Sign up to The Rubbish Diet Challenge

Sign up to The Rubbish Diet Challenge

Have you gone on a diet lately? a rubbish diet that is..If not, sign up for The Rubbish Diet challenge which is simple and fun - you'll be amazed how much less waste you generate, even if you think you're already a diligent recycler

Sign up for The Rubbish Diet

Karen Cannard set up The Rubbish Diet after she'd taken part in a zero waste week and got the recycling bug. She started a blog about her efforts and that evolved into The Rubbish Diet Challenge, which encourages us to stop generating landfill waste. Karen has become something of an expert on recycling and was an advisor to Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's recent BBC series Hugh's War On Waste. So come on folks, get dieting and slim your bins!

A trip to a landfill site is probably enough to turn anyone into a devout recycler, given they're ugly and smelly, teaming with vermin and they emit methane. But local councils aren't in the habit of offering daytrips to their dumps as a form of public shock therapy - and few of us would probably show up if they did.

Someone who would, however, is Karen Cannard, founder of The Rubbish Diet Challenge and a woman on a mission to get us all to reduce household waste - which centres around packaging material and food. She and Deco have joined forces and we're asking readers to sign up online to the Rubbish Diet's three-week challenge. It's not at all onerous and it should see you reducing by half the amount of stuff you throw in your main bin (ie not the recycling green bins). Which means instead of filling one 30L plastic bag a week, you generate one bag a fortnight. 


Most of us recycle plastic bottles..but is there something you could be recycling but aren't..such as aluminium foil?
Karen with  Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall - she was an adviser to his recent TV series on waste

Containers matter

Once you've signed up you'll get a weekly email with tips and ideas. The thrust of the diet is to make you look at everything you're poised to put in the bin and consider whether it could be recycled; or in the case of food, incorporated into a dish or at the very least re-directed to the counter top compost bin. Ah, you don't have one? Well, lack of the right receptacle is a big part of the problem when it comes to household recycling, says Cannard, a mother of two.

'It's so obvious...but what stops a lot of recycling at home is simply not having a container for whatever it is you want to recycle. So while we're all used to putting newspapers, cardboard, cans and plastic bottles in our green council recycling boxes, if we don't have a nice looking counter top bin and some of the biodegradable starch bags to line it with, then we don't collect our food scraps for the council to take to make compost. Or if we don't have a bin in the bathroom we tend not to collect the cardboard ends of loo rolls or empty shampoo bottles for recycling and just absent-mindedly put them in the main kitchen bin.'

Food waste is a huge problem and one we must all tackle
Bales of paper ready to be sent to paper mills to be made into new paper

If you watched Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's recent TV series 'Hugh's War On Waste' - and Cannard was an advisor to the programme -  you'll be in no doubt that waste is a big problem and what we should be striving for is a circular economy where waste materials are re-used. Waste that goes to landfill site will sit and rot, or decompose over hundreds of years in the case of plastics while chemicals can leach into land and water, and these sites produce dangerous amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas. 

Rates of recycling in the UK vary, but millions of us are now so attuned to recycling that it would pain us to put an aluminium can or a newspaper in an ordinary dustbin. But Cannard says in fact only 44 per cent of UK waste is recycled, with large discrepancies in what local authorities will accept for recycling: for example some take tin foil and textiles, others don't.

And if you think 'lil'ol me' doesn't make any impact when it comes to recycling and the circular economy, well, lil'ol us does, because if millions of households stop generating landfill waste and recycle everything possible, then the environment will most definitely benefit.  

Food waste

Cannard and Fearnely Whittingstall are concerned at high levels of food waste in the home - it's not just the supermarkets that are wasteful. 'Half of all food waste comes from households', says Cannard, who cites that we chuck out 24 million slices of bread a day, one in 10 bananas is binned and 86 million chickens are thrown out annually. Food that ends up in landfill is a huge contributor to methane gas emissions, so it's important if we don't want to eat something that we compost it, either in the counter-top bin for council collection, or we start our own compost heap in the garden and put old fruit, veg and bread (not meats as they'll attract vermin) on it.

But better still, we need to adjust our habits so we don't over-buy. We should eat most of the supermarket shop and only order the next one when the kids are bleating that there's only one mouldy courgette left in the fridge. Well, perhaps don't let things run down that much but we should question whether we need a big supermarket shop every week, when in fact it'll last for two weeks supplemented with a few trips to the local shop for fresh milk and bread.

Don't believe the myths around recycling

Cannard has done a lot of her own research into the arena of recycling and she can put to bed those myths that the half hearted recycler likes to pedal. 'For example people say "oh what's the point, it all gets incinerated, or put on a ship to China for disposal". This is simply not true; and last year we took a group of our rubbish dieters to a close- loop waste recycling plant in west London so they could see how the different materials are separated and packaged up for re-use.'

Become a Rubbish Dieter

So, why not take the three-week Rubbish Diet challenge and see what more you can recycle, while cutting back drastically on food waste? Counter top bins, here we come...

Read more: composting and counter top bins