Sunday 7 November 2010

More rubbish

I got some flack last week, about my post at the end of the waste week, so I'd like to clarify a few points.

I think that we are hugely privileged to live at a time when so many materials are available to us and that it is unforgivable to squander these resources by burying them in holes or burning them in fires. Future generations will view our profligacy in much the same way that we look at the desecration of the monasteries by Henry VIII or the burning of ancient libraries by conquering armies. A regrettable act done by ignorant people. I see a future world in which people are issued with a lifetime ration of many metals, to be returned to the public stocks after their death.

A lot of people hate throwing serviceable items in the bin and the subject of plastic food containers is often discussed on the Freegle Cafe. I think that two things need to be done. In the short term we could learn from the Japanese and sort our rubbish into many more categories so that it does not all get thrown into a big heap than then has to be picked apart. Sorting rubbish is very labour intensive and this is what currently stops many plastics and metal foils from being recycled.

The long term answer is to use refillable containers and to design products that can be repaired and not to throw them away at all. As materials become more expensive then the balance will change. It is only a few hundred years since a time when common people handed down their every day cutlery in their wills because that was often their most valuable possession.

I'm planning to talk to Eco Treedweller about how TN can support the various waste initiatives that are happening around Norwich. Please comment on this post if you would like a meeting about this.

Photos - Recycling bins in Japan, Wikipedia - A place with 44 recycling bins, New York Times


  1. John - I quite agree about the need to reuse containers of all sorts and wonder if there isn't a potential social enterprise in every town to sort, clean and reissue plastic containers, glass jars etc. for reuse by individuals and producers. The main problem seems to be finding suitable premises, although a cultural shift is required to make use of such facility. Also I guess there will be regulatory issues to consider.

  2. There may be potential for such an enterprise but what I had in mind was more a return to the days when people provided their own containers. This fits in with local production as often it is centralized production and distribution that requires products to be packaged.

    When people collected bread from local bakers they put it in a cloth bag that could be washed from time to time. People used to collect beer (off sales) from pubs in their own jugs - when there was a pub in every village!

    Maybe the true cost of disposal needs to be added to the price of every product - rather than waste disposal being funded by everyone, regardless of how much waste they actually generate.