Yes, that was me walking around Bude’s recycling centre last week, exclaiming at the number of items people simply throw out. I was thinking about the plastics issue in our seas but also wondering whether we can somehow create less general waste. In our consumerist society it seems we buy an awful lot of stuff we really do not need, and somehow it has to be disposed of.
The guys at the recycling centre are keen to educate us all so that we use the recycling centre properly rather than abuse it.
First of all, here’s a list of the waste you can bring to Bude’s recycling centre (NOT trade waste):
- Asbestos (please contact the Cornwall Council helpdesk)
- Car and household batteries
- Clothes and textiles
- Engine oil
- Fridges and freezers
- Fluorescent tubes
- Gas bottles
- Green/Garden waste
- Household chemicals under five litres
- Household waste
- Items for resale
- Newspaper and magazines
- Plastic bottles
- Small electrical items
Suez recycling, a French company, is keen to protect the environment by putting waste to good use.
Seeing them in action, the staff are very helpful but they want to reiterate they are a recycling centre, not the dump. They are pleasantly ‘houseproud’ guys and keep the place tidy and swept up/looked after, so ask others to help them to maintain the good appearance of the site. Part of their job is to sort your waste, especially if you haven’t done it already so have put items in non-recyclable general waste that can actually be recycled. Here’s what I learned:
Tip 1 – people, please organise your own waste so you put it in the right skip at the recycling centre. Don’t just throw it in the general waste skip.
Often, people cynically assume the staff are sorting through bags to take the good items home but, actually, even if they really wanted to, they are not allowed to. Additionally, everything at the site is filmed on CTTV. They are not being jobsworths, either – they need to sort it for recycling purposes. Most of their time is taken clearing up after people. If people came in and did the right thing (see tip 1) they could make use of this fantastic facility, rather than abuse it.
Tip 2 – there is now a skip for general waste for incineration, and one for larger waste for landfill. If you care about the environment, use the right one.
The guys say they should have literally halved rubbish by doing this but many people don’t care where they put things. As a council tax payer, you are also contributing to any landfill tax. We need to eliminate landfill.
Tip 3 – some things cost money to dispose of but the amount is small.
Think about how much you spend on a meal out or a new car, then think of the small cost of disposing of certain items. The staff say many certainly don’t want to pay something like £1.75 to dispose of an old sink. It is shocking. While I was there one lady remonstrated about the charge to dispose of her toilet. Often people threaten to dump them roadside rather than pay.
Holiday home owners often bring in three or four flat screen TVs because they are from last year. They are perfectly ok and work. Why can’t they sell them, or check if stores like Woolacotts will often take old items back to dispose of them properly?
I look around. There are indeed massive TVs and flat screens, better than I have at home, actually. A company collects them, and fridges, removing recyclable parts.
Tip 4 – you could sell them on Bude Bargains or give stuff to people who need them – lots of people in Bude have no TVs.
There are lots of things at the recycling centre which are brand new: DVDs which are collected by a firm in Bodmin; there are items still in their sealed boxes, which is such a waste. Digital picture frames, toys, CDs, perfume, the list is endless. A pair of men’s roller blades. It’s not an unusual occurrence – seems people can’t think of anything else to do with it, it seems. Charity shops are not prepared to take electrical goods but many of these items could be sold or given away under some Freegle scheme.
Tip 5 -the staff are actually really helpful
Conversely, some people think their ancient bikes are perfectly usable, and the staff will sort them out appropriately. Many people bring in their old pet bedding when their dog has probably passed away. So they need gentle handling by empathetic, customer service focused staff – reading the situation is important. If in doubt, ask…
While I was there, a lady disposed of 2 boxes of greetings cards still in their wrappers as she’d had enough of them being at home. Many of them still had prices on the back. Some were hand-crafted. Maybe a charity shop could have sold them.
People just throw anything into the non-recyclable skip. There is an incinerator at Energy From Waste near St Dennis. Non-recyclable goes to the incinerator. Some go to landfill but a shredder is being installed to avoid landfill, so soon it can all be incinerated. The system is continually improving. Wires are not great for incineration as they give off toxic fumes, however.
Tip 6 – many people will come in and sort all their recycling – the staff do notice and they thank you!
Others just put everything in black bags and bin it. They don’t care. The staff do challenge people because it is a recycling centre, not a refuse centre. Before Christmas, they could have done a roaring trade with kindling, if they could saw up wood on the site.
Tip 7 – if you have unwanted wood from the garden, why not first see if any of your neighbours have a wood burner? Or get into woodcraft?
If you have clothes, take them to a charity shop. In the textiles section, there was a bag of brand new wool. Wool is expensive. They get bags and bags of new wool at the recycling centre, not just once a week but constantly. Teddies and tonnes of really good clothes come in, which could easily go to charity shops. Charity shops could sell some of this stuff in an instant. Bags of ironed clothes, straight out of a cupboard, arrive, which probably means someone has died so the family just clears the lot. Understandable, but clear to a charity shop instead.
Tip 8 – take decent clothes to charity shops and old blankets/towels to animal rescue centres.
What to do with old bedding and towels, though? Well, any animal charity would welcome them. At the Municipal Recycling Facility at Bodmin items are sifted – good stuff goes to developing countries, and the rest is used to make packaging paper. None of it gets washed but it is baled. The technology is changing here, too.
Tip 9 – can you compose garden waste at home?
There’s lots of garden waste – people don’t compost it at home. Some will even throw it on the floor for the staff to clear up.
Currently, only 58% of the waste is being recycled because people throw everything in the general refuse skip.
Take a look at the electricals skip and you see how wasteful we truly are. Lots of play stations, computers when updated, Dysons galore, are thrown in there. The centre takes fridges, freezers, cookers, etc., for free, but some will still just throw things in laybys. Staff say they do get builders with trade waste and they have to challenge them. They simply can’t take things like massive shop fridges – a line has to be drawn. People will tell some tall stories to get rid of stuff but staff will help if they can – they’d rather it was in the centre than out in a layby, too.
Tip 10 – most customers are lovely, so be one of those.
The staff do acknowledge that most people are pleasant and really keen to do the right thing. It’s easier for the public to just throw everything in one skip but worse for the environment and that message is slowly getting through.
While I am there, some people quite aggressively try to get away with dumping trade waste. If trade waste is suspected, staff can complete a disclaimer form, take the vehicle registration number, and send paperwork to the Environment Agency to investigate. Everything is on CCTV, anyway. People, dispose of trade waste properly. It’s easier and better.
Suze organises school visits to their incinerator and recycling centres at Bodmin and St Dennis, and will often provide transport costs. The staff encourage schools to take a visit so that children are finding out what happens to their rubbish. They will then know what to do and will be better than our generation.
On my way home, I pull into a layby just out of interest and find some old mattresses dumped. Bad for the environment, bad for tourism, an eyesore. There’s a long way to go…