I have promised to generate one bin bag of black of rubbish this year. It is an experiment to find out how much of the waste we produce at home really cannot be composted or recycled, so I decided to set myself a stretching challenge. Saying this in front of the City Council’s waste scrutiny committee in January has helped me to take the pledge very seriously!
I had been thinking about how 350,000 tonnes of household rubbish are collected in Birmingham every year. This is very expensive and costs the City Council £30 million in ‘waste disposal’ , i.e. to burn or bury, polluting the air or the land. Is this really necessary?
My first step is to separate everything that will rot: my carpet and floor sweepings, hair and nail clippings, waste food and dirty paper. It stays inside a lidded bucket until rotting, since I don’t want to encourage rats in the outside compost box. Liquids go down the toilet, as I want to keep my waste dry to avoid smells. Garden waste I don’t give to the Council, as it also goes in the composter. Compost is emptied once a year, when I refill containers in the back yard o grow fruit and salads. A rain butt provides for watering.
The second stream is all the clean paper, metal and glass or plastic bottles which go in the recycling box. Having been through the washing up, these items won’t smell. I started accumulating margarine tubs, but had to visit Bristol, so took a bag with me and popped them into the ‘plastic bank’ there. I notice banks for drinks cartons in London. This leaves just washed plastic wrappings which can squash down a lot. The bag is half full, halfway through the year, so on course to last 2012. If I can just find a company that uses mixed plastic to donate it to…
Currently, only about 32% of municipal waste is composted or recycled in Birmingham. My own experience is that much higher rates are possible – 70%, 80%, with a target of ‘zero waste’, all waste being used. It just needs a system that does not mix the ‘rottables’ with the ‘recyclables’.