Throwing out rubbish is part of the routine for every household in the country. No matter how much you like to hoard old possessions, you’ll still need to chuck away the consumables when they’re done.
Empty milk cartons, food packaging and so on are all recyclable these days, so everyone is trying to do their bit and get recycling right.
That doesn’t make things easy though, knowing what can go into each bin feels like it needs a university degree in itself.
Recycling Confusion By Area
Plastic recycling is widespread, but depending where you live you might be able to throw almost all plastic in, or perhaps it’s much stricter in your area, and they’ll only take bottles.
It gets more complicate still of course – it plastic bottles with the lids on or off? Do you need to rinse them out? All of these are common questions that residents face when trying to navigate the world of wheelie bins and recycling.
Of course, in most cases it’s a simple job to look it up on the council website. However, when you’re cleaning the kitchen, do you really want to be pulling out your phone or nipping to the computer to check the recycling rules on the web? Probably not.
It’s for all of these reasons (and more) that recycling is seen as a complete pain in the you-know-what by households, and you even get people disagreeing in the same house about whether a yoghurt pot should be going in the recycling or not. It’s just too difficult, and the answer often depends on where you live.
Recycling Confusion By Time
What’s more, rules change over time – and the lid on or lid off arguments are a perfect example of that. A decade ago, a majority of areas around the country were saying bottles could only be recycled with lids removed, whereas we’re now being told the exact opposite by the very same people!
It really is no wonder that people are confused – how can we expect people to get it right when the rules keep changing, and they weren’t exactly straightforward in the first place?
While that all sounds a bit like a rant, and to a degree it probably is years of frustration spilling out onto the keyboard as I type this, there is good news.
Progress Is Slow
Gradually, and by that I do mean very slowly, there is a move towards consistency between councils, as they all have a common goal (which really means financial incentive) to recycle as much as possible. We’re nothing like as good as Scandinavian countries yet, Sweden are a great example in leading the way, now starting to hit their target of recycling 65% of all packaging (not just plastic – everything).
As a comparison, in the UK the most like for like statistic hasn’t quite hit 50% yet. While that differential of 15% doesn’t sound much, it’s a huge lead. Catching up to them and closing the lead would cost billions, and countries like Sweden are already there. A lot of the difference comes from mindset, your average Swede cares a lot more about their environment than the average Brit. As a very visual illustration, If you check the inside of someone’s bins in Sweden, they’re likely to be clean – in Britain, not a chance. That’s a symptom of the time and care people give to green initiatives, if it’s easy in the UK we’re happy to oblige, but not so much if it takes effort.
Can We Just Make The Rules Simple?
In the UK we need to escape from the disillusionment we’ve reached when it comes to recycling. Councils need to stop the silly rules, and figure out how to just accept plastic. All plastic. Then worry about separating it out at the depots. The key to recycling being widespread is making it easy for residents – everything else can follow.
So, if we’re going to take a leaf out of the book of our European friends, let’s take more of an interest in looking after our waste rather than moaning about missed bin collections, not being able to fit in all the waste we’re creating and so on.
If we’re living in a two person home and have an overflowing bin every week, that should be telling us we’re being wasteful, not that the bins aren’t big enough. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the normal rubbish bin or a recycle bin either – kidding ourselves its fine to use more if the waste is recycled is incredibly backward thinking.
Let’s Just Waste Less
Recycling is better than landfill, but not creating waste in the first place is far better. Buy what you need and no more. Use what you need and no more. Two rules to live by right there.
So, are we going to convince all of our friends and neighbours to get into the habit of cleaning spills out of their wheelie bins after each collection day? Probably not, let’s pick our battles wisely.
A realistic goal would be getting people to think more about their addition to the disposable. We’re all too reliant on single use packaging and throwing things away because it’s easy.
Once the waste we’re creating is down, maybe then we can start to think about rinsing out the bins a bit more regularly. Less smelly bins has got to be a plus after all.
A word of advice though, if you’re going to put the effort in and clean out your bins regularly, invest in some number stickers to put on your bins, as you can bet that if you don’t, one of the neighbours will take in your nice clean bin on the next collection day. It’ll be a complete accident though, of course.