Archive for the ‘Waste’ category

BBC South Today: Thermal Imaging

February 7th, 2016

BBC South Today Thermal Imaging from Sustainable Witney on Vimeo.

Request free thermal imaging of your house to see where heat is escaping

November 27th, 2015

Would you be more likely to get round to putting up foil behind your radiator or insulating your house if you could actually see the heat escaping? That’s what thermal imaging does – it takes a temperature-sensitive picture of the outside of your house, so you can see where your home is losing heat.

Sustainable Witney have borrowed a thermal imaging camera from West Oxfordshire District Council. If you live in Witney and want to see if your house is losing heat then our free thermal imaging service might help. To request thermal imaging of your house please email your name, address, postcode and your contact details to the Thermal imaging team

We’ll take thermal images of the outside of your house when the weather conditions are dry and cold and invite you to a feedback session in March 2016 where we’ll show you your images and explain the results.

The pictures below show a solid wall/single brick house before and after using radiator foil. See the red patches below the upstairs windows shows heat escaping and how this has improved in the second image after radiator foil has been installed.


3 pet beds, 2 skate boards and a Van Gogh print – our autumn swap shop

October 5th, 2015

SWSwapShop270915 SWSwapShop2709153 pet beds, 2 skate boards and a Van Gogh print – all items that were swapped at Sunday’s Sustainable Witney swap shop! The idea is to get unused items out of cupboards, attics and sheds so they can find a new home rather than ending up in the bin. At every swap shop, we’ve seen that one person’s junk is another person’s useful find.

We run swap shops to divert as many items as possible from landfill. We weigh all the items as they come in and then weigh the “landfill” pile of items that can’t be re used or recycled at the end. At last Sunday’s Swap shop we took in 562kg of items, of which only 5kg (less than 1%) went to landfill so it was a great success.

This swap shop was held in the big barn at Cogges Farm which opens onto the Langdale Common path into town. At 10am there was a queue of nearly 20 people keen to get swapping.


A total of 105 people came plus 3 chickens from Cogges Farm but they didn’t lay an egg to swap!

While the swap shop was going on, Edible Gardens ran a seed swap where gardeners could share unwanted seeds.

The next event will be ReFashion event at Cogges barn on Sunday 1st November from 10am to 4pm – come and swish/swap clothes, shoes and accessories that you don’t want for items you do want for free! Bring any clothes or textiles you want to swap, donate or recycle. There will be an array of stands promoting the reuse, repair or upcycling of fabric.

To find out about future Sustainable Witney events please:

And we’re always looking for new volunteers, of all ages and experience levels. It took 9 of us to run the swap shop – could you be one of the people helping out next time?

Hear how we work on That’s Oxford

Autumn Swap Shop

September 23rd, 2015

This Sunday 10am to 12:30pm 27th September at Cogges Farm Barn



July 28th, 2015

ReFashion returns to Witney on Sunday 1st November, from 11am – 3pm. There will be an array of stands all doing their bit to promote the reuse, repair or upcycling of fabric.

ReFashionSun1NovPosterSmallWith around 8000 tonnes of textiles ending up in landfill across the county each year, West Oxfordshire District Council is working in partnership with all the Oxfordshire councils to tackle the problem of wasted material.

Swap Shop

July 28th, 2015

There’s an autumn Swap Shop at Cogges on Sunday 27th September. Come along, get rid of your old (working) stuff, and maybe find a bargain.


Free tour of Oxford food waste recycling plant

April 20th, 2015

Oxford City Council is offering a free tour of its food waste recycling facilities. A minibus will leave Cowley Marsh depot at 9:15am and return at about noon. Booking is essential to ensure a place on this tour. To book, or to get more information, email

Jenny’s 10 Tips for Sustainable Living

March 22nd, 2015

New Sustainable Witney blogger Jenny Guildford offers advice for living more sustainably.

I’d like to share my top 10 tips for a sustainable lifestyle. I’ve been learning how to live more sustainably over the years, so it’s time to impart some useful eco tips!

washing-up sponge1. Break up with disintegrating washing-up sponges

End the habit of using endless disposable washing-up sponges – you know the kind you buy at the supermarket and end up chucking in the bin after a few weeks. Instead, invest in a washing-up cloth that can be thrown into the washing machine after a few weeks (with other things) and used over and over again. I’ve used Euro Scrubby successfully for the past year.

2. Spend more on less

Treat every purchase as a long-term investment. Depending on your budget, always try to buy the best you can afford and you’ll end up spending less in the long run – and save landfill from filling up with multiple (broken) items.

