52 Acts, recycling

3. Visit a Recycling Centre

So in my last blog post I explained about recycling in the home and how to encourage those around you to take part. As I said, many councils in the UK are taking on at least some responsibility – collecting simple, easily recycled materials such as card, tins and glass bottles.

I’m old enough to remember when we only had black bins. Blue bins arrived when I was in primary school and I remember asking wide-eyed: can I put any kind of paper in it? Even paper I’ve drawn on?

That day I filled the blue bin with old drawings and copies of Animals and You (A magazine targeted at young girls which I was pleased to find is still going decades later). I was so excited to feel that I was helping, even if I didn’t quite understand the frightening scale of deforestation just yet.

So I’m not saying that blue bins and boxes are nothing, but I feel that the council in my borough could be doing more to alleviate plastic waste. There is currently no blue bin/box scheme for plastics in Rotherham, which means the burden of recycling it falls to the average person.

There are a handful of recycling centres around, but this means that the council are relying on people to haul their plastics there every fortnight or so and if they choose not to bother and just chuck them in the black bin (which is likely), they are at complete liberty to do so.

I have to say, I’m not happy with that. I’ve sorted the output of waste from my own house, but I think something needs to be done about the plastics problem. I may try contacting my local MP or the council. Possibly even start a petition? I will think about all this another day.

Today however, I did the only thing I could do instantly. I packed up two weeks worth of hard plastics (and a broken alarm clock) and headed to my nearest Recycling Centre.

A Peugeot 206 filled with one large box and one bag of plastic items to be recycled
A treasure trove of nasty plastics to be recycled.

I actually expected a building as opposed to what I found, which was a kind of drive-thru experience. People parked up beside large industrial bins (so large that you needed stairs to reach the top of them) and unloaded their various household rubbish. I saw people bringing out furniture items they had opted to recycle instead of taking them to the tip as well as washing machines and freezers which were stacked about three deep to the left of the lot.

I didn’t see many other people there to recycle plastics which made me feel a little sad, but as I climbed the steps and looked in the bin I saw that there very clearly had been. It was a lake of milk bottles, shampoo bottles, rinsed out food packaging and more. It was in the same breath brilliant and terrifying.

Brilliant, because so many people had brought their plastics in! But terrifying because it was so much and probably only a tiny amount compared to the plastic that would be going direct to landfill. Just because either people didn’t care or didn’t have the resources to drop it off here themselves.

Because that’s what I think it comes down to. Resources.

Aerial view of an industrial recycling site

I’m very lucky. I drive and live within a couple of miles of a recycling centre, but the fact is that many people in Rotherham may not. It’s seen in surrounding cities as a deprived area but that shouldn’t matter. Plastic recycling should be accessible to everybody. In fact, in places where people are less likely to drive and less able to reach the centres, it should be made even easier!

I’ve looked into it. Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield all accept plastic bottles into their regular blue bin schemes. So why not Rotherham?

In the enormous industrial bin, I saw thousands plastic milk and pop bottles. I actually tried to take a photo for this post but was asked to delete it by an employee at the centre (which is fair enough – a lot of council sites don’t allow photography). According to statistics, almost half of all plastic bottles used in the UK go directly to landfill – amounting to about 16,000,000 per day. If making recycling more accessible and simpler would cut down on that number, it is something that all UK councils must do!

Integrating plastic bottles into the blue bin system nationwide rather than in just a handful of communities would be a start. As I said in my last post, if recycling a bottle is just as easy as throwing it away, people are one hundred percent more likely to do it.

So for one thing, I dropped off all the plastics from my household, but I think this year I’m going to turn my attention to getting plastic bottles onto Rotherham’s recycling agenda. I’m not sure how I’ll do it yet, but any suggestions would be more than welcome!

Thanks guys, and have a good one!

~ Lois