Page last updated at 15:54 GMT, Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Gloucester family cuts waste to one rubbish bag a year

By John Maguire
BBC Points West

Richard, Rachelle and Verona Strauss
The Strauss family aim to produce zero landfill rubbish this year

When it comes to household recycling, one family in Gloucester take some beating. They have cut the waste they produce to just one bag a year.

The Strauss family dustbin is unremarkable in many ways. Admittedly it is metal, a rarity in the age of the plastic wheelie-bin, but it is dented, dusty and underused.

Where many families put their bin out once a week or once a fortnight, the Strauss family put theirs out just once a year.

Richard, 52, his wife Rachelle, 37, and eight-year-old Verona recycle everything they can at their home in Longhope in the Forest of Dean.

'Careful not frugal'

"It's about changing the way that you shop initially so that you're looking at the product and making sure that the packaging it comes in is not something that's excessive or something that you know you can either compost or recycle afterwards," Richard explains.

A family holiday during the Boscastle floods in Cornwall prompted them to think about the impact the human race has on the environment, and has led to a change in their habits.

Butcher Kevin Brown
Butcher Kevin Brown says the Strauss family are an inspiration

They insist they live a very normal life, they are not frugal - just careful.

I went with them to their local shops and Kevin's Butchers in nearby Mitcheldean. I noticed many shoppers in the street with re-usable bags, but the Strauss family go one better - even taking their own containers along.

"When you buy meat and vegetables from your local store you can buy exactly the amount you want. No food waste, so it's cheaper," Rachelle says.

The butcher, Kevin Brown, is impressed. "They've opened up our eyes really to what we do waste. They're a bit of an inspiration," he says.

"Over the last 12 months I've seen a heck of an increase in people bringing their own bags in. I used to offer everyone a carrier bag and everyone used to take one. But not anymore."

Pick packaging that can be composted or recycled
Take containers into shops to carry loose products home
Compost paper and cardboard and either compost or use a wormery for vegetable peelings, fruit cores and crumbs
Sort bottles, cans and most plastics for kerbside collection or take to recycling depots
Reuse wire and plastic ties found in packaging to support plants in the garden

After carefully selecting food with minimal packaging the next step is to deal with the rubbish after the food has been eaten.

Where many of us find our kitchen bin - under the sink - Richard and Rachelle keep their tea towels.

"It makes us think about exactly what we're throwing away," Richard advises.

Vegetable peelings, fruit cores and crumbs go either into the compost or wormery. Tissues, paper and cardboard are also composted.

Bottles, cans, and most plastics are sorted either for kerbside collection or taken to recycling depots in the Forest of Dean.

I wondered about Christmas, and especially those little wire and plastic ties that most children's toys seem to be plastered in these days.

"I use them to tie up my tomato plants," Rachelle says. She seems to have a use for everything.

All that is left are crisp packets and some plastics. Once squashed, a year's worth fits almost perfectly into their old metal bin.

The Strausses insist anyone can cut their waste - perhaps not to the extent they have but so much more is possible and every little step makes a difference.

So, just one bin for 2009 - what's ahead in 2010? "Zero waste. No landfill rubbish, no bin," Richard says.

Seeing the old dusty bin standing empty outside their cottage, you almost feel sorry for it, quite nostalgic. But Richard and Rachelle are not concerned about the past, they are determined to improve the future.

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