3. Paint the home green, not red

Thinking of re-vamping your home this spring? Earthborn produce the most luxurious, clay-based environmentally-friendly paints on the market. They’re also great for solid walls as they allow them to breathe – perfect for Cotswold stone cottages! Claypaint and Eggshell both come in a range of 60 gorgeous colours.

Several candles in glasses with a twig design4. Burning the eco candle at both ends?

Opt for a soy wax candle. Soy candles are sustainable, non-toxic and non-carcinogenic. I particularly love this Domestic Goddess candle.

5. Filtered water is better than bottled, and more!

We all know that filtering water at home is a better option for the planet than buying endless bottles of the stuff. Well, you can go one better than this. Choose bamboo charcoal to filter your water instead. You can even use the spent charcoal as a moisture trap – and then go on to use it in the garden or allotment to increase water retention! This is a completely natural and biodegradable option. Visit Charcoal People.

6. Do you need to buy it new?

Ask yourself this question every time you need something new: ‘Do I absolutely need to buy it new, or can I get it second-hand?’ With the power of the Internet, it’s very easy to source second-hand items instead of buying new each time. Hunting out bargains in vintage stores, charity shops or car boot sales can also be good fun! Freecycle is a brilliant resource too.

7. Ladies, please!

Use washable cleansing pads instead of disposable cotton wool pads that end up in landfill. Particularly good for removing eye make-up. I received these for my birthday last year and haven’t looked back!

Three onions in a row

8. Loosen up

Supermarkets really don’t mind if you put loose fruit or vegetables on the conveyor belt. I’ve been doing this for years and haven’t once been given any funny looks by sales assistants.

9. You’re a firestarter, twisted firestarter

For those of you with an open fire – or even better – a wood burning or multifuel stove, keep all junk mail that arrives through the letterbox, spent receipts and envelopes that you cannot reuse, to use as fire lighting material.

10. Be a natural

Try to buy clothing and other textiles that are made from natural fibres such as cotton, wool, silk, kapok, jute, sisal, bamboo, hemp, alpaca, or linen. The list goes on! It’s estimated that almost 2,000 microfibres get rinsed out of each piece of synthetic clothing every time it’s washed, which then ends up in our oceans. Read more about this here.

Happy sustainable living!

Trees, toilet seats and a curious chicken: it’s the Sustainable Witney swap shop!

October 27th, 2014
man with box containing Christmas tree, smiling

The Christmas tree awaits weighing

A Christmas tree, a toilet seat, a Mothercare buggy…no, it’s not the conveyor belt on The Generation Game, it’s the Sustainable Witney swap shop! The idea behind these events is to get unused items out of cupboards, attics and sheds so they can find a new home rather than ending up in the bin. Over the years we’ve been running these swap shops, it’s been proved again and again that one person’s junk is another person’s useful find. Something that you might hesitate to give to a charity shop is snatched up enthusiastically by someone who knows just what they can do with it…while you grab something that will be just perfect once you’ve cleaned it up a bit.

As a sustainability organisation, our biggest goal for the swap shops we run is to divert as many items as possible from landfill – although there will always be a small proportion of items that really can’t be rehomed or recycled. We calculate our success by weighing all the items as they come in and then weighing the “landfill” pile at the end. The October 2014 took in 552kg of items, of which only 4kg (less than 1%) went to landfill.

Jade plants in a box

This is what 11kg of jade plants looks like

One of the best things about our swap shops is the stories. We love it when people tell us the background to unusual items, or tell us what they’re going to do with the things they’ve just found.

One of our donations this time round was a big bag full of jade plants, weighing 11kg in total. Julie from Oxford took one, explaining: “This is going in my bathroom. They’re also called money plants, so maybe it’ll bring some wealth into my life – I’m broke at the moment!” She had turned up at the swap shop with a baby changing mat, no longer needed by her but quickly taken by another family.

Meanwhile, two children who’d come along with their grandparents were pleased with their finds. Lucy was delighted to find a vintage tea tin to store things in, while Olly was happy to find some “crafty” items so he can pursue his hobby of making jewellery.

Chicken pecking on barn floor

The curious chicken

Another important measure of success for us is attendance. We want plenty of people to come to our events and feel involved with Sustainable Witney. This swap shop was held in a great location: a big barn at Cogges Farm opening onto the Langdale Common path into town, which meant plenty of people dropping in on the walk past. Our greeter counted 107 people in total. The Cogges Farm location also meant that we got a visit from a curious chicken! (No, we didn’t try to weigh her!)

And that Christmas tree? Brigitte, the original owner, brought it along after 20 years’ faithful service. Despite its age, it was taken so fast that nobody saw it leave the building.

