Getting passionate about a load of Rubbish
I was quite surprised when I went to my first Transition Town Shrewsbury Hub meeting at how many projects there were to do with waste. My previous Transition experience had led me to believe that very few people were really that interested in waste, except for the possibility of upcycling it into something else. My time in Shrewsbury has already proved how wrong I was...
The first project that I came across was the Cardboard Christmas, which was running for it's second year after the council stopped their kerbside cardboard collections, which is a particular issue at Christmas when vast quantities of it are discarded. So the idea was to mobilise the community and volunteers to provide collection points. I wrote about it's success in my blog just after the meeting, they managed to save over 10 tonnes of cardboard from landfill and to build community at the same time. Ali who told us about this at the meeting is so enthusiastic about reducing the amount of waste, that it is infectious. So it is little wonder that she is one of the key people in the another waste related project, the Rubbish Diet.
This one started all the way over on the other side of the country in Suffolk, with Karen Cannard, a mother of two, who decided to try and go completely zero waste and blogged about her experience. She was so successful, only discarding one plaster in 8 weeks(!), that other people caught on to the idea and now it is being trialled on a bigger scale. You can now sign up online for an 8 week crash course in slimming your bin with loads of advice and ideas. For those in Suffolk, Shropshire or Powys there is even more support and motivation as there are local 'bin doctors', who can give advice on local facilities and who help people to set up local support groups so that friends and neighbours can slim together! Ali is the Shropshire bin doctor and she has already helped a whole street of 15 households to go on a successful diet. It is brilliant, they have even worked out a rota so that one household is responsible for taking everyones waste to the Household Waste Recycling Centre each week, so massively reducing car trips too!
At the TTS hub meeting one of the things I said I was interested in was communications and I berated them on how difficult it was to find out what was going on in the initiative!! I had a pretty careful look at the website and couldn't really find anything that had happened recently or anything that I could get involved with. It was only because I knew one of the people already involved that I ended up at the hub meeting. Well I suggested that they should have an online newsletter, there was lots of enthusiasm and I somehow managed to volunteer myself to do one!! So the first TTS newsletter went out in February, which was pretty satisfying. And people must have read it, as I got asked to help out with the communications for the Rubbish Diet (this communications malarky does lead you to some interesting places!).
So I have been in the thick of the online communications world for the past week, getting everything ship shape in time for the official launch, which happened on Friday. So what are you waiting for!?! Time to slim your bin! We have also been having fun coming up with waste related puns, if you have any good ones then please do share, it's all in the name of a better world after all...
The local organisation behind getting funding for the trial of the Rubbish Diet are crazy about waste. Cwm Harry started out as a community supported agriculture scheme in Cwm (meaning valley in welsh) Harry, hence the name. They started collecting food and garden waste locally to supplement their on site compost production and were spotted by the local council who asked them if they would scale up their collections to the whole of Montgomeryshire... just a small ask. But they did and that was 6 years ago long before most councils started green waste collections. So began the Cwm Harry compost factory in Newtown (not so far from Shrewsbury). I visitied it a year ago on my permaculture course and it was fascinating to see all the giant bays of food waste slowly turning into beautiful compost, although I do have to say that the factory smelled pretty funky...
Unfortunately the council recently decided that they would rather send all of the food waste to Oxfordshire, so last autumn the factory and the community garden it had evolved on it's car park had to shut down. A very sad turn of events, but they are not so easily disheartened, the community garden has found a wonderful new venue next to the local College - Coleg Powys and is running the Get-Growing Project (more about that another time!) and Cwm Harry is diversifying into other waste niches... As well as the rubbish diet, there is Presteigne and Norton zero waste challenge which Katy is going to write about on Wednesday and they are even looking at taking over the anerobic digestor in Ludlow.
So I have been well and truly proved wrong and I would eat my hat if I was wearing one! I now know lots of people involved in Transition who are truly passionate about waste and are running all kinds of exciting projects to tackle it.
Photos: The Rubbish Diet logo, Cwm Harry's compost factory and the old community garden with a giant pile of compost (Kirsty Morris)