Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I live in a block of nine flats and what's really annoyed me recently is the bin shed.  So much so, that I felt I had to write a blog post about it!

There are six large capacity bins - three black for household waste that can't be recycled, and three brown bins for all recycling.  Our local council has straightforward recycling - shove it all in.  Paper, glass, most types of plastic, tins.  Just put it all in the brown bin.  In the bin shed, there are large posters showing what you can and cannot recycle.  It is really, really not complicated.  Since we moved in here 18 or so months ago, there has never been a week where the bins are completely full.  As far as I can see, there is no excuse for not recycling.  Yet pretty much every time I take rubbish to the bins, I have to sort some stuff out.

I don't exactly go rummaging around in the bins, but if there is rubbish near the top of the recycling bin which I can clearly see is not recycling, then I'll move it into a black bin.  We've had letters in the past from the council saying our bins were not collected because materials were in the wrong bin - I'd quite like my bins to get collected every other week (they alternate colour) and it frustrates me when people can't follow simple rules.

No plastic bags

Okay, so you carry your recycling down to the shed in a plastic bag (our flats don't come with smaller recycling bins to store indoors).  Then empty the bag into the bin and either reuse the bag, or chuck it into the black bin if you must.  Don't chuck it into the recycling!  It is not recyclable in that bin! Yes, it is annoying that our nearest location for recycling plastic bags is at a supermarket a good three miles away (for some reason, our local Tesco took away their plastic bag recycling bin and hasn't replaced it) but that doesn't mean you can just chuck it in the recycling.

No food waste

Come on.  Really, how hard is it to rinse things out? You empty the tin of soup into the saucepan and scrape it as you want all the soup in the saucepan so you can eat it.  A quick swill in some water when you've done the washing up and the tin is ready to be recycled.  Takes maybe twenty seconds?  Yes, it would be great if we had a way of composting, but we don't - in the mean time, that banana peel is food waste and has to go in the black bin as it can't be recycled.

No non-recyclables

There are big signs in the bin sheds.  There are pictures on the bins of what can be recycled and what can't be.  We regularly get leaflets through the door reminding us.  So why can't people follow these simple instructions?  There are words and pictures, there are ticks and crosses, I really don't see how it can be more simple!  Granted, sometimes with plastics it's a bit confusing - we can recycle plastic drinks bottles, but we can't recycle ice cream containers.  If in doubt, look it up online, or just put in the black bin.  If non-recyclables are found in the bin, then the whole bin is taken to landfill, so my efforts at recycling are wasted.  Which annoys me.

This week I caught up with Hugh's War on Waste which follows Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as he campaigns to get customers and supermarkets to waste less food and recycle more.  At one point, he went to a rubbish collection centre to see what people were chucking out - perfectly good items of clothing that the owners clearly couldn't be bothered to take to a charity shop, or even just put through the washing machine to clean some mud off.  Really?!

I'm not perfect - I know that Ben and I are guilty of wasting food and we do drive to places when really we could walk.  I've definitely noticed this since I got my car last month!  But I think overall, we are pretty good at reducing what we buy, reusing what we can, and recycling where we can.  I do worry a lot about the environment (this month's National Geographic's special edition on climate change is scary!) and I do feel inspired to do more to look after the environment.

From now on, I won't drive somewhere if I can walk - I've managed without a car for pretty much my entire adult life, I can continue walking!  Obviously, I drive to work, but as it's a 70 mile round trip, and half the price of public transport, I'm going to continue driving.  I will just try and do things on the way (such as going to the supermarket, dropping off something at the Guide hall) so I don't need to make another trip.

All my stamps are collected and donated to Post Pals.  Last year we raised around £600 through selling used stamps on eBay.

All my milk bottle tops are collected then taken to the Guide hall.  From there, they go to a local church where they are checked (yes, really!) and then taken to a plastic recycling plant which gives £50 per half tonne to a local children's hospice.  Half a tonne of milk bottle tops is 325,000 tops, so I'm not entirely sure it's value for money in terms of everyone's time, but it's better than nothing I suppose!

Before I went to the supermarket this afternoon (and yes, I drove, but I feel that's allowed) I did a proper inventory of the kitchen - I looked through the supermarket, took out some part-baked baguettes and some homemade soup for dinner, and threw away something I couldn't identify.  I then went through the cupboards, throwing away a few things which were way out of date and some cereal which had gone soft.  It was a useful exercise in seeing just what we have - we're now down to 'just' five varieties of cereal (from seven) and have enough tinned fish to keep us going for a while.  I also have a lot of cupcake cases and raspberry jam.  I don't even really like jam.  We have enough cleaning products to keep us going for about three years.  Or perhaps we should just clean more often.

We turned the heating on this week and so we're preparing the flat for winter - that sounds much more dramatic than it is!  We have storage heaters, which aren't the more economical things to use, but thankfully my predilection for making blankets means that we're never really cold - one blanket lives permanently on the sofa, and another one is down by the side of the armchair.  I like a cold bedroom and enjoy snuggling under lots of layers - I have a duvet and a Slanket plus a toy monkey filled with lavender who gets heated up in the microwave, and if Ben gets cold he just brings in the blanket from the sofa.  I stripped the bed this morning and was going to put the fatter duvet on instead, but then I remembered it's packed away somewhere, so that might wait a while as neither of us knows where it is!

We have a bag in the hallway which is for charity, and I take this maybe once a fortnight or so - we're really trying to cut down on the amount of stuff we have.  I'm really good at reusing carrier bags, I can't remember the last time I used plastic bags in a supermarket, and the recent 5p charge hasn't affected me at all.  Ben is very good at storing bags in his car, he is less good at remembering to take them into the supermarket with him!  If ever there's a bag for life shortage, come to our flat, we have quite literally hundreds!

I'm writing this on Sunday night and I'm now going to make a crumble using some of the squishy fruit in the fridge which otherwise, to be honest, we probably wouldn't eat - a perfect dessert to compensate for the dreadful weather we've had over the last couple of weeks! Hugh would be proud.


  1. ah sorry to hear about your bin woes - that sounds so annoying! I think Hugh would be proud, sounds like you've got a good system going on :) I'm living at home at the moment and my mum is a militant recycler! You'r right though, its good for the planet but also us, cutting back on the stuff you just don't need.

  2. Your bag in the hallway for the charity shop is a brilliant idea. I'm definitely going to start doing this at home; we have a serious amount of stuff we need to declutter!

    1. I find that little and often don't need to get rid of bags of stuff at once, just the odd item every now and again!

  3. The best thing about buying my own house is that I'm spared the frustration of sharing the bin shed with my 12 flat neighbours! It was sooo annoying I really feel your pain!


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