17 June 2013

A Little Bit Disgruntled

I don't usually complain here in my Devon Diary - but this disgruntlement is important.
It is about recycling.
Or rather, lack of it here in Devon.

It was with some dismay that I listened to Radio Devon this morning re an article on recycling in North Devon. The dismay being that it seems to be a claim of the North Devon Council that the level of recycling collected is “one of the best counties”.
I was annoyed by this inaccuracy as the amount of recycling here compared to my previous home in North East London is absolutely abysmal.

Prior to moving to Chittlehamholt in January, in Walthamstow we had a large wheelie bin for recycling that was collected on a weekly basis. Virtually everything was collected in this bin, apart from food and garden waste (which went in a different bin) and obvious non-recyclable items.
Here in Devon many items are not accepted – marge and yogurt tubs and plastic bags in particular. Given that these are readily able to be reused, is it not about time that North Devon Council joined the 21st century and stopped kidding themselves?

So what goes where: 

RECYCLING HERE IN DEVON (full details: North Devon Recycling

  • corrugated cardboard
  • cereal boxes and other cardboard packaging
  • newspapers
  • Shredded paper and white envelopes
  • magazines
  • catalogues
  • telephone books
  • junk mail (no plastics)
  • glass bottles and jars
  • plastic bottles (milk, shampoo, juice and so on)
  • food tins
  • drink cans
  • aluminium foil
  • aerosol cans
(food waste, garden refuse & various textiles  & shoes are also collected in different bins)

This is the list for Waltham Forest, London: (full details: LBWF Recycling
  • Paper (which includes, catalogues, phone books, magazines etc)
  • Cardboard (all types of cardboard packaging.)
  • Plastic bottles 
  • Tins, cans and foil 
  • Glass bottles and jars 
  • Tetra Pak Food and drink cartons
  • Plastic bags and magazine wrapping
  • Plastic cups and straws
  • Other plastic food and drink packaging (such as yogurt pots, ice cream tubs, margarine containers, fruit punnets and bottle tops)

Notice the main thing that is different? PLASTIC CONTAINERS. Devon does not collect plastic bags and magazine wrapping, plastic cups and straws or other plastic food and drink packaging such as yogurt pots, ice cream tubs, margarine containers and fruit punnets.

I don't know about you, but it's these last items that are the bulk of my weekly rubbish disposal.

So what happens to these items here in Devon.

Simple answer. Landfill.

And how long does it take for items to decompose?

  • Paper Towel - 2-4 weeks
  • Banana Peel - 3-4 weeks
  • Paper Bag - 1 month
  • Newspaper - 1.5 months
  • Apple Core - 2 months
  • Cardboard - 2 months
  • Cotton Glove - 3 months
  • Orange peels - 6 months
  • Plywood - 1-3 years
  • Wool Sock - 1-5 years
  • Milk Cartons - 5 years
  • Cigarette Butts - 10-12 years
  • Leather shoes - 25-40 years
  • Tinned Steel Can - 50 years
  • Foamed Plastic Cups - 50 years
  • Rubber-Boot Sole - 50-80 years
  • Plastic containers - 50-80 years
  • Aluminium Can - 200-500 years
  • Plastic Bottles - 450 years
  • Disposable Nappies - 550 years
  • Fishing Line - 600 years
  • Plastic Bags - 200-1000 years

So isn't it time, Devon Council, that you stopped making false claims of how wonderful you are at recycling - and actually become wonderful at recycling?

London may be a rubbish place to live, but Devon Council is rubbish with its rubbish!


  1. I posted a link to a Facebook Page - Recycle Devon
    posing this observation:

    "Hate to say this but Recycling in Devon is pretty poor compared to London where I used to live. When are you going to collect and recycle plastic bags and plastic containers? Margarine tubs, yoghurt pots, carrier bags etc. Read my blog about how Devon isn't matching up to London"

    Read on to see the resulting correspondence ...

