Change Alley

information, opinion, conversation

Moan Of The Month

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Recycling crops up quite regularly as a moan topic. Here in the London Borough of Bromley, cultural heartland of the People’s Republic of Suburbia, subtle changes are being made to our recycling regime. We’ve got used to a system whereby paper and cardboard go in one box, cans and plastic in another, glass in a third. We’re now being told that we no longer have to separate glass, cans and plastic, it all goes in one big lump to the recycling facility. We don’t need to worry our little heads about the whys and wherefores.

The latest edition of Bromley’s newsletter ‘Waste and Recycling News‘ has some interesting insights into the Borough’s recycling processes. Under the heading ‘Tackling Climate Change’ we’re told:

“The more we recycle, the less is sent to landfill and the smaller our carbon footprint becomes. But recycling reduces our carbon emissions in other ways. For instance, it takes less energy to make goods out of recycled material. This is especially true for glass bottles made from used glass bottles”

However, in the adjacent article ‘Getting Things Sorted’ we’re told:

“The glass is sent for processing into aggregate substitute (for things like bedding-in paving)”

The truth is that Bromley doesn’t give a monkey’s what happens to our rubbish so long as it doesn’t end up in landfill. The Borough is less than forthright about why things work as they do. It portrays the new ‘all in one box’ system as quick and convenient, implying that it’s doing us a favour by introducing it. In reality, the change has been driven by the new processes at Veolia’s recently-upgraded £1m sorting facility at Rainham, Essex. Bromley presents glass recycling as a theoretically endless process that saves energy to combat climate change, but in fact our glass is reused just the once, as a building material. It may not be landfill, but motorway foundations come pretty close.

As the customer, Bromley has no say in how its waste is recycled. Nor, apparently, does it have much interest.


Written by Pete Smith

April 23, 2008 at 3:15 pm

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