So this week is recycling week and we actually went to visit our local recycling center. Trust me, I am not that organised to synchronize the two, it just happened by pure accident. 8:30 with the two boys off we went on 3 buses to reach our destination and it was all worth it. I was amazed by the work this borough is doing to minimize waste that are otherwise sent to landfill ( well… to get incinerated) . Thanks to Maria and Calum we had a full tour with loads I mean LOADS of information to digest.
I have to say I really struggled how to write this post. Shall I list down all the things I was shown the borough recycles or shall I give you an overview? I went with the later so let’s see…
In general. Bexley London Borough – is on top of all London Boroughs in terms of recycling their household waste for the past 12 years with 52% of their waste being recycled placing them 58th on the list across all English local authorities. They recycle all of these things. According to Calum and Maria, “We are the yes, we can” borough when it comes to recycling. So how they managed to achieve this?!
Communications and encouragement. They have very informative leaflets and booklets which are given to EVERY single new resident when they move into the borough. It has all of information about how to and what to recycle, explaining the whole system clearly . I, as a resident can also easily request new recycling bins for free if it is broken or taken (in our case blown away by the wind and later recovered). Bexley is also working with Local Green Points. They encourage us weekly to report (takes 2 seconds via an email link) what are the waste we recycled and in return we get exclusive offers and discounts from local shops and restaurants. Such a small thing but it did make me stop and think how to recycle better and more when we signed up. They also encourage mums to use reusable nappies. Bexley is a voucher participating borough and works with Real Nappies for London . I just signed up for my voucher and waiting for it via email (Yay!). I will get (I believe £50 but will confirm when voucher arrives) to buy reusable nappies from various suppliers including our favourite, Bambino Mio.
Geography. Bexley mainly has terraced / detached and semi detached houses with space for bins unlike newly built high-rises/ block of flats. Having 3-5 different bins for each house which are mainly have a long term resident or owner is more likely. Boroughs closer to central London (Newham / Lewisham / Camden / Hackney ) where the population is more condense and people living in flats are more common, the recycling rate is the worst. This is due to developers not finding (wanting to find) space for the various bins as space are more important for car parks. I think is it sad but I can totally see it happening. Although I live in a house not a flat I think it always worth asking local councils for recycling facilities even if there isn’t ones. (I love this little post from Richard who runs Earth.Food.Love in Totnes – especially the face of the building manager on the photo)
The bins. So we have the following bins. Paper and cardboard / glass bottles and jars / plastic packaging, cans and cartons and food waste all collected weekly. General waste gets collected every fortnight. Plus for a small annual fee I could get a bin for my garden waste.
Nappies and general waste. Since nappies are going into our general waste bin, all of them get incinerated. Which means burnt to create new energy. I find this method fascinating and started to do a little research about it. I was given the name of the company who is dealing with my general waste so they soon will receive an email from me asking for a visit. I would love to find out more how they can turn my babies’ dirty nappies into energy. So it does save them from landfills after all but I am still not convinced that burning is the most environmentally friendly way. But I could be wrong so want to look into it properly. More will follow soon.
Council’s work with schools. They are visiting and educating pupils in schools around the borough to talk about waste. Which I think it is not only admirable but absolutely essential. They are for example talk about balloons (one type of plastic I really started to despise) and explaining it to kids what actually happens after a balloon is sent off to float in the air. Although it is “romantic” and “magical” basically it is just a piece of plastic after all, easily misidentifies by marine or terrestrial animals for food.
What we need to do. After the visit, I felt like we can do this. We can live on this planet without completely destroying it. The list of stuff that can be and are recycled feels endless especially if I am just looking at our everyday life. These recyling centers can take them all and by putting waste into the correct boxes they have a fully functioning systems to find the way to send minimal amount to landfill or turn them back to energy. It really is down to us to DO THE SORTING! They won’t do it for us. As a resident of not just this borough but Earth that is my task!
What are the stuff they can’t do. Not many, but one of the main one is my biscuit wrappers. If you follow me on Instagram you might know that I signed up with Terracycle to recycle those bastards as they are otherwise none recyclable. So having my little box in Sainsbury’s could really make a difference (I hope at least). I emailed Sainsbury’s to see if they want to expand the scheme and work with Terracycle having boxes like mine in every stores but their generic answer was that they will look into it. (meh…). I also printed some fliers to give it to local shops about the box and hoping for a tweet or two from Bexley Council and Local Green Points. So we will see but I am not giving up! I think it is excellent that McVitis is actually covering the cost of recycling their own wrappers, other companies should follow suit. It is again down to us not to put them in the general waste bin.
So here we are, it was very interesting and I can absolutely see how much actual waste can turn into either new products or energy (follow up on that soon). It is us who has to pull our weight a little. Ask local authorities for the bin/s and separate them out ourselves. The technology is there, let’s use it. Because if I am honest (and I try to be) as much as I want to be “zero” waste I will NEVER be. I will always have the plastic / paper/ broken shoes / old phone / old clothes / biscuits wrappers I can’t say no to and they need to have a place to go which isn’t a whole in the ground or a stomach of an animal.
See some more photos here from our visit. Also Brendan is in the big loader having the best time of his life.
Once again, thank you for reading me. Do feel free to comment, I always love reading your thoughts.