Recycling, reusing and waste disposal (Part 2)

Short version: (Part 1) Please see here for recycling and repurposing household stuff. (Part 2) If you have huge garden project that has heavy materials a skip and a good wheelbarrow (and maybe some helpful friends) is the most cost-effective way. A company can drop a skip off in your front garden or your kerbside (though be careful with parking restrictions) and then pick it up when full. For lighter, bulkier loads a waste management company is more expensive but requires less work on your part. For small loads you could try a ‘Hippo’ bag.

This is the second half of my two-week blog and talks more about the bigger items that are found in the garden or during DIY.


We got our forever house in early summer 2017. I call it ‘forever’ because I… AM… NEVER… EVER… MOVING…AGAIN! We had a really hideous purchase and move but I was very excited to have a big enough garden to grow edibles to my heart’s content.

Creating my little ‘oasis’ from the paved monstrosity was quite a journey. You can see how it went from paved to lawn in this post. Whilst writing that post I thought it might be worth discussing what to do with waste.


If you were to look at my garden, you would realise very quickly that I am more concerned with function than aesthetics. If I can squeeze both in all the better, but I will not compromise on function or sustainability for better aesthetics – especially as sometimes that can be quite subjective anyway. For example, I will grow flowers if they are edible, great for pollinators or can be used to create something fun. Anyway, this means that to save money and/or be more eco-friendly I have reused or repurposed some of the waste that I found in the garden. This explains why my garden looks like it’s been ‘cobbled’ together.

As I dug up the garden (to lay the lawn) there were edging stones and bricks that I was able to reuse to make the edge of the lawn or border the beds. I kept part of the patio (though it’s not particularly nice to look at) because it meant less work, less waste to shift and it is still functional. I kept some of the flagstones to make paths elsewhere. I used some of the flagstones to provide a sturdy base for the shed to go on. I kept a few bags of sand to use under the paths or for future projects. Old solar panel rails made a blackberry support and uses up otherwise empty space.

It’s worth keeping bits of wood whenever you have DIY projects as they often prove useful in the garden later on. I used some to hold together a pallet planter and mount a baby gate that became a squash climbing frame.

Almost all of the kitchen cabinets that came out when we had the kitchen done have been reused as storage elsewhere – either in the pantry or the shed.

London reusing

Like in the previous post where I wrote about how in London you often see things left outside homes for someone to take, we have also sent garden waste out into the world this way. As part of the ongoing garden renovation I removed a wall. It seemed quite new so I tried to keep as many bricks intact as possible for reuse. This meant that I had a large amount of bricks. I also took up a small section of the patio to make a brassica bed. Some of the bricks were used to line border the edge of this new bed, but I had far too many to use. I left them outside our house and let the neighbours know that they were going spare. One neighbour took some to make a path, one took some to make tea light holders and one took a single one to replace a broken brick in her front garden wall. I also had a large amount of sharp sand dug up from under the patio when making the brassica bed. This was harder to shift. There was, at the time, a friendly builder who I kept passing on the school run. I asked him if he had any use for some sharp sand. I bagged it into about 7 rubble bags. The next day he came round and removed it all as well as the remaining whole bricks. The broken bricks I piled into about 6 rubble bags that the husband dutifully took to the dump.

I dug up a rose bush to make space for a physalis and left it outside the gate. A neighbour adopted it.

When we had our roof done the excess tiles were taken away by my kung fu club for breaking in demonstrations and blackbelt gradings.


Wherever possible, any green waste is put into the compost bin. This is any green waste that doesn’t contain perennial weeds, weed seeds or diseased plant matter. Here is more info in ‘Why and what to compost

Green Waste

If your council has a green waste collection but you think it is too expensive you could club together with a neighbour and share a collection. My husband said no to having our own collection. I was annoyed as I think it’s a great resource. On the other hand, because I compost most of our waste it would be quite expensive to have a collection for how little green waste we would actually have. This was solved when a lovely neighbour offered to let me use theirs. I offered to make a contribution towards the cost, but she said no. I soothe my guilt with gifts of vegetables and by being respectful and grateful.