    1. Answer from Recycle Devon (Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RecycleDevon?fref=ts

      Devon is split into 10 different local authorities and each one is responsible for its own collection of recyclable material. Some councils in Devon do collect plastic containers however it's limited to budgets, collection vehicle capacity and the rural/urban nature of the district. Unfortunately North Devon is one area that does not collect mixed plastics at the kerbside although they this material is accepted at Barnstaple, Ilfracombe and South Molton recycling centres. North Devon's collection system, where recycling is sorted at the kerbside, produces high quality material and low contamination rates although the range of material collected is limited by vehicle capacity. In contrast, LBWF collect materials co-mingled and sort at a MRF which allows for a greater range of materials but can mean the end product is of a lower grade with higher contamination levels. There are pros and cons to both methods. Although Devon has consistently remained in the top 10 counties for recycling and composting over many years there is always more work to be done and we're committed to increasing recycling and reducing waste as much as possible.

  2. Helen Hollick : Thank you for the feedback, but I still feel that at least plastic bags could be collected. I would prefer a small amount of "contamination" to using landfill.

    1. Reply from Recycle Devon : Is there any way you could reduce or re-use the plastic you currently put out for landfill? Plastic bags can be re-used which is far better than recycling in terms of energy usage, although a lot of supermarkets will take them back in store to be recycled. Buying in bulk can also help cut down. Yoghurt pots and other tubs may be useful for art projects at local schools, or could be used as flower pots for seedlings if you know any keen gardeners. It may not be as convenient as putting items in your recycling bin - and I appreciate that recycling collections need to be as convenient as possible for maximum participation - but reducing and re-using waste at source is actually better than recycling. It sounds like you're a very keen and committed recycler which is fantastic but could you consider reducing or reusing your plastic waste? Perhaps a challenge for your blog? Regards, Nicky (on behalf of Recycle Devon)

  3. To which I have replied:
    Helen Hollick I already do all that - but there is a limit to how many seed pots you need! And even then, when the seeds have grown & been replanted you have a plastic pot to dispose of. We have horses. The feed and bedding comes wrapped in plastic. Magazines come wrapped in plastic. Even fruit comes wrapped in plastic. The fact that virtually everything from a supermarket comes in something plastic is the main problem - but even if I were to cut down even further, that still means the remainder goes into landfill, so that isn't exactly solving anything is it? Recycling the wretched stuff, however IS the answer, and I think NDC should be doing their bit here by increasing what they recycle. Frankly the excuse for not collecting plastic etc (above) is a pretty poor excuse. Landfill should be cut to a minimum, collecting as much as possible for recycling as an alternative should be undertaken - even if the plastics are "contaminated". Sorting these items also provides jobs. And am I right in thinking that the Council is actually losing money by using landfill because the Government is starting to fine them for not complying with new policy?

  4. So what are your thoughts? Mine remain to be:
    Why doesn't North Devon collect MORE items to be recycled? ESPECIALLY plastic waste!

  5. Google "Story of Stuff". It's an interesting website that looks at consumerism, recycling, activism and generally trying to make the world a better place.
    Their argument is that whilst every effort should be made to recycle, as you have pointed out, everything is wrapped in plastic and some councils won't collect it. We are made to feel guilty if we don't recycle or buy the fair trade products, which are usually on the high end of the price range. Instead of consuming more "fair trade" products or reusing plastic water bottles, more needs to be done by the government to tackle the need for plastic bags, plastic wrapping, plastic water bottles. If there is a ban on production of these items (which has happened in some countries), then there is no need to worry about how to dispose of them.
    By making more people aware of the alternatives, as a nation, we can vote with our feet and show the government what we want done to help save our planet.
    Interesting reading! I found recycling in Leicester just as hard - working out what exactly they would and wouldn't take became a weekly game depending on whether or not they took our recycling!

    Caz xx

    1. Thanks for this Caz - intereesting. The one thing I very much miss about LBWF is their efficient refuse collection service. Once they introduced a large green wheelie bin for recycling the whole nightmare vanished - virtually everything went in, so no need to keep consulting the what can/can't go in list. (and no need to get cross with dyslexic members of the family who could NEVER remember what went in which bin - leaving ME to hand sort the rubbish each week.
      Which I now have to do again. That or just abandon the recycling and attempt to ignore the huge guilt trip at doing so....


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