plastic bottles

Nick asks me to spill the beans on how easy or hard it was to get plastic bottles as part of the recycling service.

The truth is that I was the sceptic, not my colleagues and getting the money wasn’t a battle once I convinced Steve and others that it would be sustainable. 

There isn’t a clear environmental (or economic) case for recycling plastic bottles that I’ve been shown.  But what we know is that often our behaviour as citizens isn’t entirely rational, and demand for plastic recycling was high amongst those who are already recycling other things.  I was also told that there is evidence that introducing plastic recycling increases that amount of other materials that people recycle.

What I was interested in was increasing the number of pick-ups from our doorsteps.  I wanted to do that for a couple of reasons: because the green boxes are too small to contain all the recycled materials for two weeks, and because I wanted to make it clear that recycling waste was as important as collecting the rest of our domestic refuse.

plastic bottleA side effect of increasing the number of vehicles that the council has to pick up recycling waste is that there is space to fill.  We figured the extra capacity may as well filled with plastic bottles given people seem determined to think that not recycling them is some sort of environmental sin.

That said I am sorry I didn’t insist on my personal choice for the poster campaign that went with the extension of the story – but too many people thought the plastic bottles looked like condoms and I got persuaded to go for the safer option.

None of this is to be taken as a sign that I am/was not committed to recycling more of our waste year on year.  I do, however, think that it is a very crude proxy for our care for the environment and shouldn’t have the sort of mythic status that it appears to have.  What we do with the rest of our waste and how far it has to go to be dealt with it is just as important as is the approach to transport, planning and energy.


About Andrew Brown

I live in Lewisham, South East London, and spent 9 years as a Labour councillor in the borough between 1997 and 2006.
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One Response to plastic bottles

  1. Nick Ingham says:

    Thanks for the story Andrew. My better half is convinced she read something similar to “once I convinced Steve and others …” on your blog before, hence the perception.

    Here at Chez Ingham (where my behaviour is rarely rational) we prove statements such as “there is evidence that introducing plastic recycling increases the amount of other materials that people recycle”.

    One very simple reason. The vast majority of what we now throw out goes in the recycling box not the bin. Before the introduction of plastic bottles it was the other way round. Hence recycling here is now the norm not the exception.

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