The hole in the ground

‘Refuse collection day’ in my borough falls on a Friday and lately, as I have begun my daily commute with its regular 10 minute walk to the station, I’ve noticed that the local recycling trucks have had a bit of a spruce up.

barnet recycle truck

You might think that this is a weird thing to notice but recycling is something that’s close to my heart and it’s come a long way since my arrival in London more than eleven years ago. Back then, I was shocked by the absence of the kerb-side collection infrastructure I had been used to in Melbourne, where I happily separated my rubbish into separate bins and blithely ‘left it out the front’ for weekly collection.

When I arrived in New Cross in 2004, there was no kerb-side recycling in place and for the year I lived in Brentford, I spent much of the time cleaning up the ‘burst’ rubbish bags from the pavement right outside our front door (the efforts of either foxes or patrons of the pub down the road). My six and a half years in Kingston-Upon-Thames saw the arrival of a ‘recycling bank’ at the local Sainsbury’s supermarket (which would have been bit of a nuisance without a car) followed by the gradual introduction of a kerb-side service, the footpaths on ‘rubbish day’ becoming cluttered with all manner of bins and bags (with about five different containers supplied to separate all of the different materials in). 

In England we recycled, reused or composted just 43.5% of our waste in the year up to November 2014, a measly 0.3 percentage point increase over the prior year. That means that more than half of what we throw away ends up in a big hole in the ground (aka landfill) and if the new truck livery is to be believed, Barnet (my local area) has been behind the pack at 40%.

So it was a heartening sign for me to see the commitment to a significant 25% improvement from the Borough. But it’s not just the council who has to stack and separate the myriad of recyclables from week to week but all of us who live in the community. And that’s why I am loving the smart simplicity of their message.

I saw the ‘50% by 2016’ on a street poster by the tube station entrance earlier this year and then snapped the trucks – out and about on local streets week after week – about 7 weeks ago. And then this week, walking home from the tube, I saw this on the main road…

Barnet recycling street poster July 2015

Granted, this only addresses the rubbish at home and I am struggling to remember where I’ve seen any bins for separating rubbish ‘types’ while out and about but to my mind, a concerted effort in any area can only contribute towards lessening that big hole in the ground.

In checking out the current statistics Down Under, I noticed that Australia’s recycling rate of 64.2%, one of the highest recycling rates in the world (in Europe, Austria leads with 63%) has plateaued over the last couple of years so even our best is still leaving more than a third of the waste we generate for the planet to ‘deal with’.

There’s quite a lot of noise around Zero Waste (to landfill) initiatives in the business world and given the stats I’ve looked at as background to this post, I’m not sure how on earth we’d ever be able to extend that philosophy out into the general community. But this truck that trundles down my street each week has reminded me that every little bit makes a difference and I have resolved to renew my efforts in not just recycling what I use, but also to look at using ‘less’ in the first place.

A Tiger’s Tale…

I had a particularly challenging week last week so when I fled the office on Friday afternoon for a night at Sadler’s Wells (more on this in a later post), it couldn’t have been soon enough for me.

Upon reaching Kings Cross-St Pancras International station I was strolling down the concourse, mentally debating the merits of popping into Peyton and Byrne, wandering around Foyles for a bit or heading straight down to the tube when I saw this…

 …a large orange tiger.

Having been assailed with much advertising about the ‘movie epic’ Life of Pi, I wondered fleetingly as I walked by whether this was an homage to Richard Parker.

But what made me stop was not the tiger but the bales of cans ready for recycling it was standing on. How strange you might be thinking but I work in the packaging industry, have been to an aluminium recycling centre and have seen what happens so I was pulled up short wondering what they were doing in the middle of St Pancras Station. Besides I didn’t find out about the milk bottle thing until I walked around to the front of the display.

Speaking of the display, commissioned by Veolia Environment (they are one of the rubbish and recycling contractors here in the UK), it appears that it’s all part of Tiger Tracks, a Save Wild Tigers initiative designed to raise awareness and funds for tigers in the wild. It is made entirely from recyclable materials found in Merseyside’s household recycling bins. That’d be 300 milk bottles and over 58,000 cans that artist Faith Bebbington has reused and recycled to recreate this life-sized Bengal tiger.

And as I moved around to the front, inspired to take a few smartphone snaps, do you think anyone would stop their whizzing past to let me capture the moment? No…

This was the best I could manage…

Sorry peeps.

In the meantime, you can find out more about Save Wild Tigers by clicking here or by popping down to St Pancras International Station anytime during March for more tiger themed activities.

Otherwise efforts to save this noble animal from extinction could amount to nothing more than catching a tiger by the tail.