Saturday 30 October 2010

Wombling over-ground, to keep the underground free

Over the past couple of years I've been involved in Transition Norwich (Heart & Soul, Reskilling), in a variety of ways. Day-by-day I feel an heightened consciousness of what I am using, where things come from and where things go. I enjoy reading these blog entries, seeing news unfurl on the achievements of the initiative, of which there are many and it's an honour to now be asked to blog for TN during Waste Week (I could tell you how excited I was to have been asked, but suffice to say there was a loudly exclaimed 'yes!' followed by a little chair-dance).

While some make small but vital steps towards reducing waste, others are taking great strides. The speed and journey of progressiveness toward greener living is as varied as the people engaging in it. Over the past few years my own knowledge and awareness of climate change, peak oil etc. has grown dramatically (boosted somewhat by the immense wealth of info and experiences shared by Transition people) and I would now consider myself to be somewhere in the middle on this self-imagined scale of awareness. My efforts are pretty good, my enthusiasm unfaltering, I recycle and boss other people into recycling; I compost; I try to reduce waste; and I try to learn as many skills as I can, using hand tools over appliances wherever possible. I learned what a carbon footprint is, then managed to shrink it considerably. I turned my heating off early this year and haven't switched it on yet. BUT! I do still buy food with ridiculous amounts of packaging (I also will bemoan it – but no excuse, I know) and I do drive a vehicle, though the irony here is not lost, for it is my van which enables the recycling of items which might otherwise end up in landfill.

Ah, landfill! That's what this blog is really to be about, so it's quite fortuitous that I should finally reach my point while you're still with me.

In June I became a form of waste (at least in the company's eyes – altogether now 'aaah') when redundancy struck, however, I was fortunate enough to be made of recyclable material. I decided to start a new Community Interest Company involved in recycling and reskilling projects, called Wombling. This allows me to combine the things I love, i.e. rummaging through unwanted (donated) 'stuff' and finding new homes and uses for it. Fixing faulty items, often the reason for their being (previously) discarded, (now) donated and re-homed.

Next year Wombling will also run repair courses to groups, so the mass of broken furniture, electrical goods and garments can enjoy an extended life. A few more people will have gained a skill (Reskilling) which may help them by building their confidence, but also help increase their employability and these items will have evaded, at least for a while longer, the dreaded landfill. Oh, there's that word again.

When Tracey Smith (Author, 'The Book of Rubbish Ideas', founder of InterNational Downshifting Week) recently made a video called 'Chick of the Dump' showing her first visit to a landfill site, it struck me that the closest I've ever been to a landfill site is seeing them on television, or in films. Often a good place to find bodies, apparently, but then, I will watch crime dramas.

Tracey's video made me really want to visit one. So, I quickly contacted Norwich City Council requesting a list of the local landfill site locations and asking permission to visit one. I've since received the site list which I'm happy to pass on if you contact me, or you can get in touch with Kate McFarland who is the Assistant Waste Partnership and Strategy Officer at Norfolk County Council, more info on their website here. Ms McFarland said that tours of the recycling facility in Costessey can be arranged via the local council. 'Very good' I thought, but I still want to visit an actual landfill site (rather than just the good work being done at the recycling facility) and at the time of writing have not heard back, which is unfortunate as I was hoping to have been, gone and come back again by now so I might report on my experience in this blog. I shall however persevere, for that is my way.

Image from -

In February 2009 the BBC reported that London's landfill sites would be full by 2013. Defra say that for every tonne of household waste produced, commercial, industrial and construction businesses produce another six tonnes. My aim is to lead small groups to see these sites, in the hope of further spreading the recycling message. Making it real. This is the mess we, quite literally, are in. Waste awareness initiatives are not a new concept, but engaging the public should remain a high priority; as only then can we hope to encourage more householders to use more recycling facilities, more of the time. Some may grasp the issue without ever seeing a gargantuan pit of largely un-rotting, stinking refuse. Others benefit from experiencing things more personally, being there, seeing it with their own eyes. While I have a good imagination and a reasonable idea of how it is, really, I will admit to being among the latter. But I want my eyes opened to the reality of our wastefulness.

Oh, and before I go, food waste. Norwich City Council have just introduced a Food Waste collection scheme, where food bins are collected weekly, and by the look of how many were put out for collection in NR4 this morning, residents have really embraced this service.

Also, many of you will be aware of the Foodcycle project. But did you know there will very soon be a Foodcycle Norwich? They are meeting on3 December to plan, and to recruit volunteers for a launch in January 2011. Hope to see you there.

People are doing their bit, in whatever ways they can. Looking back to pre-Transition days, those of you who are part of it, which will be many of you my lovely readers, will no doubt be able to reminisce at how things have changed in your own lives. The things you now do which you didn't do before, or perhaps you engage and connect with your environment, or your communities differently.

We're all on this journey toward an environmentally sustainable future. The routes travelled may be varied, there is certainly urgency, but there is also passion and dedication, and the way we are going is almost certainly the right way.

Eco Treedweller
Pictures: The Wombling van, a landfill site.


  1. Dear ET, what a fantastic thing to greet me tonight! Your inspirational posting is bursting with great, green energy and how interesting to see the hurdles you face already.....I'm doing well on my quest to find a crew to come film another full visit to the site in North Somerset and can only say, they would be more than willing to facilitate a visit, but I know full well, you're on the other side of the country and that's ridiculous!

    Progress will be made my friend. I'll be sure to keep you in the loop with what I do next and do the same to me and if any other readers make a visit to a landfill site, I'd love to know about that too!

    Wishing you all good things,
    Respectfully, gratefully yours,
    TS x

    Tracey Smith

  2. I am loving your 'cunning plan' my dear! xxxx


    Love your cunning plan hunny!! Go girl!! ;-)

  4. Really good post and excellent links too.

    Congratulations on your Wombling success (though I have to say I've been singing that song ever since . . . how come I can remember those words?!)

    And I agree there's nothing like the reality of rubbish to make you do something about it. We live two miles from a landfill site and boy, when that wind is the wrong direction, you get the message!

    Hope you will write again on This Low Carbon Life.

    Best wishes,