Disposing of large loads

So, with the great dig of 2017 (and the many ongoing projects) there has been a large amount of un-reusable, unrecyclable (in my home) waste. There are a few things you can do with this:

Trips to the dump

It is free and with the local centres they make it possible to split your waste into different skips so you know that any rubble can be reused as hardcore, any green can be chipped and used, any metal can be scrapped, cardboard is easily recycled, textiles have a spot and they even have an area for appliances that are still working. That at least makes it feel more eco friendly than landfill. If we had tried to move all of the waste from this house by car it would have resulted in husband expiration or divorce at the very least, the car would be filthy, we would still be doing trips to the dump 2 and a half years later and the suspension would be shot.

Collection by a company

One of the first waste removal attempts I paid around £500 for a company to remove flagstones and sand. Unfortunately, because their vans tend to be subject to weight limitations, they could only take about 20% of the flagstones and sand and a dilapidated shed. That was an expensive lesson. They removed some of the flagstones and sand from in situ but at the same time it was not what I had thought I was paying for. As a newbie to the process it’s easy to be taken advantage of.

We did a second one about half a year later from a different company. I was less naïve. They charged around £300 for ethical waste disposal. Their ethos included recycling or upcycling what they could. After being stung the first time. I hired this company knowing that the waste I had this time (waste from the kitchen and bathroom refit that I couldn’t reuse) wasn’t as heavy. They did a great job and cleaned up the area afterwards. Hiring a company for bulky lighter weight items means that they do all the work for you and you know it’s not all going into landfill.  

This may be a good time to note that anyone coming around and offering to take stuff away for you for cheap is probably doing something illegal. A man in a van offered to remove a large amount of rubble from the side of the house for £100. When asked about where he was going to take it, he said he was going to take it to the dump. Now my problem with this is that is that I know that vans with DIY waste are subject to fees at the nearby refuse and recycling centres. This means that it was likely to be dumped randomly somewhere. It also may be worth mentioning that before we moved in several houses on the road (including our one) had been burgled. Picking up waste is a good opportunity for someone to scope out your access points. Basically, if the removal of the waste does not look like it is going to make business sense and/or doesn’t seem like a legitimate business then it’s best avoided.


I absolutely love getting a skip. So much so that I’ve hired 3 so far. This has been the most cost-efficient option. It cost around £250 per skip. Each one was delivered (by a lovely company called NJB) on a scheduled date. It was then left for as long as I wanted as I filled it. I then called the company and they picked it up a day or 2 later. Skips are wonderful when you are hampered by weight, rather than volume. After the first waste removal company I got our first skip. It did take two skips, but those two skips took the last 80% of flagstones and sand left over, all the rubble under the sand (which in fact meant most of the waste from the extension built by the previous neighbours) and a crumbling wall we found behind the recently removed shed. Skips can be back breaking work to fill though. A wheelbarrow with an old door propped up by flagstones as a ramp was helpful. Friends willing to lend a hand speeds the process along (thanks Jak). The third skip was for most of the kitchen and bathroom refit. Unfortunately, we were scuppered by volume. There was too much for one skip. That’s why we went with the second waste management company. I was exhausted by this point. For almost the same price as a skip someone was going to take it away without any work from me.

Hippo bag

This is a variation on the skip. You buy a bag from a DIY store for a bit more than £10. You take it home and fill it. You can then call the Hippo company and for £100 they come and take it away. We bought the bag but then it wasn’t worth having it picked up. The garden waste greatly exceeded the weight limit and even with a couple of bulkier lightweight items it would have only removed about an eight of what a skip would have. In the end I ordered the skip and emptied the bag into it. Hippo bags are hard to fill, by the way, as the sides collapse far too easily. Skips are much easier.

