The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

12 September 2008

It’s all a lot of rubbish

I’ve read two books about rubbish recently:

Rubbish: the archaeology of garbage by William and Rathje and Cullen Murphy, published in 1982, explores the way in which garbage today and through history provides an insight into how we live. By analyzing the garbage people throw out and excavating core samples from landfill sites, the authors explore the impact of such things as fast food packaging, disposable diapers, old newspapers, compostable food waste, and take a look at recycling and waste-to-energy schemes.

The Book of Rubbish Ideas by Tracey Smith, who is also the initiator of International Downshifting Week. The author looks at rubbish room by room and gives practical ideas for how to reduce it and shows how much of our rubbish can be recycled usefully. Here are some facts and ideas from this lively and useful book:

If you toss out your rubbish, this is how long it takes to break down:
Banana peel 2-10 days
Sugar cane and pulp products 1-2 months
Cotton rags 1-5 months
Paper 2-5 months
Rope (organic matter) 3-14 months
Orange peel 6 months
Wool socks 1-5 years
Cigarette filters 1-12 years
Leather shoes 60-80 years
Nylon fabric 100+ years
Aluminium cans 200-400 years
Nappies 300-500 years
Plastic 6-pack holder 450 years
Plastic bottles 450 years – never
Car tyres 1000s of years – never
Chewing gum never
The Zero Waste Week challenge is to see how little residents can throw away in their rubbish bins over the course of one week by recycling and composting as much as possible as well as trying to reuse things, like shopping bags, and avoiding or reducing disposable items whenever possible. The 2008 Zero Waste Week organized by a group of local authorities in the UK took place from 29th September to 5th October. Find out more at: and and

Check out for recycling ideas

Give up washing powder and use soapnuts instead, a naturally occurring washing detergent which has been used traditionally in India and Nepal. Google it, or check out:

Cut your food waste. Buy only only the food you need. Around one third of all the food we buy is wasted (and that excludes peelings), and this is a significant contributor to global warming. Did you know that in the UK, each day we throw away:
1 million slices of ham
1.3 million yogurts and yogurt drinks
7 million slices of bread
5.1 million potatoes
1.6 million bananas
2.2 million apples
2.8 million tomatoes
Check out:

Recycle your old sex toys: New recycling regulations mean that all electrical equipment – including sex toys – must be disposed of at a designated electrical waste collection centre. This means that you shouldn't just chuck your dead vibrator in the kitchen bin! More than 1,000 electrical waste centres have been set up at recycling sites around the UK. But who wants the hassle and embarrassment of taking your dog-eared defunct sex toy down to the tip? Nobody! That's where the LoveHoney Rabbit Amnesty can help. You can send your old rabbit vibrator to LoveHoney Rabbit Amnesty and they will: carefully dispose of your old vibrator, ensuring as much as possible is recycled; donate £1 to a green charity; sell you a new rabbit vibrator at half price. Irresistible!

Save your sole and recycle your old shoes: a recycled footwear project to donate old shoes to the shoeless:

Use a Sol Shaver solar-powered razor (cost around £30 or $50), and cut the carbon as you cut the stubble. Google it for suppliers.


Anonymous Tracey Smith said...

Hi Michael,

Thanks for your posting about The Book of Rubbish Ideas, glad you found so much of interest!

Thanks for the posting, all the best,

7:18 pm  

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