Category Archives: recycling

Barriers to Recycling

I’m recycling quite a lot less of my plastic than I used to.  And metal, though there was never so much of that.  It’s become too impractical.

Specifically, while I am still recycling bottles (milk and fruit juices) and some miscellaneous stuff, most food packaging is going straight in the general waste.

The background to this is twofold.  First, a bit of idiocy from West Devon’s recycling services.  Plastic and metal don’t go into a sensible/practical recycling bin, but instead into an unwieldy bag similar to those more commonly used for gardening waste.  Second, I have a problem with rodents getting into the kitchen.

West Devon’s overall recycling is quite a pain.  In addition to the silly bag for plastic and metal and the general waste, there’s separate food waste (fairy nuff) and two separate plastic boxes that are scarcely used.  Fine if you have something like a utility room with lots of spare space, but out of all proportion for a house with no dedicated space.

OK, the general waste is fine: I have a general bin.  The food waste is fine: a little caddy is provided.  Two robust plastic boxes stack in an under-the-worktop space.  But there’s nothing to do with the ridiculous plastics bag, other than to fold it and stash it away during the week.

So plastic waste either goes straight in the general waste or accumulates through the week.  And if the latter, it attracts rodents to come and get any food remnants that may have survived a rinse.  So only robust bottles with robust lids can be allowed to remain around when empty.

There must be many households blighted by these recycling arrangements, including houses quite a lot smaller than mine.  Aren’t we long overdue an upgrade to communal waste and recycling facilities, as are common in (at least some) continental countries, and now Brighton in Blighty?

I wonder what the waste services would do if I abandoned the bag and put the plastics into one of the robust nearly-unused boxes instead?  At least there they could be shut away until collection day.

Someone else’s rubbish!

Our kerbside recycling has since last autumn largely replaced trips to the recycling centre.  In some ways it’s an improvement: certainly getting rid of bottles/etc weekly without hassle, and having somewhere to dump the junkmail without first having to bring it upstairs is icing on the cake.  And the food waste recycling is altogether new here!

But not all is well.  The way they collect it leaves a residue of uncollected stuff which seems to differ week by week.  And the killer is that the residue ends up not with whoever dumped it, but with someone more-or-less random.  And we’re not talking someone dumping litter here (though I daresay that happens occasionally too), but the very people who collect the rubbish.

Today I finally got around to complaining.  After last time I expected an ordeal with their web forms and I got it – in spades!  But eventually I coaxed the form into accepting my complaint, which I’ll let speak for itself:

Your collection of green-box recycling is flawed.

It seems to vary week-by-week, but the most usual pattern is that a team come ahead of the collection lorry, and sort the recycling.  At that point, waste of one kind may move from my box to a neighbour’s, and vice versa.

When the collection follows, they seemingly reject some things.  For example, carrier bags which the team doing the sorting use to collect items such as bottles, cans or paper.  Sometimes items that are harder to identify.

The outcome is that I am regularly left with residual items of other people’s rubbish in my green box.  The system has become one not of collection but of somewhat-random exchange!

The first couple of times this happened, I dealt with it.  But I’ve had enough: I’m not taking the green box back into my house until and unless it’s cleared of other people’s rubbish!

A second minor complaint: they sometimes exchange green boxes, lids, etc.  I have in the past (on separate occasions) been left with a non-matching box and lid, and with a box that was sticky to the touch!

Worse, the boxes are sometimes left right in front of the door to trip over when one just steps outside: this is an accident waiting to happen!

Waste Collection or Hot Air

West Devon has introduced a new waste collection regime.

They started by leafleting us some time ago.  Fine.  The leaflet promised more information nearer the time, so I didn’t pay too much attention except to note the date: second half of October.  They also promised a recycling box and a food waste box.  The recycling box duly arrived, but no sign of the food waste one.

Last night I was due to take the rubbish out.  A fortnight’s worth: I don’t take it out every week.  Since I have no food waste box, it includes food waste.

I check the recycling box.  In it is a leaflet, longer than the original one.  But it’s illegible!  Or rather, it’s stuck together and won’t open: slicing it delicately with a swiss army knife shows traces of print on the corner of the inner pages, but it’s irretrievable.  But visible on the back page is a collection calendar, which shows there’s no general waste collection this week.  Damn!  We’ve always had weekly collections in the past.

OK, I can live with that.  Awkward when one is away on a Monday night and misses the opportunity for a fortnightly collection, but so be it.  Just so long as I know and can plan around it.  At least I can fill the recycling box this week!

So I went to the West Devon website, to check the full information, any further guidance on what goes in the recycling box, and those leaflets.  This is where it gets surreal: I found myself going round and round in circles on the site, but not finding any substantial information.  The first link claiming to be PDF turns out to be a page about PDF (and acrobat), and I curse my way through several more links to it before I find an actual PDF leaflet.  That then turns out to be a useless one-pager, not the ones I’m looking for.  Some annoying rummaging at home finds the old leaflet in its glossy printed form, but nothing I can reference without the hassle of paper.

Now truly p***ed off at this vacuous website, I try sending them a complaint:

Your leaflet on kerbside recycling and refuse collection describes an “outside food bin” and “kitchen caddy”, and implies we should be provided with them before the new service starts.  The new service has started, and none have been seen here.