Asbestos removal

One last thing. You may find asbestos in your garden. In our street any of the garages with the original roofs will have asbestos in the roof. Annoyingly this wasn’t our asbestos. We had our garage removed by a specialist company. My idiot husband (often he’s smarter than me – in this instance he was NOT), after pulling down a wobbly wall behind the removed shed, he found some asbestos. This was the asbestos from the roof of our neighbour’s garage. Our neighbour’s rather naughty contractors, rather than dispose of it properly, had just shoved it behind their new extension that backed onto our garden. I suspect husband actually had to pull it out from what was technically their land to bring the dreaded stuff into our garden. He did this, knowing it was asbestos, without any protection at all. I told him that if the asbestos didn’t kill him, I would. As a defence he said that he didn’t want there to be anything around that could damage our little one’s lung health. It wasn’t ‘friable’ asbestos, which means it doesn’t crumble easily so if left alone and hidden it shouldn’t do any damage. Moving the sheets and sliding them across each other and breaking them apart – this is what is dangerous. We were about to put a new shed in front of it so really, as it was the neighbours waste, on the neighbours land, we should have left it. We technically stole their dangerous, badly stored waste. I was then charged with disposing of it. This is not something you can put into a skip. It is something that London councils will collect if you bag it up and label it with their precise instructions. They will do a certain amount for free. We paid £20 as we were a bag over the limit.

If you suspect you have asbestos in your home (or garden) there are companies you can call that will extract, clean up and dispose of it safely for you. We used R and S Environmental who removed the whole garage for around £1400. They offered us a much cheaper option where they just removed the asbestos roof and we would remove the rest ourselves but to be honest (despite husband’s attitude) I really don’t think you want to take any risks. About a year later realised that there was an asbestos panel attached to a wall in the under stairs cupboard. This was both a relief and a nightmare. It was the awful, friable kind that is really dangerous. It had been drilled into by the previous owners (see shelves with supports drilled in) so there was probably asbestos dust on the floor of the cupboard that had been shifted around as we used it. However, in the big garden dig we did find a small piece of something that tested as positive for friable asbestos and couldn’t find the source. We had about 5-6 pieces tested after the mother-in-law visited and spotted it. Most of it turned out to be plasterboard. With this confirmed tiny piece I had this terrible dread that buried under the garden was a huge source of dangerous asbestos. I finally knew the source and could even see a piece removed that matched the size of our discovered piece.

FYI – No one is paying me to name drop (though I would love it if someone did!) NJB and R and S Environmental are both companies that I have used more than once, and they were great every time. 

Recycling, reusing and waste disposal (Part 1)

Short version: (Part 1) There are many ways to reuse your waste. When repurposing things like jars, tubs and bottles you could save yourself some money whilst giving you or your family a fun project. Consider reusing before recycling. (Part 2) Please see next week for large scale waste disposal and asbestos removal.

This is a two week blog. The last blog on lawns got me thinking about large scale waste disposal, but not many people are dumb enough to launch into a big garden project the way I do (I have no idea how I convince myself it’s a good idea at the time) so I started thinking more about the everyday things and how we dispose of those. Next week we shall delve into skips and waste disposal companies.


Some ideas are easier than others, but the main point is that anything you reuse or repurpose means that that is one less thing that you are paying money for and one less thing that is manufactured which involves an environmental cost. E.g. the energy and resources put into making and transporting a new plastic plant pot, a cloche or a slug trap. Here are a few ideas that hopefully inspire you to find other new uses. Feel free to post anything you’ve done yourself or any ideas that you have in the comments.


The whole tube can be buried into the ground when your seedling is big enough and/or the frosts have passed. The only problem with these is that I would suggest fast growing seeds as they can go a bit mouldy before you get them into the ground.

Tetra Pak cartons or plastic pots are better for seedlings that will be in them for longer or for cuttings. Tetra Pak is made of layers of card, plastic and aluminium pressed together to provide a lightweight and recyclable container that can keep things inside fresh without refrigeration. This means that the carton will last much better than a toilet roll and have a few more options.

If extracting the seedling is hard you can cut down the side with scissors to unwrap it. I’ve also cut the bottom off with scissors and buried the whole carton to provide a bit of extra protection for the seedlings. It’s a great way to give away cuttings or seedling to other people without worrying that I’ll have to buy replacement pots. When you’re done with the pot they can still be recycled after.

We bulk buy innocent smoothies for the little one whenever they’re on offer, so we always seem to have loads of cartons hanging around. The boxes they come in are also rather useful. They’re an easy to shape sturdy box that makes good storage containers.

