Zero waste, zero point

I attended a talk by Bea Johnson on ‘Simplifying Your Life’ this week. Her family has completely changed their lifestyle, e.g.,

…if your hair is short, you also have the “no-poo” option: rinse your hair, massage baking soda in, then rinse, with vinegar for shine

to reduce to virtually nothing the amount of household waste they generate that ends up in landfill.


This got me thinking…


It seems that the UK produces roughly 250 kg of landfill waste per person per year. Corroborated here.

Assume this is compacted to a volume with a density half that of water.

There are 25m households in the UK, with an average of 2.4 persons each.

This source says 33 sq m per person (which sounds about right given the above):

Household floor space per capita

With a ceiling height of 3.3m, this is 100 cubic metres of space per person.Which,

allowing for lifetimes of 100 years, the entire landfill waste generated by a household would occupy around half of the volume of the house.

OK, I’m probably off by a factor of 2 here and there, but this doesn’t seem to me to be so big an issue to need to solve so drastically, especially given that the amount of surface area covered by housing in the UK is quite small anyway.


Consumption spreads faster today

An interesting graph at this location for the US (no original source given):


I’m not sure I agree fully with the talking title. If anything the radio penetrated households faster than the internet, and washing machines were probably adopted more quickly (World War 2 impact corrected for) than dishwashers. Still, interesting.

God save the queen

THE best thing about being monarch is the huge amount of money you get, the Queen has confirmed.

It is understood the Queen later telephoned the King Juan Carlos of Spain, said ’38 million’ and then hung up on him.

More here.

Except, it’s not only £38m, but more like £150m a year according to Republic (which is the source for the rest of this post).

They don’t work much for it either:

the Windsors are very good at working three days a week, five months of a year and making it look as though they work hard

And the “mere 67 pence per person per year” value-for-money justification that the £38m is often turned into is in fact explicitly stating that rent seeking by a special interest group is going on, the benefits of which are concentrated whilst the costs are spread widely with no rational economic incentive for an individual to spend time objecting.

To test whether something is ‘value-for-money’ we need to judge what we get for our money and whether we can get something better for less. The monarchy fails this test:

  • Of the top 20 tourist attractions in the UK only one royal residence makes it: Windsor Castle at 17 (beaten comfortably by Windsor Legoland, in at number 7). Buckingham palace is normally closed to tourists, and when it does open only a small portion is accessible. If the palace does marginally entice tourists to the UK, then if the Queen were removed and the entirety opened, all year round, there would be a much greater tourist effect.
  • London is a leading financial centre – do the big businesses in the City and Canary Wharf need the help of a little old lady in a big house in central London?

Further or alternatively, the Crown Estate is not and never has been the personal property of the Windsor family. In the 18th century the job of government was moving from the palace to parliament, so revenue from the Crown Estate was transferred to the Treasury. In order to ensure the King could continue to run his palace in the style to which he was accustomed the government of the day set up the Civil List, a payment to the palace by the government. There was no personal sacrifice or transfer of owned assets on the part of the monarch.