Perhaps this is obvious, but it is so vital. One of the biggest ways in which we are damaging our planet, wildlife and landscapes is unnecessary waste but and how irresponsibly we’re disposing of it.
Like that old myth that Native Alaskans have over 100 words for snow, we have so many ways of referring to our rubbish – complete with the tiny variations in meaning.
Trash. Garbage. Litter. Fly-tipping. Refuse. Detritus. Debris. Junk. Plain old crap – it comes down to the same thing and the majority of it is just good old British household waste! God save the Queen!
Issues of waste and plastic packaging have actually been raised in parliament recently and because of programmes such as Blue Planet 2, people in the UK and beyond are certainly sitting up and taking notice.
A lot of city councils are trying to step up. Blue bins, bags and boxes are provided for paper, card, glass bottles and tins and are collected fortnightly so that the entire burden of recycling is taken off regular people and become’s part of our joint responsibility. Councils and local government getting involved is a very good sign – though there is still much more that can be done.
Although we all need to look at how we can reduce our personal waste, I would like to speak about how handling the waste we produce and trying to keep it out of landfill – as well as our streets, parks and beaches – can help.
Recycling at Home
Having just moved into a shared house, I was shocked to discover that to the knowledge of my housemates who were already living there, they had never had either a blue box or bag. They had to rely on makeshift receptacles which the binmen often refused to take. It put them in an impossible situation where they had recycling piling up but no way of getting rid of it. And if it was placed in the regular black bin, then that wouldn’t be collected either!
It seemed a little inflexible to me, if the recycling was clearly out on the right day and marked, but I got in contact with Rotherham council and although there is normally a charge for replacement bins, I explained that we were short-term tenants and had never even had an initial box to lose. On our next collection day we were provided with two blue boxes and two blue bags.
So that was one obstacle overcome. We had the boxes, but I was faced with another situation. It had been so long since any recycling had been sorted in the house, my housemates didn’t understand the system and weren’t aware of what items can and cannot be recycled. And to be honest, I got the feeling that on some level they might be resenting the change – having to learn all this extra stuff and which bins were to go out on what day and with which things inside them. I felt a little resistance which brings me onto the second part of this post.
Getting those around you to recycle
This is where communication comes into things and before I say anything, I’d like to point out that it is no use getting up on your high horse and shaming people who don’t recycle. Even if you feel very strongly (as I do) that it is the right and responsible thing to do, you cannot change other people’s behaviour by harassing at them. I understand how personal it can feel when people don’t share your convictions, but alienating yourself from those you live with will only create an unpleasant situation for you all.
My plan for approaching situations like these is three-fold:
- Lead by example – When people see you doing something different, they are often curious about it and they may actually initiate a conversation around recycling. When this happens, explain very nonchalantly why you are putting glass bottles to one side or forgoing using the office coffee pods. Who knows – they might find themselves picking up the habit or choosing to look into environmentalism of their own accord!
- Suggest and inform – For this one, a casual tone is once again key. If you see somebody about to throw something away, mention that they could put it in the recycling bin or for slightly more difficult items like batteries or energy-saving light-bulbs, say that you know a place that accepts them and would be happy to take it on your next trip. People rarely turn you down if you’re offering to do the legwork for them and to be honest, very few people are actively against recycling though sadly not everybody follows through and does it.
- Provide the right tools – Another nice, subtle way to try and encourage people to recycle is to make it easy for them. A mini-compost bin on the counter for them to toss their veg peelings in, dedicated bins for plastic, paper and card – if recycling is just as easy (or easier!) than throwing what they’re holding away then they are 100% more likely to do it. Set them up for success and equip your home with the tools that lead to the most positive, eco-friendly outcome!
I have a lot more I could say on the subject of trying to live green when those around you aren’t at all interested, but that’s all from me for this week! I was pleased to revolutionise the way my household was recycling and would love to hear stories from those who have done the same!
Thanks guys, and happy recycling!