Old jar, especially large ones, are great for ‘pickling’ things that don’t require pasteurising. Things like kimchi and sauerkraut are especially good in large repurposed jars as any heat treatment kills off the required beneficial bacteria. If ferments aren’t your thing fruit ‘brandies’ are easy – literally a jar full of vodka with a couple of tablespoons of sugar and some fresh berries, sealed and left for a couple of months. Blackcurrant or cherry are two that I would definitely recommend trying.

Large old jars also make great ways to store leftover wetter foods like soup, stew or spaghetti bolognaise in the fridge as they take up less space (area) than a tub. I used to take the jar into work. It’s heavier and more fragile but they don’t spill the way Tupperware does. The jar (minus the lid) would go straight into the microwave at work.

Of course, plastic tubs are great for holding lunches. They’re also great for storing leftovers. I know proper Tupperware is nice, but this is free and environmentally friendly.

That amazon paper as well as cardboard boxes have gone into a new project too. I’m trying to grow mushrooms without buying the expensive kit. The box kits are an excellent gift, for anyone who is fond of mushrooms but they don’t really produce enough mushrooms to make it cost effective for an avid vegetable grower. The cardboard and paper was boiled to kill microorganisms and pulp it down. The excess water was squeezed out. The whole thing was put into a bag and after cooling mushroom spawn was added. After 4 weeks it looks like the mycelium has almost taken over so I think I might try cutting a hole and seeing if I get any mushrooms. This will make its way onto the blog at a later date. 

There are also a few waste bits that I keep in the little one’s ‘making box’. Bubble wrap, tissue paper from packages, bottle tops, netting orange bags, bits of card, flower catalogues and old wrapping paper makes its way there. This is little one’s go to box for craft materials. It’s great for exercising the imagination and it’s free. She seems to get much more use out of these than the expensive plastic toys that she got for Christmas. That both saddens and pleases me in equal oscillating measure.

It may now seem that I keep everything and horde lots. I do put a lot into recycling too and when I’m done with the pots and jars, they can still go into recycling after their second life.

Food Waste

This can be split into compostables and council collection. I try and keep what I can for composting. Full details of this can be found in ‘Why and what to compost’ but basically any peels, cores, tea bags and spent coffee go into my compost tub in the kitchen to go to the garden because it’s free fertiliser for the garden. All meat, dairy, stuff with sauce and seasonings go into the food waste which the council helpfully collects. Co-op now has compostable bags as carrier bags which can go into the council provided tubs to decrease the ‘ew’ factor that comes with emptying these things.

London reusing

This is something I have only seen in London, though I’m sure it must happen elsewhere. People often leave their unwanted but still usable items outside their house. I love this! This just reduces the city’s waste and purchasing of new items. Sometimes things are in amazing condition because their kids have grown out of it or because they were renting and can’t take it with them. You do need to be a little careful as it can be constituted as fly tipping and you need to make sure you’re not just stealing something that someone has just left outside their house for a moment. I have walked past interesting things before on my way out and decided that I would only pick it up if it was still there on the way back. Often a note saying to help yourself makes it more likely that someone will take it. Also leaving stuff out when the weather is nice and protecting when the weather is not makes something more attractive. We’ve left a few items outside like bricks (more on that next week) or suitcases left by the previous occupants of the house. We’ve collected things like an old push scooter and a drawing desk for the little one. In his university days my husband and his housemates got an old sofa and a coke display fridge, which the electrical engineer student in the house fixed. It took 5 of them to get it into the house and even then, it was too big to move beyond the front hall. I felt really sorry for their landlord after they moved out. 


I’m afraid that despite my best efforts we still have a black bag full a week. I’m always extremely pleased when it feels a bit empty on bin day. Whilst a bag per household is still a pretty hideous amount of waste going into landfill there has been steps over the last decade to encourage much more recycling and reusing. From councils providing better options, to companies that try to be more eco friendly and/or have less or zero waste packing, to even the way everyone thinks about what they do with their waste. For now, we can keep trying our best and keep educating and encouraging ourselves and our little ones.

For some ideas on reducing plastic packaging please see ‘composting tea bags – a plastic problem’