As I was growing up, we did not encounter the same issues with recycling as we do today. We had one dustbin and it was emptied weekly. Nothing had to be sorted or washed. There was no head-scratching as to which bin we should be using or even which bin to drag to the kerbside. In fact, the dustman used to walk into our garden, heave the round metal dustbin onto his shoulders and take it to the dustcart, empty it and return it to us.
I grew up in a small village where we had a butcher and a baker (possibly a candlestick maker), a greengrocer and a deli. My Dad was a farmer so we were never short of fresh fruit, and my parents grew their own veg.
Food waste (of which there was very little) went in the compost bin. Shopping was not a hobby either, like it is for some people today. I expect Mum had her favourite shopping bag for taking to the village, because I don’t remember having a whole drawer dedicated to plastic carrier bags.
Our family of four produced hardly any rubbish.
Fast forward to today, and my husband and I have THREE wheelie bins – how did that happen??! We have a black bin for general waste, a blue bin for paper and cardboard recycling, and we recently acquired a brown bin for metal and glass. The black bin and the brown bin are full size wheelie bins and the blue is slightly smaller.
We live in a flat with a communal garden, so in our block we now have no less than twelve bins to accommodate somewhere outside the building. There is such a thing as bin blight, and you can read more about what the National House Building Council think of it here.
Part of the problem also is where we put the rubbish indoors before it goes outside. We don’t want to walk downstairs just to bin one item, but our kitchen is tiny and there is very little space for one bin at most. Obviously we are doing our bit, but it isn’t easy.
Why and how has rubbish production increased?
Most people will say that the main reasons are due to packaging, and the increase of single use items.
The amount of packaging has increased on food items as companies try to keep things fresher for longer, but too much of this packaging can’t be recycled (or it is confusing which category it falls in). Some packages for instance are mixed such as foil lined card, or cartons with a plastic lid. Until there is clearer guidance actually on the packet, I fear much of this will continue to be put in the general waste or the wrong recycling bin.
Internet shopping is another habit which has also increased the amount of packaging used. Companies want to make sure their products do not get damaged during shipping, because they want to avoid the cost of a claim against them and having to replace the item.
There are many sectors where single use items have replaced reusable items. One of those being in the field of medicine. For hygiene reasons, things that would have been sterilised and reused are now single use. I can remember in my Veterinary Nurse days having to scrub and sterilise everything, but friends in medicine will confirm that most things they use in the course of their work are now disposable.
So what can we do?
The way we live and our habits will change over time, that is quite natural. We need to slow down some of our habits though and rethink how we reuse items. Not everyone can make the change, but if as many people as possible do whatever they can, then we should all reap the benefits.
- Mend and make do
- is that item really broken beyond repair?
- can it be passed on to someone else or donated to a charity shop
- Reuse shopping bags
- Reduce food waste
- meal planning
- freeze leftovers
- make compost
- Check the packaging before you buy
- the easiest packaging to recycle is glass and tin cans
- the most difficult is plastic
- Buy larger packs if possible because they use less packaging in the long run
- Shop local
- support small shops and market stalls
- say no to plastic bags
- buy less online (even click and collect will increase the amount of an item’s packaging)
As the title says, this was a collab with Katie of It’s The Spicy Bean, so if you would like to read her thoughts about recycling, then please click the link below: