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For some of us, getting rid of rubbish seems like such a simple proposition. A lot of us grew up that way, saw people doing it like that on TV or the movies, etc. When you had something that you wanted to throw away, you just tossed it in the bin and that was that. If you grew up in the 1980s or earlier, you were probably familiar with the idea that being “disposable” was a marketing feature: you use this thing just once and then you can throw it away. It’s designed not to be durable!
That disposable mindset is pretty shocking these days, what with public awareness about the dangers of plastic in the oceans and just about everywhere else. The problem with the disposable mindset is that all those disposable single-use items, from razors to nappies to plastic bags, have to go somewhere. It doesn’t get put on a spaceship and shipped off to a bottomless black hole somewhere in the middle of the galaxy. It stays right here on Planet Earth, and as we all know, there is only a finite amount of space on the planet and it’s probably best if we don’t fill it all up with rubbish and other unwanted junk.
Some Scary Rubbish Facts
If we take just the city of London alone, to say nothing of the rest of the UK or other major cities around the world, the facts about rubbish are pretty scary. Here are a few of the frightening facts about London’s rubbish disposal habits that we came across:
- The average London household churns out close to a ton of waste every year – that’s approximately the same weight as a standard family car.
- London has the lowest recycling rate in the UK: 33% of waste is recycled, in contrast to 43% in the rest of the country.
- Up to 19% of the food purchased by Londoners is thrown out into the rubbish rather than eaten, fed to animals or composted (some of those laws forbidding self-sufficiency types from feeding food scraps to chickens are partly to blame here).
- The amount of edible food (i.e. not mouldy or gone off) thrown away in London in one year weighs the same as 42,000 buses. Given the amount of effort put by researchers and farmers into growing more food to meet global food demand, this is just crazy. To quote old-school nannies, think of all those starving children in… just about anywhere… that would be grateful for that.
- If every person in London put just one more glass jar out for recycling every week, that would save enough glass to replace every single glass window in the iconic Shard.
How To Set Up Your Home Recycling Centre
It just makes common sense to recycle. If you stop to think about it, the problem with plastic waste and waste, in general, is probably far, far more important for the environment and the planet as a whole than focusing narrowly on carbon emissions. In fact, if we paid more attention to cutting down waste, throwing down less and recycling more, we’d probably solve reduce emissions as well throughout the chain of products.
But how do you go about it in your home? What if you want to recycle more but you’ve never really done it before?
The first thing you need to do is to work out what you can recycle. Take a few moments to think about what you’re throwing out. Quite a lot of it could be recycled, either through council recycling systems or by setting it aside for junk removal experts like https://precisionjunkremoval.co.uk to deal with. Paper, some types of plastic, cardboard, glass, metal… it can all be used again very easily. If you’re unsure about what can and can’t be recycled, have a talk to your local council or to us.
After you’ve taken a look at your current rubbish disposal habits, it’s time to set up a system. This means that you will need to have a second bin for recyclables – or perhaps even a third or fourth, depending on what sort of rubbish and recycling you produce and other factors (e.g. whether or not you have an allotment or vegetable garden, or an Aga cooker or log burner). It may seem like a bit of a hassle but if everybody took a little bit of trouble in their homes, we’d have fewer big problems like fatbergs in the sewers and mountains of rubbish in developing nations.
If you’ve already got something like a big cardboard box (big enough for an inkjet printer or a microwave), then you’re all sorted and you’ve already managed to keep something out of the waste stream. The best place to put your new recycling bin is close to your existing rubbish bin so throwing things into the recycling is just as easy as throwing it into the old rubbish bin.
Depending on your situation, you may like to try to help reduce waste and recycle more of the things you don’t need any more:
- Instead of throwing out old clothes that don’t fit (e.g. things that the children have outgrown) or that you don’t like any more, donate them, especially if they’re still in good condition. Some places will also take old frayed clothes and rags and will send them to places like paper mills that need a bit of fabric content in their products. Have a bag or box in the laundry for “items to donate”.
- Start a compost bin for food waste, especially if you’ve got a garden (flowers or vegetables). If you don’t have a garden, then either consider starting one or ask around at work or in your neighbourhood. If there’s a keen gardener around, he or she will probably be only too glad to take your food waste and turn it into compost.
- Know a crafter who’s always knitting or crocheting? Offer them your old, frayed knitwear (pullovers, cardigans, etc.), as these can be picked apart and unravelled so the yarn can be made into something new.
- Keep a bin for recyclable paper by your door so you can put junk mail, used envelopes and anything other paper you don’t need to keep straight into it.
- If you’ve got an Aga or a wood fire, save any old papers (including cardboard) for firestarters. This is particularly good for getting rid of sensitive documents.
- Paint or decorate old wine bottles to make flower vases or carafes for serving water.
- Use the back of old letters and documents for scratch paper for doodles and drafts, or for printing out things that aren’t going to be made public (the draft of the novel you’re working on, for instance). A lot of schools have a GOOS (Good On One Side) paper system in place in classrooms. Ask around – nobody’s going to be nasty to you if you offer them something they might need.
- Embrace the tradition of hand-me-down clothes within the family, extended family and your circle of friends, especially for children, who outgrow clothing rapidly. It’s not shameful, it’s smart!
- Find out if any local schools, charities or sports clubs collect particular items. For example, animal shelters often take old towels as animal bedding, some churches and other places of worship take unopened tins and packets of groceries for food banks (Sally Army, we’re looking at you), and schools love all sorts of things, from cardboard boxes for craft activities to house paint to clean plastic containers.
- Instead of throwing leftovers out, get creative with how you use them. Put the end of the lasagne and the salad in a (reusable or repurposed) container and take it to work for lunch. Use those last few teaspoons of peas and the end of the mashed potato for soup. Use the scrapings of the jar of peanut butter for salad dressing, the scraps of marmite to season a stew.
As you can see it is not just doom and gloom. There is light at the end of the tunnel as long as everyone does their little thing to help eradicate this polluting epidemic. It’s not that hard when you know how what you can do.