Bin lady

Jan Etherington ex­plains why re­cy­cling’s not just a load of old rub­bish

EADT Suffolk - - Inside - www.suf­folkre­cy­

MY hus­band is rub­bish at re­cy­cling. He just about man­ages to put news­pa­pers in the blue bin and twigs and leaves in the brown one, but that’s pretty much where his sort­ing skills end. Show him an empty food con­tainer, or a light bulb and there’s barely a pause be­fore it’s lobbed into land­fill – or the grey bin, as it’s known around here.

Col­lec­tion day will of­ten find me up­ended in the flip top, un­der the sink, like a wo­man pos­sessed. I’m fling­ing items up in the air. “This is tin foil, you screw it up, ten­nis ball size! Like this and put it in the blue bin!” I yell. He rolls his eyes and says: “Don’t get so wound up! It’s not that im­por­tant.” And pro­ceeds to scrape eggshells into the very bin I’ve just cleared. “That’s food! It goes into the brown bin!” I’m head­first into the flip top again, flick­ing out eggshell and halfchewed toast soldiers. I se­ri­ously con­sider putting him into land­fill.

For­get in­fi­delity, gambling and drink. I’m cer­tain ‘re­cy­cling in­com­pat­i­bil­ity’ is about to be­come one of the ma­jor grounds for di­vorce. “All over the world,” I tell him, “there are piles of rub­bish, float­ing in the oceans. The Great Pa­cific Garbage Patch, 1,000 miles off the coast of Cal­i­for­nia, is hun­dreds of miles long.” “I’ve never, know­ingly, thrown any­thing into the Pa­cific!” he in­sists. You see what I’m up against? But I plough on.

“Lots of stuff can be re­cy­cled and we can do our bit and even though it seems in­signif­i­cant and unim­por­tant –” “Ev­ery lit­tle helps – as they say in Tesco, Sax­mund­ham?” he in­ter­rupts. He’s just not tak­ing me se­ri­ously.

I show him a leaflet. It’s called Get­ting Your Re­cy­cling Right. “So which bin does that go in?” he says. But I’ve gone a bit quiet be­cause what I’m read­ing is quite scary. How putting the wrong thing in your re­cy­cling bin can spoil a whole lorry load of re­cy­cling, be dan­ger­ous and un­pleas­ant for the peo­ple who sort it, waste tax­pay­ers’ money. I like our bin men. They’re cheer­ful, help­ful and nice to dogs. I don’t want to be re­spon­si­ble for some­thing nasty in the bins, that might hurt them. I must try harder. More im­por­tantly, so must my hus­band. I make him read the leaflet. “You’ve been talk­ing garbage,” he says. “You can’t put poly­styrene food pack­ag­ing in the blue bin.” I snatch it back. Crikey, he’s right. I thought I knew it all but turns out I wouldn’t even get O-level Re­cy­cling.

I phone Suf­folk County Coun­cil Re­cy­cling for ad­vice and speak to a very help­ful lady, who says I’m not alone and her hus­band “leaves stuff on the side for me to sort”. She ex­plains that you can’t re­cy­cle the clear, plas­tic film on the top of food pack­ag­ing. New info in­cludes ‘wash, squash and put the top back on’ plas­tic bot­tles, and no items smaller than 4 cm, in­clud­ing bot­tle tops. But you can put shred­ded pa­per in the brown bin. “The main prob­lem is that peo­ple don’t think they need to wash and dry items be­fore they put them in re­cy­cling,” she says. “They may not know that, while a con­veyor belt picks up metal items with a mag­net and sets aside large pa­per sheets, the rest is sorted by hand. But don’t for­get, you can take lots of things to your Re­cy­cling Cen­tre.” Right!

Old print­ers, a mi­crowave, bro­ken gar­den chairs, un­wanted wooden shelves and a vac­uum cleaner that won’t suck. Off we went to Leis­ton House­hold Waste Re­cy­cling Cen­tre one sunny morn­ing. The only other per­son there was a neigh­bour, a sea­soned tip-vis­i­tor, who claimed Leis­ton was tiny com­pared to Pake­field, the 02 Arena of waste sites. “You can make a day of it,” he said, “pick up some fish in Low­est­oft, nip into M&S.” So I’ve been up in the loft, to find some more junk.

It is a won­der­ful feel­ing to empty the car of stuff you don’t want – and know that over 70% of it will be re­cy­cled. Even my hus­band is be­gin­ning to en­joy putting things in the right bins. As he stag­gered out, with an arm­ful of flat­tened card­board, I said: “So what do you think of it so far?” Guess what he an­swered . . .

Bin lady Jan Etherington sorts her (clean) plas­tics and pa­per

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