Adventures in Waste With Almost Mrs Average and her Rubbish Diet

We have a real treat in store today with an article from Karen Cannard of The Rubbish Diet fame on her incredible waste journey and how it has changed both her shopping habits and her life.

“I know I’ll never do it” I said to Daniel, the head honcho of our council’s Zero Waste campaign, as he was sat on my sofa.

“I suppose you could always stop using clingfilm”, quipped the photographer who accompanied Daniel for the photo-shoot of me and my bin for the council’s newsletter.

“Hmm, but I’ll still end up with about a bag full of household rubbish” I thought, but I’d be happy with that, it would be much better than the three huge bin bags that we put out every fortnight.

And that was how the Zero Waste challenge began, with me not quite convinced that ditching the clingfilm or indeed anything else would really get me that far. However, I had the gumption to give it a go. Little did I know that I was starting a domestic adventure that would prove me wrong and would lead to the whole range of newspaper, radio and TV interviews that followed.

The Zero Waste Week challenge was set by the council to encourage residents to think differently about household waste and to reduce the amount of rubbish that was being sent to landfill. The rules were that for one week in March, participants would not buy or use anything that produced waste that couldn’t be recycled or composted.

I signed up for the challenge because I was frustrated by the amount of stuff my family threw out and I knew I could do better. The council were offering some free advice and a helping hand. So how could I refuse?

But ZERO Waste. Now that seemed impossible!

I started by ditching the clingfilm and using re-usable containers for food storage instead. But as you can guess, that didn’t make much of a dent!

So I had a look at my shopping and decided to abandon all that packaging that couldn’t be recycled on my doorstep. The fruit juice cartons were dropped in favour of buying bottled juice from the milkman and that’s when we started noticing the progress.

Adventures were had in reducing food waste, which meant buying less, cooking more meals from scratch, reducing portions and making use of leftovers.

But sadly, thanks to my junior saboteur, we were still left with a whole load of food waste that couldn’t be composted or reused. We had done our best, but we could do no more.

Our council didn’t collect food waste so if we were to succeed at the Zero Waste Week lark, we needed some help.

Enter stage left, the wormery. What fun! The chance to get some pet worms that could munch on the leftover pasta, devour the rice and finish off the Weetabix. They seemed much less hassle than a dog or a pig and would go about their business in peace.

I was so excited when it arrived, but I hadn’t quite anticipated my fear of worms. I know, I could never be a Charlie Dimmock! I looked at the bag of worms and wondered how the heck I could open it and put the worms safely in their new little home. Maybe my own knight in shining armour could come to my rescue, when he arrived home from work that evening, but it was still winter, with dark nights and it didn’t look promising.

So I grabbed the scissors, cut open the bag and “poured” them into the wormery with a big huge shiver of fright! Eurghh, a worm waterfall was not a pleasant sight to someone so unaccustomed as me. The relief was overwhelming as I put on the lid and watched them burrow down into the compost bedding.

We got on well with our new little friends and they happily dealt with most of our food waste. Our bin was getting slimmer.

But then, we had the leftover chicken stew that was past its best.

Oh dear, worms don’t eat chicken!

Many people would have accepted their fate, but by now we were on a roll. My challenge had been featured in the community newsletter, people knew what I was up to and I’d developed the tenacity of a dog with a bone.

I needed to extend our arsenal in what had become my war against waste!

All I can say on the matter is …Ah Bokashi!

I’d avoided the Bokashi Bin initially. It seemed far too “green” and alternative for average “not so green” folks like us. I’d read reviews about the pickly smell and the stodgy innards. It all seemed just that little bit extreme.

But I soon realised that I needed to be extreme and the beauty of the Bokashi Bin was that it could deal with the leftover scraps of meat or fish and lots of other things that the worms didn’t like. All we had to do was sprinkle on the special bran and drain off the juice and we could just bung it in the compost bin after a couple of weeks.

As it turned out, the Bokashi Bin was the unexpected hero of our Zero Waste Challenge. The smell wasn’t too bad and it’s much better than coping with a smelly dustbin of gone off food.

With the extra input from my three year old junk modelling addict, we were able to rescue all sorts from the bin when Zero Waste finally came around.

The only thing we were left with was a plaster!


As far as I’m concerned, that’s pretty much Zero Waste to me.

The full story of Karen’s adventures with the wormery, Bokashi and the Zero Waste Challenge can be found at, together with how other people over the UK have followed in her footsteps and have risen to their own Rubbish Diet challenge. The Rubbish Diet also featured on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s hour in March, to listen to the daily column visit the BBC website:

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