March 2007, Iíve updated this article, in view of recent news that the average person wastes 30% of all the food that they buy, and that we are getting closer to fortnightly collections. We hate any sort of waste, and donít need encouragement to recycle, but so much has yet to be thought out. I must add some pictures showing our environment, and how it is suffering from recycling policies.
Daily in our busy lives it is impossible to avoid reading about recycling and how much we should be doing it and how much other countries do it better than us. I think that in this household we are good at recycling. Magazines and newspapers and junk mail all go into the weekly (or is it fortnightly?) blue bag. Unwanted books are dutifully taken to a local charity shop, and unwanted clothes are always taken to a local recycling point. Our junk mail is always opened and recycled after removing plastic bags and sticky labels etc. We donít throw any food away. Living in Teddington in a turn of the last century house our garden is about 30 ft long, and even having a water butt is giving up rather more space than we would like to give to recycling.
To have a compost heap or receptacle for small amounts of garden waste is out of the question. For us to be expected to have such a receptacle in a very small garden is in my opinion unreasonable. Our front garden is only just big enough to use as a hard stand for a car. Because of the proximity of the front of our house to the pavement it would be impractical to have a wheelie bin or compost receptacle in the front garden. Anything left unattended in the front garden is likely to be vandalised, or used for fly-tipping by passers by.
It is uneconomical both for us and the local council for us to recycle garden waste, as by the time we had enough bags to make it justifiable for the council to collect them, needless to say at our expense, the bags would have been ravaged by foxes and other animals, including bored drunken teenagers. People will burn toxic plastic packaging in garden incinerators. It makes me laugh how much packaging is labelled as recyclable, yet the Council will not take it. It's often difficult to get all recyclable material spotlessly clean as the Council require. Won't wealthier families with waste disposal sinks just pulp their waste food and send it down the drains? How do we dispose of the non-biodegradable containers that rat poison and maggot killer come in?
In addition to recycling books, old clothes and newspapers we also regularly collect kitchen foil, and cans and glass jars. I do question the economy of saving this small amount, in view of the fact that these items need washing. It is all very well to recycle glass jars, but what are we expected to do with cooking oil and other food oils that would otherwise be in these jars and thrown away. Surely we are not expected to tip oil down the kitchen sink? Or do we save it for a year and then drive in somebody else's car to the local tip?
I've been selling my potato peelings to supermarkets for years, so they can make crispy loaded potato skins. Take your rubbish to work or MacDonalds!
How do I dispose of shredded paper? We have neither a car nor a hamster, and it will blow into next door's garden if I put it in the black box. If wheelie bins were white, they would reflect heat and reduce the festering inside that attrcats maggots. Weíve supposedly got global warming, leading to a more Mediterranean climate, so why donít we have Southern Europe-style daily collections?
People with large gardens will start to bury their rubbish. (We allegedly have a motorbike under our lawn, buried by a previous owner.) Canít we get ASBOs / prisoners / unemployed to sort and recycle? Perhaps we should freeze waste food until collection day? Securely wrapping waste food will help get rid of all those unwanted carrier bags!
Another aspect of recycling with which I have trouble is the amount of litter it creates. Boxes of newspapers put out for recycling often have their contents blown around the street by midmorning on collection day. Ever since some local council bright spark had the idea of putting domestic waste at the front of the property for collection, the amount of litter in local streets has soared. Prior to this wonderful innovation, any spillages from domestic waste bags stayed in back alleyways and rear passages. And how long before someone get sued for leaving a box on the pavement, causing an accident? Or someone slips in something that has spilled out of those disgusting food recycling boxes?
Can faded flowers be thrown away or do they have to be composted? What about dying house plants? Hamster hay? Kitty litter?
Until recently we would have a kitchen litter bin, partly full, and another full black sack in the conservatory or back garden. Now, in addition to these two containers, we also have a blue newspaper recycling bag in the porch, and a foil and tin cans bag in another corner of a small kitchen. While I find it amazing that we cannot currently recycle cardboard food wrappers, the prospect of having to have another unsightly giant Tupperware container in our hall, porch or kitchen does not fill me with domestic bliss. Fortunately very little food waste is created in this household but I would certainly not relish having it around the house any longer than necessary.
To sum up, so many aspects of domestic recycling are either ill-conceived or not thought about at all. We are on the verge of having half a dozen unsightly containers around the house, which will eventually deteriorate and need recycling themselves. Already we see many of these containers littering the countryside. I don't necessarily have an answer to the many problems I have discussed, but neither do the people who propose that we recycle more.
Finally, can anyone use the following letters, left over from an earlier correspondence, and awaiting a suitable recycling container?
wrg qefg fg asdf asdfg a sfwerd
gwrt ert wert hjhkhj
wert wert ert