The Hanover Waste Challenge

as carried out by Katy Young

What was your challenge?

I wanted to see how little I could throw away, ie in the non-recyclable bin that goes into landfill. I already throw away less than most households (and there are 3 children in mine!) but it still felt like too much. So for two weeks my family and I set ourselves a challenge of consuming as little as possible in the way of plastics and non-recyclable material.

How successful was it?

In two weeks, the whole household only threw away a couple of frozen food bags, a medicines blister pack and some lids from tetrapaks.

How did you do it?

It took some planning but there are usually alternatives you can buy which come with less packaging. I bought butter wrapped in paper instead of margarine, and milk in reusable glass bottles from Archers on Islingword Road.

Supermarkets, including the Co-op and Somerfield on the London Road, were fine about me using my own paper bags for fruit and veg, and traditional greengrocers like Mears in the Open Market use paper bags anyway.

For refills, including shampoo, I went to Fanny's on Islingword Road, or the Cherry Tree by the Walmer Castle. You can get changeable toothbrush heads from Infinity Foods. But it's difficult to find refills of bags of flour or pasta.

What did you discover?

Most shops, including supermarkets, are really helpful. For example they were fine about cutting cheese at the deli counter and putting it in my tupperware box, rather than wrapping it in their plastic. If I asked, Archers would wrap meat in greaseproof paper which I could put on the compost, instead of using the standard plastic packaging. I also carried around my own thermos mug in case I wanted a takeaway coffee!

What did you find most difficult?

Budgeting was a challenge. I sometimes had to pay more. For example, the only tea I could find not wrapped in plastic was Twinings - not the cheapest. You have to use things a little more carefully

Was there anything you had to give up?

Crisps! Apart from that, no. I made flapjacks instead of buying biscuits, and we even cooked our own chips instead of going to the chippy. They tasted pretty good!

So what happens now?

I'd like to challenge everybody to see how little they can throw away in two weeks. The more people do it, the more aware we become of how much we use, and the more ideas we have about how to reduce it. I'd also like to see more dialogue with supermarkets - we should be able to tell them what we want, and they should be interested in listening.

More about options for reducing waste at

Inspired by Katy Young and written by Tracey Hill for HASL, 

Are you ready to take the Hanover waste Challenge?

Hanover Action for Sustainable Living would like to hear how you get on and the weight of your waste. Please contact if you take the challenge

Posted: 30th of June 2011