Those milk bottles all add up

I think I've always been quite environmentally conscious.  I remember as a teenager, before our house had recycling bins and kerbside collections, cycling with the family's recycling to the nearest collection point.  Whilst obviously the plastic pollution in the world at the moment is terrible, it is good that more and more people are learning about it and taking note.

I work for a university - full of lovely, clever people.  So it infuriates me when people can't/won't use recycling bins.  In the kitchen on my floor there is a rubbish bin, a recycling bin for plastics (with a sign above it - there are recycling bins for paper elsewhere in the office) and a bin for food waste. The rubbish bin and plastic recycling bin are next to each other.  The rubbish bin has a lid and the recycling bin does not.  Therefore, it is actually easier to put items in the recycling bin as you do not need to move the lid.

So why can't people do this?  The number of times I go into the kitchen and find that there's a plastic milk bottle in the rubbish bin.  As we don't have communal milk, and it's a large office, we collectively get through a lot of 1 pint and 2 pint bottles.  I pick the bottles out.  Usually there isn't anything on top of them (I drink quite a lot of tea so I often pop to the kitchen) and it's not nasty at all to put a couple of fingers into the bin and pull out the bottle.  A couple of months ago, a senior member of staff saw me and said that it wasn't my job to sort out the recycling.  I asked whose job it was, and she said well, not ours.  So whose job is it?  The cleaners don't have time to separate rubbish, and the onus should be on individuals to put their bottles in the right bin in the first place (especially when it is as easy as it is here).

One possible excuse for not doing this is that the kitchen is more of a 'small space with a couple of fridges and a hot water boiler' and doesn't have a sink.  So if you need to wash out your milk bottle, perhaps you've got into work on a Monday and there's still milk in your bottle from last week which has now gone off
, then you can't really put it in the recycling as you know that you should rinse it first.  But you don't rinse it, and instead put it in the bin.

The nearest kitchen sink is on the floor above, but there are toilets on our floor.  It takes me about 90 seconds to pick a bottle out of the bin, walk across the office, out the door, into the toilets, rinse the bottle(s) in the sink and then back to the recycling bin.  Now, I know we are all busy, and some of my colleagues are forever in meetings and do honestly run from one place to another.  But even so - 90 seconds is not long at all.

The number of bottles I've rescued is adding up - I'm generally in the office three days a week (working from home the remaining two) and my average is one 2 pint bottle and two one pint bottles.  That adds up quite quickly.

Someone asked me the other day whether it really makes a difference, putting one bottle in one bin rather than another.  One bottle probably doesn't make that much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, but as shown, one bottle turns into two then three very quickly.

Also, my actions are paying off.  The other day, a colleague was chatting with me, and then got up to throw away some food packaging - the outer was cardboard/paper and could be recycled separate from the food waste.  She went to throw them away together, then said 'no, Amy wouldn't do that' and separated them and put into different bins.  I was so proud!  My small actions are having an impact (and probably earning me a reputation as well!).

Yes, it would be great if everyone ate less meat, didn't drive as much, lived a plastic-free, zero waste lifestyle.  But for many people that isn't possible.  Well, eating less meat isn't too hard, but regarding the driving, I worked out the cost of driving to work plus my parking permit vs. the train season ticket.  The result?  The train would be £1,500 a year more, and door to door would take me roughly twice as long as driving does, as well as providing less flexibility.  Where's the incentive there to use public transport?  That's so much money.  I try reduce my use of plastic, especially single-use plastics - I have a thermal mug at home, another at work, and ensure I use them (and get the discount!).  I always have a bottle of water on me, I use reusable face wipes for removing make up and cleansing (these Cheeky Wipes ones are great) and I've had a good look at the activities we do at Brownies to ensure we're not wasting materials and if there's an alternative.  But some things I don't do - I have an electric toothbrush and use normal toothpaste (plastic! energy! no bamboo for me), and many of the food items I buy are in plastic because that's how they come in store: a lot of my shopping is done in Aldi and they sell fruit and veg already in bags rather than loose.  I've chosen convenience - I don't have the time to go to the market (I'm rarely at home at weekend) and Aldi is much cheaper than other supermarkets where I could buy food loose.

Could I do more?  Definitely.  Will I do more in the future?  More than likely.  But I'm doing what I can at the moment, and that's worth it.  If everyone does just what they can, that really will make a difference.  Let's change what we can, and try not to dwell too much on what we can't.

How about you?  How have you tried to be more environmentally conscious, and would you pick milk bottles out of the bin?!


  1. I am completely with you on this, that every little helps! I've been slowly trying to reduce plastic use and unnecessary waste at home and, like you, there's more we could do but we haven't the time. At work we don't have any recycling scheme in place and we get through a LOT of paper/cardboard waste. As a result my boss and I take turns to do a recycling run with all the empty boxes/paper we can't reuse for anything else.

    1. At least you're doing something, so that's good! My last job didn't have any recycling on site and I took it in turns with colleagues to take things home. Once set up, it's quite easy to maintain, I think.


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