On Recycling

I had a go at being religious once, not so long ago; but the burden of being middle class with all its attendant feelings of guilt meant that the added responsibility to God made each decision a nightmare: Don’t pass on the other side of the street, even if you might catch fleas and give them to your children; turn the other cheek, even when the bastard has just cut you up at the traffic lights and almost killed you. I found I couldn’t even put my shopping trolley in the trolley park without reorganising the blithering trolley park so that all the trolleys were parked like with like and none of them had stray shopping lists or empty packaging from a toddler’s lunch, left at the bottom. No, I just didn’t know where to draw the line. I apologise to those of you with strong religious convictions but to me, being middle class is a bit like having a religion. The influence of peer pressure is so much more powerful than that of an allegedly all seeing all knowing Deity.

I feel guilty about so many things. Even going for a walk with a friend ends up with me in a dilemma as to whether I should let her go through the kissing gate before me this time because she let me through first at the last one. God!

This brings me to the subject of recycling. I don’t know whether you are keen on recycling but we’re told it’s the right thing to do, to save landfill and reuse our dwindling resources. So, being middle class, I do it.

We are lucky enough in Pebbleditch to have doorstep collections of plastic, paper, tin and glass. In order to deal with this at home, about one third of the washing up is now made up of containers destined for a recycling bin. We have purchased, at no small cost, a plastic (probably not recyclable) chest to hold the three recycling boxes provided by the council; this lives outside the back door. We have two further plastic boxes in the utility room to provide temporary holding space for the recycling destined for the plastic chest. There is a blue Ikea bag to hold cardboard, hanging from the back door handle. This has to be taken by car to the local tip, along with a small box containing batteries, apparently the most toxic to the land of all waste.

Along with all this we have the compost bucket. This evil smelling, fruit fly attracting vessel sits rotting in the afore mentioned utility room. It festers away until the putrid cabbage smell hits you when you enter the front door and before you have even taken off your coat, you have to rush to the back door and across the lawn, in a cloud of fruit flies, to the compost bin and remove its lid. You then turn the bucket upside down on top of the steaming, insect ridden compost heap and bash on the bottom until a slimy veg castle sits triumphantly atop the heap. You then squish the lid back on the compost bin and hope for the best.

I estimate that if I didn’t rinse, stomp on, flatten, sort, squish and put out the recycling I would save about an hour each week; not to mention the fact that I would have my utility room back – so why do I do it?

A little research revealed that in the UK only 7% of all the waste produced comes from our homes, schools, shops and small businesses. This is called Municipal Waste (MW).

Of the 150 million tonnes of CO2 released into the air annually in the UK, emissions from MW account for 2.4%. 49.5% of the total comes from Motor cars and electricity generation.

Methane is about 20 times more harmful than CO2 in terms of global warming. MW waste accounts for 27% of the national total of Methane emissions, farming accounts for 40%.

Dioxins are associated with developmental and reproductive effects in humans. Cooking, burning coal and heating our homes accounts for 18% of emissions of Dioxins, transport 3%, electricity generation 4%, MW 1%.

Again electricity generation and road traffic account for the lion’s share of Nitrogen Dioxide with only 1% being generated by MW management. Nitrogen Dioxide is the pollutant affecting air quality in towns and also the production of acid rain.

So, lets just summarise that: If only 7% of all waste in the UK comes from MW then surely a significant proportion of that comes from schools, shops and small businesses, half, would you think? If so, then that’s 3.5% coming from our homes. Working on that figure then, the pollution caused by the domestic waste (DW) would be as follows: 1.2% of Carbon Dioxide, 0.5% of Dioxins and 0.5% of Nitrogen Dioxide.

The main contender for reform seems to be the emission of Methane of which DW accounts for 13%. This is caused in landfill sites by the decomposition of biodegradable waste, the stuff I am composting – I am contributing to this! If this were recycled properly the methane could be burned off but I would have to pay for my compost – as if I weren’t already doing so!

The question remains: will I continue to recycle? Yes, the question remains.

Ooh, I almost forgot, the reason I started to write this article – targets.

The government has given councils a target to achieve for recycling. I’m not sure of the figures but what I do know is that it is based on weight. So what weighs most? Glass, hence the reason why glass collection has recently been added to our doorstep services. I don’t mind this too much as we already recycled glass but it involved getting in the car, now it doesn’t. What I was astonished to discover during a recent trip to our local tip was that the Yellow Pages and other thick catalogue type publications could now be added to the paper recycling. Not that the plant can now deal with them, far from it, the books are all removed by the recycling company when they arrive. But only AFTER the delivery has been weighed.

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