The secret of effective recycling

It's hard work to recycle the way we're all supposed to. It requires effort to separate waste into component parts, or to make a trip out the compost bin in the garden with a handful of vegetable cuttings. More work than just throwing everything in the kitchen bin.

But the other barrier to good recycling, and one that I believe is overlooked, is that to recycle efficiently, you need to have lots of storage space.

Not just any old storage either. It has to be kept away from children and food - probably in a shed, garage or utility room. It has to be easy to clean (even washed-out cans and bottles start to smell after a few weeks), and there has to be a surprisingly large amount of it.

After all, you need to store enormous amounts of waste.

Some local authorities have started doorstep collections of some recyclables, but even these only tend to happen once a fortnight. If your black box is not large enough for two weeks worth of cans, bottles and newspapers, you need indoor storage.

There's the other waste that doesn't get collected from the door, too. In my area, plastic bottles and cardboard can be recycled, but are not collected. I have to store them until its worthwhile to load up a bootload and transport them to the recycling centre in the next town. (Needless to say, I make an effort to ensure that this doesn't happen for its own sake; I take the recycling only on occasions when I'm due to be driving there anyway.)

The upshot is that in our utility room, we have a series of plastic and cardboard boxes that we use to store this waste prior to it being taken away. This is not the best solution.

Better would be a built-in cupboard in a little-used space, lined with washable plastic and with a sloped inside base, so that spillages can be mopped up quickly and easily. It needs to be close enough to the kitchen (where most waste is created) and to the front door (to make emptying easier). It needs to be airtight, to contain nasty niffs, and childproof.

Sounds expensive, doesn't it?

If the government were serious about environmental policy, it would place the burden for this sort of installation on builders of new homes. Along with a small solar cell or rooftop heat exchange device, all new homes should be constructed with a water diversion system that re-uses non-soiled water for toilet flushing, plant watering, and car washing; and an effective, easy to use, useful storage facility for recyclable waste.

Filed under: life
(18th August 2004)