conscious living in september

Oh dear. I’m not being very consistent with these conscious living posts. That’s July and August completely missed!

Ah well. I’m back on the case now, and this month I want to talk about waste.

Observing – what happens to our waste?

We’ve got a reasonable system here, although not without flaws. We have a blue wheelie bin for glass, tins and plastic, a blue box for paper and card, and a black wheelie bin for everything else. They’re collected fortnightly – black one week, blue the next.

Our black bin is very rarely full. What goes in it? Sweepings from the kitchen floor. Plastic bags that had fruit and veg in. Things that are completely broken beyond repair – the occasional toaster (with all the screws and the plug saved), or a plastic box with a hole in. As I’m sat here, I’m struggling to think of anything else, yet we manage to fill the kitchen bin at least once a week. I suspect a few unwashed yogurt pots and kipper tins sneak in there too.

We also have a compost bin, so fruit and veg peelings, egg shells, tea bags all go in there, along with scrunched up bits of the free newspaper.

We used to get free green bin bags for garden waste which were collected by the council, but they’ve stopped that now. Instead you have to pay £12.50 for a roll of ten clear bags, which they take away for ‘free’. I’ve not yet been able to bring myself to pay that, so small garden waste goes in the compost bin, and bigger stuff (created in one day of violent gardening) is cut up and taken to the tip (or ‘household recycling site’) in the car.

On the whole it works pretty well. We have a basket by the back door for glass, tins, paper, plastic – anything that goes in one of the blue bins. This frequently overflows, and makes me cross.

We also have a green ceramic pot with a red lid for things-to-go-in-the-compost.

This needs emptying every day or two, although if it’s cold and wet and horrid, it gets left longer, and another bowl fils up beside it (that makes me a bit grumpy too).

What about the more unusual stuff? Clothes, books and other ‘stuff’ of reasonable quality goes to the charity shop (usually where it came from in the first place). One local charity shop now takes rags, so even worn out clothing and ripped old towels can go there. There’s a box for batteries at the local shop, and one for carrier bags too.

How far away can you throw it?

Apparently we only send 13% of our waste to landfill in our city – because we have an incinerator (or rather ‘energy recovery facility‘). This is the cause of much controversy and people are always writing to the local paper about it. It provides heat to a fair few large city centre buildings, and feeds electricity to the National Grid.

It has a few problems – leaving aside any pollution that may or may not be created, you could argue that there’s less of an incentive for the council to encourage recycling. Any increase in the recycling rates means that extra waste has to be brought in from surrounding areas to feed the incinerator.

I don’t know enough of the facts to make a reasoned judgement about whether the incinerator is a ‘good’ thing or not, and I suspect it’s not so simple as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ anyway. But I do think it can only be a good thing to produce less waste in the first place, and to try and reuse or recycle what you do produce, before either burying or burning it.

Be careful what you let in the door

A good part of thinking about waste should be thinking about what you bring in to your house in the first place, not just what you throw out. I don’t always get this right. I made a cloth carrier bag, which is brilliant – when I remember to take it out with me. I know I should  buy loose fruit and veg, but often just grab a pre-packed bag of apples. I don’t tend to buy things all the time, but I do acquire stuff that other people are throwing away (most of which is actually useless, and then I have to throw it away myself).

There’s also the ‘needless waste’ that I manage to create. I’m forever doodling on bits of paper (which then have to be thrown away), chewing pens, letting the floor get so filthy that   I have to throw away the cloth I’ve used to clean it (did I really just admit that?), creating sewing projects so bad that the incinerator is the only place for them.

Evaluating – what’s good, and what’s not?

So – back to thinking about what I’m happy with, and what I’m not. The doorstep recycling collection is good, as is the compost. We don’t throw away anything useful, so even if something is broken, screws and buttons are salvaged (although I confess Peter is far more diligent about this than me).

What isn’t so good? I don’t always recycle my toilet roll tubes. The stupid reason for this (which I will rectify tomorrow) is that I don’t have a separate box in the bathroom to put them in so they go in the bin with the hair from the hairbrush (which should be in the compost) and the empty toothpaste tubes. Teabags and fruit peelings sometimes get thrown in the bin when the compost pot is overflowing. Sometimes it feels too difficult to wash out a tin (why?) so that gets thrown in the bin.

Looking forwards – what next?

Writing this has made me realise that some not-quite-satisfactory things that happen round here are due to inadequate storage. I only have one bin in the bathroom, so loo roll tubes, which could happily go in the compost or the recycling, end up in the incinerator. Fruit peel and teabags get thrown in the bin because the compost pot is full. I don’t have a separate bin for recycling in the attic, so any waste paper from up there just gets collected in a bag as I go around the house.

These things aren’t major, but the point of the whole conscious living escapade wasn’t to focus on major things, but to uncover minor things that happen every day that I wasn’t really thinking about too hard. It’s not too much of a shift to sort out those little things, and they’ll easily become habits.