OK, not a big deal: I can presumably contact you to ask for them.

However, having only a vague memory of the leaflet, I naturally came to your website to look for the information.  I was also looking for the leaflet that came in the big green boxes, but is illegible due to inadequate production quality.


Is this nothing but hot air?

Now it gets all the more surreal.  It refuses my submission, telling me something on the form is incomplete.  I go through the normal fields again looking for the little red star, iterate several times.  WTF???

Finally, a break and a cup of tea later, I find it.  The last entry in the form is a big textbox captioned:

If there is anything which makes it difficult to use our service, for example if English is not your first language or you have a disability, please use the space below to tell us how we could help you.*:

It’s refusing form submission because I’ve left that box empty.  This is vintage irony: their misguided attempts at accessibility have made the thing inaccessible!  I entered in that box:

How about enabling submission with this box blank?  For those of us who are sufficiently able-bodied and english-speaking to fill your form, but whose eyesight isn’t quite sharp enough to spot a tiny red star above this box?

(Pardon the grammar, but it was past 2 a.m. and I’d been struggling for far too long with it to care.  Not an excuse, but a plea for mitigation).

For any techie readers, this mess of a site proclaims WCAG AA accessibility, at which I can only shake the head.  A look at the source reveals heavy div-soup that is void of any HTML semantics.  An automated analysis reveals markup that is surprisingly close to AA conformance in box-ticking terms.  While not as bad as many 1997-style monstrosities, it shows all the hallmarks of following rules with no insight into their meaning.

I guess the whole website is a box-ticking exercise, just as waste collection is a box-filling one.  Maybe B for effort, C- for outcome.  I could forgive the missing receptacles and the web design if only they’d provided those simple leaflets!  Grrrr ….

Recycling by word of mouth

I’ve finally disposed of my old bike.

This is, or rather was, the mountain bike I bought in Italy, about 15 years ago.  It served me well for a number of years, including commuting, leisure cycling, shopping, and (not least) house-hunting when I found my current place.  But a while back (at least three years, I think a little more), it died.  That is to say, the frame developed a big rusty hole at the point of the bar where I’d drip sweat on the uphills, and seemed more than a little unsafe to use 😮 .

With the frame gone and the other parts in a range of states, I didn’t hasten to fix it.  But with some decent-quality parts still in good nick (wheels, rack, brakes, cranks, possibly other parts of the drive chain), it seemed too good to take to the tip.  And since I don’t have a new mountain bike, I’m not likely to use them for spares myself in the foreseeable future[1].  If I wasn’t such a procrastinator it would’ve gone to something like freecycle or ebay, but I never got around to it.

Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago, when I met a chap in town with a not-quite-a bike.  We got chatting, and it turned out he was returning from the tip, where he’d been reclaiming serviceable parts from discarded bikes.  So I told him about the bike and asked if he was interested.  This week he came and took a look, agreed there were parts worth reclaiming, and took it away!

Happy to have it off my hands, and I hope he finds a good use for the parts!

[1] I don’t have space to keep multiple bikes I care about, but fortunately my touring bike is a decent all-rounder and serves both on and off-road.  The dead bike wasn’t a drain on my space ‘cos it lived out in the yard.


It’s bin-day tonight.  Our (weekly) garbage collection happens Tuesday mornings.

I’ve just thrown away a bunch of good metal lids.  The glass jars (and bottles) they come from have gone to the recycling, but lids are not wanted with the glass!

It feels wrong.  These are good metal: can’t they be recycled too?  Another recycling bin combines tins of all kinds, from the light aluminium of drinks cans, to the much heavier food tins things like tinned tomatoes come in.  That’s an eclectic mix of different metals: can’t lids from a pickle jar go in with them?  It’s unclear: most of those lids have a non-metal surface – usually a thin film of something plastic-ish facing the food.  Would that mess something up?

Similarly some things have plastic lids: can those go in the recycling bin for plastic bottles?

Can the recycling industry provide clear guidelines on such things?  For example, where the bottle bank tells you to remove lids, perhaps it could suggest where metal and plastic lids can be recycled.

Recycling confusion

I regularly go to our nearest recycling centre with glass, plastics and metals. That is to say, mostly bottles and cans, which are well catered-for.

A little further away (at Morrisons) is a bigger recycling centre that accepts a lot more stuff. Today I packed up a big pile of old clothes and took them there. The condition of the clothes ranged from very tatty (well-worn) through to wearable for someone with the waistline I had 20 years ago.

Approaching the clothing receptacle, I saw it asked for good quality clothes! Does that mean it’s expecting them to be re-used as-is? That would put them in direct competition with the charity shops, begging the questions what’s the point? and the more pressing if not here, where do I go to recycle clothing materials?

As it happened, there was a man with a lorry loading/unloading bottle banks. Perhaps he’d know where the stuff goes and what they can really use? I asked, and he didn’t know, but suggested I put everything in anyway and leave it to “them” on the other end to sort through what they can use. So I did that, but I’d like to know for future reference what they do with recycled stuff beyond bottles, cans and papers.