52 Acts, recycling

2. Recycling at Home

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!

An industrial rubbish bin, overflowing with black bags and other refuse.

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.

Photo of card rubbish piled up beside outside bins overflowing with rubbish beside an After photo where the bins are tidy and recycling boxes have been introduced

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!  

Comparison photo of messy bin with lots of recycling stacked up beside it, to clean bin with dedicated recycling bags and no mess around it.

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!

~ Lois

Photo credits:

Featured  Photo by Lacey Williams on Unsplash

Large Bin Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

52 Acts, Eco-Friendly Alternatives

1. Christmas Gift Wrapping

Hello everyone, and welcome to 52 Acts of Environmentalism!

I know the festive period is more or less over but I thought I’d do my first post about my Christmas wrapping routine, as it’s one of the main things I switched up this year to be more eco-friendly.

Standard wrapping paper is probably one of the biggest missed opportunities that I can think of. Unless otherwise stated, the majority of it is plastic-coated, plastic-based or has added embellishments such as foil or glitter which means it cannot be recycled.  Since it’s meant to be ultimately disposable and it’s only real function is to cover gifts, I don’t see the logic in using materials that are going to hang about in landfill for years upon years.

Although I like the idea of wrapping paper, if there were an alien species that landed on earth around Christmas time, (which sounds like a plausible Doctor Who special) how would we explain it? No big deal – we just take a couple of hours each year concealing what we’ve bought, to place it under a tree for a while before Cadbury-selection-box addled children tear into it like angry seagulls.

It’s a crazy tradition, but I really do like it! I like it less however when I think how much unsustainable wrapping paper is being used every year – and that the paper from last year is probably still sat in a landfill somewhere, not biodegrading.

Supposedly, each year we jovial Brits will throw away 227,000 miles of wrapping paper. Consider for a moment that the distance between Land’s End and John O’Groats (the two extreme points of Mainland Britain) is 874 miles. We could arguably paper the road between them almost 260 times.

I know that in my household, my family will normally produce about two bin-bags worth of crumpled up, used wrapping paper. Times that by every household in Britain and you can see we have a real problem on our hands. Here is how I tried to make a small difference:

My Recyclable Gift Wrapping Routine

Here is a list of the swaps I made that meant that the gift I gave could be unwrapped and the used paper, tape, decorations and tags could go straight into our blue bin!

  • Brown Paper – Remember how Julie Andrews bigged up brown paper packages in The Sound of Music? Well now, it’s my go-to for gift wrapping! Brown paper is available from any office supply shop or post office and is much cheaper than your typical flamboyant Christmas wrapping paper. I got an enormous industrial roll which should last me a few years at least for a little over a tenner. Not only is it recyclable, but it can be composted too and gives your presents a stylish, minimalist look – especially when paired with some simple red and white string!

A candle on brown wrapping paper with scissors and washi tape rolls around.

  • Washi Tape – As pictured above, you can get several varieties of festive washi tape around Christmas and as it is paper-based, it’s recyclable too! No more picking sellotape off your paper before you can recycle it. But watch out when you’re getting it off the roll – it can tear fairly easily!

An origami bow placed on a brown paper-wrapped present with washi tape ribbon

  • Embellishments – Brown paper is great but on it’s own, is not necessarily the most Christmassy!  Paper gift tags and rough hewn string are again, fully biodegradable and can be composted if you have a bin. This was an easy one but in terms of package decorations, the market is saturated with nasty plastic ribbons of all shapes and sizes. I had a think and busted out my old-school origami skills to make some handmade paper bows!

Group of people having made a selection of festive origami bows

They look a little daunting but are fairly easy to master. I even taught my whole family to do it (with varying degrees of success) which made for a great Christmas Eve activity. And who knows, maybe even a new tradition?

Other Alternatives to Standard Wrapping Paper

  • Reusable Gift Bags – Whether cloth or sturdy paper, you can continue using these for years and they are not dissimilar to traditional holiday items like Christmas stockings. Perhaps there is less unwrapping involved but you can pair it with brown paper wrapping or even newspapers which would have gone in the recycling anyway.
  • Cloth wraps / scarves – Some shops such as Lush have introduced these for wrapping up soap and other gift items. You can wrap up gifts quite neatly with reusable scarves or bolts of soft fabric which can then be kept and used next year. They also take up less space than the three unravelling rolls of wrapping paper that you’ll cram under the stairs!

Whatever you choose to do next year, I hope we can all spare a thought for unnecessary waste and what we can do to cut it down. A lot of these are very simple swaps, after all!

It seems pretty daft to wish you a Merry Christmas for just under eleven months time, so instead I will wish you all a happy new year and a splendid 2018!

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about me or about this blog, feel free to check out my About page!

(Featured Image Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash)