Now that we live in a house, rather than a block of flats, Christine and I are back to regular collections of waste in recycling. In the flats, we had access to a bin store where we could dump rubbish at any time, and this was collected by the council at regular intervals. For a time, we also had recycling bins for glass, paper, metals and plastics, although these were removed. Sadly our fellow residents were not so good at sorting their waste and our local council took the bins away due to contamination with non-recyclables. In the meantime I had to take our recyclables to our local supermarket to dispose of.
For waste from our house, our local council collects our wheelie bin every two weeks. Historically all councils have collected waste weekly but many have switched to fortnightly collections – a controversial stance that central government were opposed to. However, we still have a weekly recycling collection; in other words, one week only recyclable will be collected, and the next week all waste will be collected.
This suits us quite well, as a lot of our waste can be recycled. We’ve got into the habit of separating our waste before we dispose of it and so it only takes a few minutes each week to put these into the relevant bags or boxes and put them out for collection. As well as metals, paper, glass and plastic bottles, our council will collect food waste and textiles each week.
Separating food waste from regular waste, to me, is really important. Food waste can usually be composted, and it’s the main cause of bad smells and flies in regular waste, so it’s good that this can be collected weekly. We get a small caddy for the kitchen, and then a larger box to put out to collect, along with a series of green biodegradable bags.
Whilst we’re just a household of two people, for now at least, because we can recycle most of our waste, we manage not to fill our wheelie bin, even after two weeks. And, as an extra incentive, our local council offers entries to a monthly prize draw to those who put out their recycling every week, via a sticker with a QR code on our recycling box.
Recycling and sustainability are key at my workplace as well and we’re actively encouraged to recycle as much as possible, rather than simply chucking things in the bin. To this end, all offices have recycling bins within easy reach; you just have to think for an extra moment about which bin is appropriate for any given item.
It’s with this in mind that I read this piece on recycling in the New York Times. It makes some interesting points, but is very much focussed on the situation in the US, and not here in the UK. The US is a much bigger nation with more landmass available for landfill sites, and no tax on landfill. Here in the UK, we’re a significantly smaller island with a much higher population density, and more opposition to landfill sites which are more likely to be in someone’s back yard. Consequently, we have landfill tax to make recycling more attractive and cost-effective than simply dumping waste in big holes in the ground.
I’m happy to do my bit to reduce our household’s waste and footprint, and I’m pleased that my local council gives me this opportunity.