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Recycling in the UK?

When I moved to the UK from Germany a year ago I was shocked by the limited options to separate your trash.

Photo of Felix Reiners
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In Germany you usually have all of the following options
  • Organic waste - there is a brown or green wheelie bin in front of every house
  • Recycable plastic and synthetic material - a yellow wheelie bin
  • Paper and cardboard - either another wheelie bin or community deposit containers which are rarely farther than a block away
  • Glass & bottles - on most of them there is a deposit (which by the way also applies to cans, yes also Coke cans), so people will return them to the supermarket. For glass and bottles without a deposit, there are glass containers in every neighbourhood (usually next to the paper containers)
  • Everything else, like electrical devices, paint, chemicals you'll have to bring to a community deposit, which is Ok as for me that rarely happens more than once a year.

When I move into my flat in London, I asked the property manager where to put my trash. She said, everything goes in the big containers on the ground floor!
Also paper?
yes, everything
And glass and bottles?
yes
Electronic devices?
yes, no problem
What about furniture?
If it fits, feel free!


Well, I honestly hope that the system in the UK is just different and instead of me seperating trash, someone else along the line does it, but I'm not really sure thats true.
Also, even if the later was true I think involving people in the recycling process is helpful as it sharpens awareness and changes your mindset. In the end what you want is people who responsibly take care of their trash and bring this mindset to their workplaces, isn't it?
 

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DeletedUser

Thank you for sharing and I have to admit that I felt the same way. I spent early childhood in Korea and I vividly remember about 5 different vividly coloured recycling bins and 1 huge general waste bin out in the streets allocated per flat. When I came over to UK in my teens there was not much of this coloured array. It seemed then most people weren't aware and the government hadn't issued the significance of it much. Which brings me to say, continuing from your last sentence, having a leader who is recycling conscious and active in that role is crucial. At a family home, whoever looks after the household would have a better knowledge of recycling and may be active about it but for the one working, if their workplace doesn't recycle then he/she would be clueless and may not care at all, may even excuse themselves as they are busy working. Therefore if the directors of the companies can be persuaded or informed of the significance of recycling, even those with busy life styles may begin unconsciously introducing such habits at home too? What do you think?

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Photo of Arjan Tupan

Haha, I moved to Germany from a place with a similar system as what you describe for the UK. I, too, had the hope of a (more efficient?) waste separation action further down the line, but am afraid there was no such thing.

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Photo of Felix Reiners

It would be very interesting to hear from a Brit how their recycling system works. @nathan waterhouse any ideas?

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Photo of Nathan Waterhouse

Felix. It's so confusing actually. I've lived in a lot of London's boroughs and each one has a different approach. This is because there are many different recyclers in the country - it's all privatised and there's no standardisation. I'm as confused as you are!

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Photo of Karoline K

I live in Hackney, and we used to have 3 different recycling bins - but last year they merged them all into one big recycling bin where everything goes in. It's obviously easier, but it did make me lose a bit of trust in the system. Who does the sorting now? Does this mean you're also able to sort regular waste? I'm impressed if that's the case but also slightly worried. Is simple better, or should we actually give people the opportunity to sort in order to feel that their recycling matters? (Even if it all goes to the same sorting station anyway)

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Photo of Felix Reiners

Thanks Nathan! I can imagine that confusion about how the recycling system works and what might be considered "good" behaviour is a big obstacle to developing recycling habits....

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DeletedUser

The question then is who determines what bins you get in the UK? Surely your local council has a big say in it. ..

I would assume if you have suitable bins for waste / recycling, you would be more inclined to use them, right? We live in Haringey, North London and have two wheelie bins, one black waste bin, and a a green recycling bin. Just like you in Hackney, Karoline. Certainly makes me think about what to put in what, now that I am presented with two choices and some pressure to think about it at least...

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DeletedUser

Felix, you should check your council's website. It should have detailed information about the recycling and probably would be the first place to start investigating about more recycling options. For example, we live in Barnet, north London and that's what our council's site provides: http://www.barnet.gov.uk/homepage/115/rubbish_waste_and_recycling

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Photo of Meena Kadri

You reminded me of this animated clip: http://vimeo.com/74708073 (Life Swap is a series of short animated Skype conversations between two young men, Jörg, 27, from Münster, Germany and Duncan, 27, from Wellington, New Zealand. Their monthly Skype conversations, which function as the framing device for every episode, illustrate the adventures and misadventures of their cultural experiment)

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Photo of Felix Reiners

brilliant! mirrors my experience exactly... :)