13 Participants, 1126 items in the bin

Last year, before Covid-19 became part of our lives, we undertook a diary study to help develop our research for a zero-waste lifestyle project.

In order to do so, we recruited 13 people that would have been happy to write down every single item they binned throughout the course of one week. It might seem like an easy task, but one of the participants compared it to "getting naked in front of a crowd". A little dramatic? I don't know, but we certainly understood a lot more about people habits when it came to waste.

The people we recruited were invited to a WhatsApp Group, and every morning, lunch-time and night-time they'd get a reminder to write down their summary for that day. It might sound overkill, but it's also very easy to forget to track correctly, since binning is such a mechanical task.

On average, participants binned 12 items per day. Thirteen participants binned 1126 items in a week.

What were the items? How did we divide them into sections?

The highest percentage of waste is owed to food packaging. Wrappers, take away boxes, plastic trays were noted by every participant. It would be interesting to know how the pandemic has affected people's habit when it comes to buying or cooking food.

Out of the 21.4% food waste section, 37% is rotten or stale food with the majority (63%) being cooking waste (inedible parts of vegetables, foliage etc). Living up to the English stereotype, 51% of the drink waste is used teabags. Beer bottles, coffee-cups, cans, water and soft drink bottles share the remaining 49%.

If we ran the same test now, we could assume hand-sanitizer would appear with maybe more soap waste and masks. Would coronavirus make the hygiene section overtake food waste?

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