I am a green freak and recycling nut and, guess what? I have VERY LITTLE time for people who don’t recycle. Because there’s just no excuse for it.
I’m no expert, but as I understand it, there are some very sound environmental reasons for recycling:
Burying stuff in landfill produces methane, which is damaging to the environment
Landfill space is running out, so we need to bury far less rubbish
Recycling means we use less raw materials, which is better for the environment
For some materials, recycling uses far less energy than making something new
And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. There’s plenty of websites that can give you far more information. And to be really dizzy and girly about it, isn’t it just WRONG to bury stuff? Plastic bottles didn’t come out of the ground, so they shouldn’t go in there when we’ve finished drinking our milk.
I’ve been keen on recycling for as long as I can remember, but the rest of the world needed to catch up. As a kid we used to save the glass bottles and take them to the bottle bank, but that was really all you could recycle in those days. I also remember my Granny and Grandad having ‘deposit’ lemonade bottles. If you took the clean, empty glass bottle back to the Co-op, you would get 10p back. And of course most people had milk delivered in glass bottles that were collected and reused. (My Dad’s dad ran a dairy and my Dad was a bit obsessed with looking at the origins of milk bottles!)
When I had my eldest son it felt like I was opening my bin to drop rubbish in literally 100s of times a day. I did of course save my glass bottles, newspapers and cans and faithfully walk, yes, WALK to recycle them, but there was still so much that just got thrown away.
Shortly after my younger son was born we got KERBSIDE COLLECTIONS – hooray! They collected paper, glass bottles and cans. So no more walking. Well, apart from to the plastic bottle banks which were introduced at a similar time. I was beyond excited about those.
As soon as a bank was introduced to the supermarket car park I would start recycling whatever it was and most of the time walking it down there. As I see it, if you’re going to be green and recycle, don’t mess up the planet in another way by burning up fossil fuels to do it. Unless, you’re combining it with a shopping trip of course.
A few years ago I watched in horror as my friend THREW A DIET COKE CAN IN THE BIN. Seriously, only a complete obsessive like me can understand how sick that made me feel. If it had been a tetrapak I might have let it go, only obsessives recycle tetrapaks, but cans are collected by the council for God’s sake! There’s no excuse. I’m not the type to have a go at my friends, or anyone, but I had to question this. Incredibly, she had no idea that it was wrong. She had sailed through 35 years of life without the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) touching her in any way.
So if I love recycling, here are the things I really don’t love:
People who don’t recycle
People who take their stuff to recycle, find the banks ‘full’ and dump it on the ground
People who ‘mix up their waste streams’ ie put cardboard in with the glass or recycle stuff in a carrier bag
People who fly tip (that really is the absolute worst)
You may have gathered that I have three kids. This morning (bin day) I went to check if my rubbish had been collected. Moving the bin wasn’t a clear enough indicator because it was so light. So I opened it, the rubbish was still in there. Yes, we throw away that little. And that’s a fortnightly collection. We could easily go to monthly collections without the need to jump up and down on the contents of the wheelie bin. At the bottom of my road is another family with three kids. Next to their open bin are about six black bags – with cardboard and plastic bottles clearly visible. I can’t believe that the bin men collect them and don’t even put a note on the bin.
Here’s a tip to the lazy people who leave their recycling on the supermarket car park – walk along a bit. Nine times out of 10, when the bank appears full it actually isn’t. The first one or two holes might be. The holes at the other end (or the back) usually have plenty of room. And if it really is full, just take the recycling home and bring it back another day. It isn’t the supermarket staff’s job to clear up your litter. And if the recycling guys are spending half their lives shifting carrier bags full of stuff before they can empty the banks, it stands to reason they will have less time to empty the banks.
Although I am pretty obsessive, I don’t think I am abnormal. I just use the resources available easily to do the best job I can at recycling. Have you heard of the family who only put their bin out once in a year? We’re not like that. I do, shock horror, drink bottled water. But only when I’m out, in the same way I might drink a can of Coke or carton of orange juice. I always reuse and recycle the bottles. If we get bottled drinks in restaurants (usually Fruit Shoots for the kids) I take the bottles home with me, because I’m not sure if the restaurant will recycle them.
And I will take foil home from holiday to recycle it. Hmm, maybe that is just a little bit obsessive.
So what do we recycle? This may not be an exhaustive list:
Glass bottles and jars
Plastic bottles (remember shampoo and cleaning stuff, not just drinks!)
Foil (this may be collected kerbside, although not a lot of people realise this!)
Batteries (although we usually use rechargeable)
Carrier bags (including wrappers for toilet rolls etc. We use reusable bags as much as possible)
Food waste (collected kerbside)
Garden waste, including windfalls (collected kerbside)
Clothes and shoes (including giving to friends or selling on eBay)
Wrapping paper (don’t put in your green box, you need to check where you can recycle this one!)
Greetings cards (not just Christmas)
Small electrical goods eg toothbrushes, Christmas lights
I’m very proud to say that my kids know exactly what to recycle and I love it when they go to someone’s house and politely ask ‘Where do you put your recycling?’ instead of ‘Where’s the bin?’