The Great Big Recycler in the Sky

by Julie Gibbons on April 22, 2010

for the recycle bin

Bag for Recycling

We were eating yoghurt yesterday, and Ruaridh asked if he needed to wash the yoghurt pot before putting it in the Bag for Recycling. I asked him to look see what type of plastic it was as our local Council collects Type 1 (PET) and 2 (HDPE) plastic and takes it away to the Great Recycler in the Sky. It was Type 5 (PP). It went in the rubbish bin. He was aghast. And so am I.

I’m our household recycling vigilante. Forever to be seen hauling bits of recyclable rubbish out of our standard bin and waving it in the boys’ faces – spaghetti cling ons intact – to shouts of derision and promises to shove the offending item up their behind the next time they stray from our very civilised, very low-effort recycling policy.

But I’ve noticed that I’m emptying our Bag for Recycling an awful lot these days.

Despite deciding on a frugal existence for Team Fundergibbons, it seems that of late I’ve been a bit mail-order happy. The worst offender has been when I’ve opted to have some groceries delivered from Ethical Superstore. Every single item comes wrapped – in bubble wrap, or corrugated cardboard. This has me worrying. Am I creating lots of needless, extra cardboard and plastic miles just to have my eco friendly, organically grown, fairly traded household items delivered to my door (not to mention road miles)?

But surely, if I wasn’t dealing with packaging at this end, then someone, somewhere else would be dealing with it? How much packaging does your average supermarket deal with on a day? Under EU law, all retailers have to recycle at least 19 per cent of the paper and cardboard they use. Thankfully most go much further – with the Co-op (our local supermarket) using recycled cardboard and plastic from its stores for the packaging of its own brand products.

I’ve worked out a nice wee project for Ruaridh to take care of – and that’s to figure out what happens to the content of the blue bin which West Lothian Council so kindly collect every couple of weeks. Where does it go? And when we will we be able to recycle Type 5 (PP) plastic? I’m pretty sure it’s way more complicated than a Big Recycler in the Sky.

And all this brings me back to a story I heard on the radio a few months ago about one UK family that had managed to reduce their yearly non-recyclable waste to one wheelie bin! We do the Blue Bin (plastic, paper, card, tins) and compost all of our food waste (and lots of cardboard and hair and other unmentionables) but I can’t imagine that even with that reduction I could ever get close to one wheelie bin a year. And then I remember what the Dad of the family said. “When you’re talking about rubbish, there is no away.”

p.s. there is hope out there ref food packaging – Vegware is the UK’s only food packaging company with a compostable range & UK-wide waste composting service. You can say hello to them on Twitter/vegware.

p.p.s remember Socks for Happy People? they send out their socks in a compostable envelope.  You can join their party at Twitter/Socks4HappyPPL too.

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Sanna April 22, 2010 at 8:35 pm

I hate not being able to recycle most of the packaging plastic.. and yoghurt tubs annoy me the most. At least when I buy the big/tall tubs of yoghurt, they come with a closeable lid and I can reuse them for food storage after I’ve peeled off the recycleable piece of cardboard around it. Currently I’ve got grated beetroot in my fridge and soup frozen in the freezer in these tubs…


Julie Gibbons April 23, 2010 at 9:48 am

That’s a great idea, too. Grow Wild have been sending us large tubs of Rachel’s yoghurt, and the only thing that’s non-recyclable on those is the wee flimsy bit of film lid (you know, the bit that you lick?). The rest is easily dismantled and heads into the Bag for Recycling. Top marks for them.

p.s. You reminded me I had beetroot delivered. On the boil now for some yummy chutney later. Thanks!


Jane C Woods April 23, 2010 at 9:49 am

Yes, know what you mean about packaging. I feel smug about ordering on line and not driving into town (buses totally unreliable!) but then one tiny thing comes in a huge box!
I have a wormery but think all the worms are now dead so need to replace, and we have a great recycling scheme here, but it never quite feels enough. I’d love to know what environmental impact the recent plane grounding ha shad. I haven’t heard it referred to, have you?


Julie Gibbons April 23, 2010 at 10:01 am

Ooh, I’ve been thinking about a wormery… is it difficult? I haven’t heard about the impact of the plane grounding – only the economic, such as the produce in Africa being trashed and the workers sent home. It’s a great question to ask, though – and one which I’ll steal from you and send to the BBC’s One Planet team and see if they can find out…


One Planet April 23, 2010 at 2:34 pm

We do indeed have a look at the ash cloud in this week’s show. And I’m thinking of doing something with a wormery next week. Do let me know how easy they are to use if you have one.
All the best,
Steven, Editor, One Planet


Julie Gibbons April 23, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Wonderful stuff. Looking forward to it. I’ll ask Jane to tell all ref wormery!


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