As a starting point, we’ve (rather worryingly) been asked to collect loo roll tubes for some frivolous work-related day out activity (the mind boggles). I’ll put a box upstairs for that, and then it can stay there.

What waste-related thing are you not-quite-happy with? What could you do to change it? 

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13 Responses to conscious living in september

  1. Pingback: For Today « Cwtch Corner

  2. Pingback: For Today « On Unfurled Wings

  3. What annoys me is that the council bins will take bottles made of a certain type of plastic, but not other containers made of the same type of plastic, when whatever’s in the bins needs to be sorted through before it’s recycled anyway. That and the fact our paper bin lives in the shed so a big pile of paper tends to build up in the kitchen until someone can be bothered to take it out.

    And the fact that I have a collection of bags of clothes and household bits waiting to go to the charity shop, which have been in the attic room for over a year now. I did try, but our nearest shop “weren’t taking any donations at the moment” so they all got taken back home and left there. Should really just get on with it!

    Could you stick the floor cloths in the washing machine or are they beyond help? 🙂

    • I’ve got a charity shop bag here! Tis frustrating when they won’t accept donations, but you can understand it when you see the giant piles of bin bags they have in back rooms. More people having a quick turnaround of clothes maybe?

      Cloths do go in the washing machine mostly, although I’m using home made soap in there at the minute – works fine for clothes, but dirty cloths come out as filthy as they went in (although maybe that’s just colour!) Will investigate…

  4. I use my loo roll tubes for sweetpea seeds. They like to be able to send long roots down and can be safely planted out in their tubes without damaging their roots.

    I’m also a big fan of E-cloths no detergent or polish needed and I use them for everything from windows to floors and chuck them in the washing machine when they’re dirty.

    Lastly, our council stopped collecting cardboard they said it was something to do with the dye in the writing.

    • not heard of e-cloths, thanks! I’ve heard that about the dye in the writing before, although it doesn’t seem to have stopped our council (maybe they actually tip it all in the incinerator??) Good point about using loo rolls for plants! I’ve done it before but abandoned plants this year and had forgotten!

      • The initial lay out of E-cloths can be quite high but they’re often on special offer. You can get sets for bathroom, kitchen etc. I have one that’s also just for glass and use a spray bottle to dampen the window and manage to do inside and out. They are also supposed to kill 99.9% bacteria as well.

  5. Laurie says:

    I was discussing this just this afternoon with my mum. My Dad gets given a lot of what could only be decribed as old junk from people he meets which he then dumps in the garage until my Mum has a rant and makes him take it to the tip!!! Why could they not take it themselves? What Im not happy with is that when anything happens to them I’ll have that horrendous garage to clear though.

    My city council are getting better at recycling. Lots of new blue bins have sprung up recently. The bottle bins still a bit of a hike for my liking and I can’t understand why some areas can have a bottle bin in each house but there isn’t one for the 15 flats in my block?! I never recycled a single item until I came into contact with you ladies anyway so Im proud of how far Ive come. I will confess to being very lazy with tins though.

    • I fear we may also be a house who collects other people’s old junk! I bet there’s a few folk (possibly friends of your dad?!) who’d love to rake through an old garage like that – that might save you a job… Well done on your recycling though, very proud of you too 🙂 Quite understand the tins laziness!

  6. Maria says:

    Hi there,
    I can relate to your ‘it-doesn’t-recycled-because-there-is-nowhere-to-put-it’ dilemma – also with regards to loo roll tubes! I was pondering only the other day that because I have only 1 bin upstairs in the room & bathroom, I mostly don’t recycle loo roll tubes (except when I remember to pick them out of the normal bin and take them to the recycling bin downstairs!).
    Our main failing as a house is that we don’t compost or recycle compostable waste. Our excuses are that the back garden is tiny (really tiny), and the council kitchen waste collection system would mean we had to keep the manky bin in the kitchen for the whole week… but I am not happy with this! I am still thinking about it. I think we may give the council kitchen waste bin system a go, starting in winter when it’s less likely to smell!
    Otherwise I have been ‘educating’ my boyfriend in the ways of recycling for over a year now!

    • Funny isn’t it? When I stayed with Fay (of they have a basket in the bathroom and pop the loo rolls in there – and use them for sending plants through the post. Doesn’t look like a bin at all, looks very pretty in fact! Might have to steal that idea.

      Compost is a tricky one. Can you put the council bin out in the garden, and just collect in a little tub in the kitchen perhaps?

  7. My biggest annoyance is that to separate our rubbish means 2 bins -one for general waste and one for recycling? Personally I don’t want 2 bins in each room which means either the recycling ends up in a pile next to the bin as we are too lazy to take it through to the kitchen or it all ends up in the same bin. Both situations really bother me and I know I should get over my “don’t want 2 bins in the living room/bathroom” attitude but it’s harder than it sounds.
    Your post has made me think about changing little things though. Our toilet roll holders end up sitting on the windowsill in the bathroom for ages before they are taken out. Must come up with a solution that doesn’t require too much work as we are quite lazy here!!!!

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