To find out about future Sustainable Witney events you can subscribe to this blog by entering your details into the form provided: Registration Form. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter. And we’re always looking for new volunteers, of all ages and experience levels. It took 16 of us to run yesterday’s swap shop – could you be one of the people helping out next time?

Inspiration from New Zealand

July 23rd, 2014

plastic-free-july-logo-straight-lgeWe’re now a week away from the end of Plastic-Free July 2014, and maybe you’re feeling a bit demotivated. If you’re looking for inspiration, take a look at The Non-Plastic Maori, a blog chronicling a Maori woman’s efforts to live without plastic. Her challenge isn’t just for July; it’s for the whole of 2014. Why is she doing it? In her own words:

SO… primarily – I want to explore the experience of living for a year without purchasing any new plastics. I’m doing it to highlight how very dependent we’ve become, but also to demonstrate that we CAN make personal choices that will minimise our own plastic waste production. If we were to demonstrate this in greater numbers – we would not only contribute to a better environment but would also present pressure upon suppliers to utilise non-plastic alternatives – making non-plastic alternatives more accessible for others – See how it works? It begins with a few who refuse to believe that it’s too hard to do.

It begins with a few who refuse to believe that it’s too hard to do. If you’ve stuck with Plastic-Free July this far, that includes you. You probably won’t have removed single-use plastic from your life completely, but you’ve become part of a movement questioning our dependence on it. The moments of inconvenience and the moments of “failure” are part of the work of highlighting something that was invisible. Well done.

Plastic-free takeaways?

July 16th, 2014
fish and chips in cardboard container

Photo credit: jACK TWO

Grabbing a takeaway in Oxford might become a little kinder on the environment, thanks to a proposal by the city’s licensing committee. Oxford City Council is proposing a ban on polystyrene containers for takeaway food and a move towards biodegradeable packaging.

Takeaway containers are a good example of how single-use plastic has come to seem normal: they’re a handy substitute plate for a single meal, with the expectation that they will be thrown away immediately afterwards.

But where exactly is “away”? Well, there’s a lot of Styrofoam in our oceans. Research reported in the National Geographic involved taking water samples from oceans all over the world. The researchers found that all of the samples contained derivatives of polystyrene (used in disposable cutlery) and Styrofoam (used in many takeaway containers).

Once Styrofoam breaks down, the tiny polystyrene components start to sink, because they’re heavier than water […] So it’s likely that this styrene pollutant is prevalent throughout the water column and not just at the surface.

This invisible threat to wildlife is already causing huge concern among marine scientists. So why on earth are we still eating takeaways out of Styrofoam containers with a plastic fork? (Think about it: when you’re eating fish from a Styrofoam container, there may well be traces of Styrofoam inside the fish too.)

Street traders are understandably worried about cost; it’s true that Styrofoam is cheaper than the biodegradable alternatives. (It’s also hard to believe: why should a petrochemical-derived product that inflicts such a cost on our oceans be cheaper than a cardboard one?)  But many takeaway outlets have managed to use less damaging packaging without harming the bottom line; just think of the traditional newspaper-wrapped fish & chips. (If you want a more recent example, fish & chip chain Harry Ramsden’s switched to biodegradable packaging two years ago.) And perhaps if non-harmful packaging became the norm, manufacturers would find ways to produce it more cheaply.

The Oxford proposal is still just that – a proposal. The council consultation on it won’t end for a few more weeks. But if it succeeds, there won’t be quite as much reason to feel guilty about that late-night kebab. Could Witney try it next?

Some hard (plastic) facts

July 13th, 2014

As we’re a good proportion through our plastic-free month of July, I thought I’d pause to take stock of how I was doing… Not so well! It is clear that plastic is everywhere, and increasingly so, making it difficult to get away from it. The most problematic area I’ve found is food shopping, as plastic packaging is so commonly used, but I continue to be on the look-out for alternatives.

Sometimes, plastics seem to be the ideal material, from the keyboard I’m typing this on to items which always used to be metal: dashboard and some external panels on my car, central heating pipes… Let’s face it, plastic is a really good material for many things.

What makes it so good, is also its downfall when it comes to using it for disposable items. Here are ten facts about plastic, concluding in a few that are recycling-related, which I hope will provide some background to why we should consider reducing use of single-use / throw-away plastics:

1) A plastic bottle needs a couple hundred years before it typically starts decomposing. Some degradable plastics are on the market, but these remain a little more expensive to use, so the majority aren’t of this material.

2) Once the decomposition process has begun, it then takes up to 100 years to decompose completely, an average total time of around 450 years since being produced, but very much longer for some types.

