Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Domestic waste and recycling - how to improve?

Our home is in the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (DLRCC) region of Dublin. The council charge for waste collections by weight plus a flat charge for each pickup - you chose how often you leave the bin out and the bin lorry comes around every week. We are partly motivated by the price saving of reducing weight/pickups but I'm also motivated by the incredibly high proportion of what we throw out that can be recycled to help the country and the planet. At home we've got it down now to just about one bin pick-up every 4 weeks (sometimes 3 weeks) for normal waste. Not bad I guess for a family of effectively 5 adults (plus a rabbit!) and plenty of consuming friends visiting almost daily.

DLRCC arrange a green bin pickup only every 4 weeks. That is a challenge, it's often stuffed by 3 weeks - even by standing into the bin and crushing the contents down. Other good items to recycle are plastic bottles. They are not heavy but would also take up space in the regular bin leading to more regular collections. DLRCC don't let us put out plastic in the green bin - just paper based items and metal. I understand some councils in other parts of the country do take plastic on green bin collections. Anyway, at home we put a special tray in a hall cloakroom for plastic - as well as a glass bottle tray. I've a dislike for making special trips to recycle centres so my routine with the glass is to dump it in a bottle bank at my tennis club on Sunday mornings when I'm down playing. Plastics are not so easy, less places take plastic. My method at present is to put the few bits daily into my gym bag and dispose it at the gym small plastic bottle bin - as I tend to be going there regularly anyway.

So the vast bulk of our non-recycled waste is effectively food waste. There are no brown bin plans as far as I can tell in DLRCC. I suppose we should consider a compost bin but it seems like more work and we are kept busy recycling as it is. Back 40 or more years ago food waste recycling was actually quite neat. I recall as a child what was called the "Piggy Bin" for things like potato peel and the like in our kitchen. A guy came around collecting this free for use in pig feed. In Derry in the distant past my Mum said there was a similar "Brock man" who collected food waste. In fact in Derry there were others who collected the old cinders and dust from fires.

The Irish seem to be getting better at recycling in recent years but I know that if good minds are put to play it could improve a lot more. I'm glad to hear how others deal with waste and recycling, brown bins, compost bins, or ideas generally. Maybe we could get councilors or experts to listen or have a say also.


missmellifluous said...

Hi John,
While we are not charged on the weight of our rubbish disposal here in Sydney, Australia, we do recycle a fair bit.

We have a yellow lidded bin for recycling glass, paper, cans, cardboard etc and a green bin for waste that cannot be recycled. We compost our food scraps for the garden. We are fined if we play non-recyclables in the recycling bin.

One thing we do to help reduce waste is take calico or eco-friendly bags to the shops with us and fill those up instead of constantly using plastic bags.

Buying recyclable and recycled products also helps.

Down here, in our drought plagued country, we have also begun recycling our water. Thus our grey water - water from the shower, washing machine, & bath - is redirected onto the garden so it is not wasted. It is never drunk. We also have installed tanks around our yard to catch rain water so that we can water the garden and wash the cars. It's recycling of a different sort to that which you were asking about though.

It's incredible how much we can reduce waste by recycling. I'm glad you're doing your bit for the environment.

-Ann said...

Recycling in Ireland is one of those things that drives me absolutely mad. In the place we lived outside of Chicago, recycling was free, regular and super-easy. You bought some blue bins and chucked everything recyclable into them - paper, cardboard, stryofoam, any plastic with the little recycling symbol on it, tin, aluminum. I might be missing out something, but you get the idea.

Recycling was collected with the rubbish (in a seperate truck, obviously) each week. Disposing of rubbish, especially large items, was also easy. We bought stickers at local stores and each large bin, bag, or item had to have the appropriate sticker on it to get collected. (Red for general waste, yellow for general yard waste, and orange for leaves in the Fall.) If we wanted to throw out a couch, we stuck a red sticker (which cost a little less than $2) on it.

When you go hiking in the forest outside Chicago, you don't find refrigerators or piles of black garbage bags. You don't have to hire a bunch of cowboys to drag your stuff (hopefully) to the dump (excuse me, recycling park) if you don't have a car.

It really vexes me that it is so difficult to recycle in this country, especially plastic. It is such a waste and I think people would participate in recycling if it were easier and beneficial.

John of Dublin said...

Thanks MissM and Ann. It's interesting to get views from practises in as far away as Australia and USA.

It's bizarre that policies vary so much around Ireland with different councils. I agree with Ann - it's irritating that some councils collect plastic and some don't. I'm getting a bit fed up of regularly bringing plastic into the gym plastics bin. I'm convinced that most people in our council region just put plastic in with the regular waste.

Marie Baker said...

I read your piece on domestic waste and recycling with interest. I am one of the 28 councillors who sit on the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council. As a council we are one of the few in the country who have adopted a weight element to our charging system for domestic waste. This county has no landfill site of it’s own so our waste is taken to a central baling station and then transported in bales to a landfill site in Co. Kildare. This makes getting rid of our waste very expensive.

I am a believed in the polluter pays principle. I know that in my own household of six, I have reduced our waste so that I only put the bin out once every four weeks. To achieve this reduction I have had to rethink what I buy, do I really need it, what is it packaged in, as well as composting uncooked kitchen waste, collecting and taking the plastic bottles to the recycling park when I am going with glass, old clothes and large cardboard.

I really liked your story about the “piggy bin” I remember as a child we had a man who called to our house with a horse and cart to collect vegetable peelings and who was known to us as the ‘skin man’, not very PC now put this name very adequately described his job collecting the skins from the veg.

Finally, check out the Council’s website at to see where you can recycle your plastics.

John of Dublin said...

Thank you Councillor Baker for that interesting and helpful entry.

Footnote...I said I wouldn't get political but I'll just mention that I did e-mail more than half of the DLRCC councillors from all parties and none - including the Greens - asking for a contribution to my blog. Given the subject I had kind of expected to hear from a Green Party member I guess, but Marie Baker is Fine Gael. So hats off to Councillor Baker and FG!

Natalie said...

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