You might not be as savvy as you thought you were..
We have all seen the distressing images online or on TV of the devastating effects of plastic on our oceans. We are shocked, and we tut with disgust at how people can be so irresponsible about their waste management. But the truth is, we are all guilty – whether we realise it or not.
If someone had asked me a month or so ago about my recycling habits, I would have proudly told them that we produce very little landfill waste in our house. We compost, we have hens and all our paper and plastic goes in for recycling. Then I saw a video on Facebook where a housewife went through the packaging that she had accumulated by shopping for just one evening meal of spaghetti Bolognese. With the exception of a plastic milk carton – ALL of the packaging on the rest of the food; bacon, minced beef, parmesan cheese and pasta was NOT recyclable in this country and had to go to landfill. I was shocked – as were too, it seems, the thousands of others who viewed the video, and who consequently shared it with their friends. The bottom line is – only a fraction of the plastic we use in our house is actually recyclable, and we aren’t nearly as savvy as we thought we were.
More upsetting is the fact that even the plastic that is recyclable is not sent for recycling if the load is contaminated by items that haven’t been properly sorted. So get it wrong and you are dumping a frightening amount of plastic into landfill and/or the oceans – and may have been doing so for some time without realising it. Wet paper, items contaminated by food (eg. pizza boxes, unwashed yoghurt pots) all contaminate the rest of the load and render it useless for recycling. Think of how a tissue left in a trouser pocket destroys a whole pile of laundry – that’s what wet paper towels will do to your otherwise perfect bag of recycling.
Until recently, items that ended up in recycling bins and were not re-usable in this country were sent to China and India where they were absorbed in to the massive recycling culture that both countries enjoy. However, since November 2017, they are now demanding higher standards and will not accept certain items. Which means we all must be even more vigilant about our recycling habits, while at the same time reducing our consumption of non-recyclable items, such as disposable coffee cups, plastic straws, plastic bags and soft plastic wrapping.
The big NO in your recycling bin is soft plastic (bags, wrappers, cling film), soiled or wet paper and cardboard and food waste.
KWD are one of the largest waste collection companies in the region, and they provide bins for each type of waste – food, recycling and landfill. Payment is by weight – so the less waste you produce, the less you pay. They support the National Clean-Up campaign each year by providing equipment for local groups to come out and spring clean their environment. This year’s Clean-up will take place in April and more information about that will be in the next issue of The Grapevine. Bantry Skip Hire operates a bring site on the edge of Bantry, and they accept all types of waste for recycling, including food waste, and they also accept scrap metal and other items of household waste. Again, payment is by weight. Cork County Council will shortly be opening a new bring site in Skibbereen, but more details were not available at the time of going to print.
Tips for reducing waste:
- If you live in the country, make your own compost from food waste, both raw and cooked. It takes about 9 months for the waste to break down in to useable compost, but the environment, and your garden, will love it!
- If you have space – keep a few hens. They are easy to keep, they love to eat food scraps and they will reward you with delicious eggs
- When shopping, look out for opportunities to buy your fruit and vegetables loose. Do you really need to put them in a plastic bag that you are going to throw out as soon as you get home?
- Keep shopping bags in your car for re-use again and again. Or use a basket.
- When buying your drink at the cinema – do you really need the plastic top and straw?
- Buy individual cans of drinks, rather than six-packs. Or buy bottled drinks and recycle the glass.
- Carry a re-useable drinks bottle with you instead of buying bottles of water.