3) Approximately 100 million litres of oil are used to produce a billion plastic bottles, including their lids. More is then used in transporting them…

4) In the last decade, we have produced more single-use plastic that during the entirety of the last century.

5) Around 50% of plastic we use is thrown away shortly after, and therefore not put to good use.

6) Approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide – that’s more than a million every minute. No wonder the subject made it into the Queen’s speech this year!

7) Plastic constitutes approximately 90% of all rubbish floating on the ocean, and accounts for around 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals being killed each year. It is estimated that 44% of all seabird species, 22% of cetaceans, 100% of turtle species and an increasing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in their bodies.

Dale Hoyland: Seabirds & plastic waste don't mix

8) Using recycled materials to make a new plastic bottle take 75% less energy as compared with using ‘virgin’ materials.

9) Recycled plastics can be used to manufacture a wide range of products, including park benches, picnic tables, and even fleece jackets (using just 25 recycled drinks bottles per jacket). My loft insulation has been topped up with ‘recycled plastic’ insulation!

10) In Oxfordshire, we do very well in terms of plastic recycling rates at over 50% recycled (thanks to the recently closed Oxfordshire Waste Partnership), but we could do better, and of course reducing the initial demand for disposable plastics is far better than having to deal with them afterwards…

So, if you haven’t yet made the pledge to reduce your plastic consumption, there’s still time to do so, and with other local residents taking on the challenge this month, there’s no better time. Plus, more tips and advice will be going up on the Sustainable Witney blog as July continues.

Related articles:
Recycling plastic is fantastic for resident of North Leigh
A-Z of waste & recycling from West Oxfordshire District Council
Dale’s trusty plastic bottle

Bag It!

July 8th, 2014

Just because plastic is disposable, doesn’t mean it just goes away. After all, where is away? There is no away.

Film-maker Suzan Beraza nails it: there’s a disconnect between the incredibly durable nature of plastic and the throwaway purposes we use it for. The 2010 film Bag It has won multiple prizes for raising awareness of plastic – and where it ends up – in an entertaining way.

Watch the Bag It trailer on Vimeo

Bag It Intro from Suzan Beraza on Vimeo.

Plastic-Free July 2014: Day 1

July 1st, 2014

Welcome to Day 1 of the plastic-free challenge! The first day can be the most eye-opening, as you do a mental audit of just how much plastic you normally use. Kake from Croydon did an interesting “diary day” a few weeks ago, noting down all the plastic she uses in the course of a typical day. If anybody from Witney would like to do their own “diary day” for Plastic-Free July, we’d be happy to publish it as a guest post on this blog.

Kake says in her “diary” that taking a hard look at the amount of plastic in her life made her feel despairing before 8:15am.My own eye-opening moment happened on Day 1 last year, when I was on my way to buy milk and agonising over the choice between a plastic bottle and a Tetrapak. (The latter is only 25% plastic, but mixed materials require more energy to recycle.) En route to the supermarket, I popped into the card shop to buy a birthday card – and only realised hours later that the card was encased in disposable plastic. That’s when I realised how many things come in plastic wrapping that’s intended to be thrown away a few moments after you purchase the item. (We’ll be asking some hard questions about why things have to be that way, as well as blogging handy hints for avoiding single-use plastic in your daily life.)

But Day 1 can also be the most satisfying, as you find creative ways to reduce the plastic you consume. How are you finding it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Join us for Plastic-Free July 2014

June 25th, 2014

plastic-free-july-logo-straight-lgeHow much plastic do you normally use in a month? One great way of finding out: trying not to use any at all. Plastic-Free July is a month-long challenge where you try to avoid single-use plastics: things like straws, bread wrappers and yoghurt pots that are intended to be used once before being thrown away.

The idea started in Australia,  but it’s become popular in the UK too. Last year various members of Sustainable Witney decided to give it a go for the first time. We were encouraged to find that people from all over Oxfordshire were inspired by our blog posts to join in. The challenge was reported in the Witney Gazette and I was invited to give talks about it in East Oxford and at Oxford Brookes University (in the rather un-July-ish months of November 2013 and February 2014 respectively).

So are we doing it again this year? You bet we are! We’ll be blogging about our efforts throughout the month and hoping it will be as much of a community challenge as it was last year. We’ve already inspired people as far afield as Croydon to try it this year – see the Plastic-Free July in Croydon blog posts  if you don’t believe me. (Sustainable Witney got a shout-out on the Plastic-Free July in Croydon website and on Croydon radio – fame at last!) So we’ll be keeping an eye on how people are doing in Croydon as well as reporting on our own efforts. Why not join us?