” recalls Elaine, whose children Abby (9), Shay (7) and husband Paul are supportive about the change in the Butler household policy.

“We later started to look for products that were coming in no packaging at all. I started buying my fruit and vegetables loose – and in fact these often turned out to be cheaper than packaged veg!

“Then I discovered that unpackaged bread was available, and I bought that.” Elaine now also makes her own moisturiser — “it uses inexpensive products and I made it in 10 minutes,” she reports. “I find it excellent!”

The first time she went to her local deli to buy sliced salami, she recalls, she cringed: “I was a bit embarrassed to be bringing my own containers but I found that the assistants were actually quite used to this.

“They were also very helpful and very open to the idea of people bringing in their own containers.” After all, as Elaine points out, it’s only in recent times that everything has become so heavily packaged.

Adopting a zero waste policy in the house certainly saves money she says, pointing out that it also reduces the endless struggle to get rid of packaging that you don’t need.

“There are more members joining every day and I’m hearing about Zero Waste shops opening up around Europe,” she says.

“The benefits of Zero Waste Policy include buying what you need and having less waste, as well as buying healthier food, because I found that a lot of unhealthy food is packaged in non-recyclable packaging so you actually end up buying more healthy food! You also tend to buy more in bulk. It simplifies your life!”

The Key to Zero Waste is the 5 Rs:

Refuse what you don’t need — this is the most critical principle, believes Timi.

“This is about re-evaluating what we need and what we don’t need and saying no to things like junk mail, freebies at conferences and meetings and plastic pens which in most cases end up lying around the house or in the bin,” she says.

Reduce your use of what you do need as much as is sensible. This means understanding what you may for example, need a mobile phone, but that you don’t need to upgrade it for a new one every six months!

Re-use — cloth nappies — this is a big part of zero waste, says Timi.

“In the bathroom for example, we’d suggest getting rid of your disposable razors and getting a re-usable one,” she says, adding that re-usable sanitary products are also available for women in the larger pharmacies and online.

The Zero Waste lifestyle also encourages people, where possible, to buy second-hand items such as clothes, toys, furniture and books, household items

Recycle: “Have a policy in your home of choosing recyclable packaging over non-recyclable packaging – for example eggs that come in cardboard rather than plastic egg-boxes,”

Rot: all food waste. Use your compost bin either in your back garden or the brown bin that is provided by many waste collection companies.

Useful websites and blogs

Zero Waste Ireland on Facebook Reusable nappies

Reusable sanitary product:

Earthmother Mummyhub —-

Reusable water bottle, cups, bamboo toothbrushes:

Little Green Shop —

Eco Tots —

Blogs abut Zero Waste:

Zero Waste Home — Timi Konya Wasteland Rebel — Shia Su Gippsland Unwrapped — Tammy Logan Treading my own path Lindsay Miles


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