The New Year has brought some good news already for Birmingham Friends of the Earth. BFoE’s Waste Campaigner John Newson was successful in his quest to produce only one bag of rubbish for the whole year, putting out his one bin bag for the year on 31st December.

This has generated some great coverage in the local and national press, with the Birmingham Mail, the Express, the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror, the Times as well as Sky News and BBC WM all interested in John’s bin bag challenge! 

John achieved this feat by recycling or composting as much as possible, and trying to find a use for everything else.  John even managed to recycle Tetra-pak cartons and margarine tubs by taking them to London and Bristol when visiting friends.

In Bristol John Newson discovered there are mini-recycling hubs on street corners. This is something John feels would massively help increase recycling rates if we had them here in Brum, which is limited to the kerbside recycling collections and the five household recycling centres. This, as John pointed out in a trip to the tip, is not a joined up system and may help explain why Birmingham’s recycling rates are stuck at around 30% compared to Bristol’s 50%

John tried to find a use for everything that wasn’t recyclable, and only when he couldn’t do that, did he put it in the bin. This was mainly plastic film packaging compressed down into plastic bottles to save space. 

Only using one plastic bag meant John had to return rolls and rolls of black bin bags to the council. If every household in Birmingham uses one bin bag a week, then with 400,000 households that means that at least 20.8 Million bin bags have to be distributed collected and burned every year. 

While John has found that it is possible to recycle most things, it is not necessarily easy or convenient.  If Birmingham wants to really increase its recycling rates, then food collections and street recycling hubs are a must.

And John? Well he’s seeing if he can better or equal his feat in 2013!