In the sin bin for crimes against recycling
I was putting out the garbage recently; the usual walking to the bins with baskets full of rubbish. I’d done a spring clean and there were more plastic and glass containers than usual. I washed out as many as I could — I always do — but it was a frantic day before I went overseas and there were too many to clean out, especially face-cream bottles, tubes and things with lids that were impossible to remove. So with red face I admit some had to go in the regular bin, given my local council requires recyclables to be empty.
As I was dropping the glass and plastics in I felt sick. I realised I had a phenomenon my friend coined recently: Bin guilt.
Bin guilt afflicts even the most sturdy environmentalists among us. I am pretty strict with myself. I reuse plastic bags; I try to recycle; I won’t take away fresh fruit juice from a shop if there is a glass to scull from; I bought glasses for my daughter’s party knowing I would lose many of them.
But there is always a point of failure. There are always folders with plastic sleeves and metal bindings that would require an hour to take every piece of paper out, and then there is the time needed to tear metal or spiral spines from cardboard. There are always stinky pastes and oily, garlic sauces or honey that one hasn’t managed to clean off. Then there are the products covered in layers of stiff plastic. (What is THAT about — as though someone is going to put cyanide in a mobile phone box. Or maybe my mascara might jump out and run away.)
There’s so much hard plastic that can’t be separated from cardboard without scissors or the strength of a lion, like the plastic pouring spout in milk cartons, which means they can’t go in either plastic or paper recycling.
Bin guilt is a terrible thing. It makes many of us hate ourselves. And there is little help from manufacturers. While I agree most containers do need to be pretty much empty for recycling to work, councils could do more to help their ratepayers with the odd gunky container.
Then there are the endless bags. It’s now possible to find REDcycle bins outside some supermarkets for plastic bags and wrappers (which clog up recycling machinery and need special attention). It is a brilliant initiative by The RED Group in Melbourne — and it could also be included in our home waste system: why not introduce a purple bin, taken away by councils monthly or every two months? Is there a way around the problem of food scraps in garbage bins? Not all of us have room or time for a Bokashi kitchen compost or a garden.
Then there are those who should be fined. I recently went to lunch at a nice Asian restaurant that offered both dine-in and takeaway and was horrified to see that even table-service meals were served in plastic containers. Sadly, I was also accustomed to the sight, having driven across Middle America, where everything is served in plastic — even in some bars.
It boils down to the fact we all need help. There are many disposable products made of plastics substitutes such as palm leaf, sugarcane fibre and cornstarch, but they are expensive and not readily available. Perhaps they need to be subsidised by government?
There needs to be incentives — and their corollary, penalties — encouraging people to drink their shot of coffee or orange juice quickly at a counter as they do in Europe. And we should protest against manufacturers who use excessive packaging.
We need help to do the right thing or else bin guilt, like landfill, will not go away.
have I stumbled into Fairfax-land?
So your solution to bin guilt (sort of like transgender choices and anxiety) is to have a purple bin?
In support of GLT/whatever I suggest a spectrum of bins in all rainbow colours.
Naturally there would be a choice of what goes in to any particular bin because it is our right to choose.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, I throw what I like into any bin, employ private contractors to dispose of it and ignore dopey council regulations dreamed up by raging lefty greens. Imagine the waste of washing garbage, then having it transported in large diesel trucks, sorted, shipped to who knows where and try to cost justify that nonsense!
@Bruce God, man, she’s only talking about washing a few glass and plastic items which have unused whatever in them! I do the same. So what? Some people here obviously couldn’t give a rats about re-using the materials like plastic, glass, and metals, particularly plastic, which are used to store all those consumer goodies. Just incinerate the whole lot to generate power for all those electronic devices! You can never have enough power, can you? Frankly, I’m a fastidious recycler because I remember a time, only a few decades ago, when our world didn’t have all this stuff, And, you know what, I detest The Greens, even though some of their beliefs and mine might coincide. Why I even try to ensure those small, square, tags used to seal plastic bread bags get another life as plastic whatever. Reincarnation, that’s it!
I reckon some here could do worse than read Milton Friedman’s “I Pencil” available online just to get some idea of all that goes into making humble objects like pencils, bread bag tags, and their like. It’s really quite short and, apart from being a magnificent explication of capitalism, might spark some respect, as it did in me, for all the stuff in our modern lives we would have no hope of making if we were living alone on a desert island.