John Clark writes…
First published: December 2003
This week I’m not going to write the usual rubbish. This week it is rubbish! During the Christmas period there is an increase in waste of at least a quarter. In the week following Christmas Ryedale collects almost double the usual amount of rubbish. Britain will produce an extra 3 million tons. The solutions are simple.
- Put it in the bin.
- Take it down the tip.
The next question is “Then what?” The solutions are simple.
- Burn it.
- Put it in a hole in the ground.
Now the solutions are not quite so simple.
- Who wants to live next door to a landfill site?
- Who wants to pay increased Council Tax so as to pay the increased Landfill Tax?
- Who wants to live next to an industrial incinerator?
Then even bigger questions.
- Are we using more than our share?
- Can the environment cope with the present usage?
- Will there be enough for our children?
For those of you who will be happy with an incinerator next door, a landfill site round the corner and more Council Tax towards landfill, read no further.
For those of you who are left I will continue! In waste terms there is a Pyramid of Prevention. At the top is Reduce. The most effective way of managing waste – don’t have it! Buy DIY from a place that sells materials loose. Don’t buy those hanging in cardboard and plastic packets on a display stand. Less packaging will reduce the amount in your bin.
The next layer down the pyramid is Re-use. Returnable bottles are a good example of this approach. A small Christmas tree with roots, if re-planted, may well last for more than one year. One of our previous Christmas card senders used Christmas cards they had received the previous year. They crossed out Aunt Edith and put in their names. They crossed out their names and put in ours. At first glance: How much of a Scrooge can you be? However lets look at the size of the problem. UK Christmas cards result in the felling of 250,000 trees each year. How much waste in our bins is that? I wish all the people we know in Ryedale a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. (That’s reduced their household waste!)
The other case of Re-use is of course second hand. Mrs. Rummage in Pickering reduces the volume of Ryedale’s waste. People take items there rather than down the tip. People buy from her rather than ‘consuming’ a new one. In similar manner charity shops prevent items going down the tip. For years we have been mostly clothed from Rosedale Jumble Sale – ‘a must go to’ event. This autumn there was no Rosedale Jumble Sale – hopefully only a short-term hiccup!
Re-cycling is the third layer down the pyramid. It is better than incineration or landfill but less efficient than Reduce or Re-use. Ryedale District Council has increased its level of recycling. Christmas trees will be once again recycled or they can be placed with the garden waste. Don’t make a special trip in the car to get the tree recycled!
I recently read that the UK will use enough Christmas wrapping paper to cover the island of Guernsey. Hopefully it was that way round! This is not re-used wrapping paper – it’s all new. There are ways to reduce this ‘island’ of paper.
- Use string, ribbon or even wool instead of tape
- The paper doesn’t get stuck and both paper and string can be re-used – another 50,000 trees saved.
- Send presents that don’t need wrapping or packaging – book tokens, vouchers etc. (People also can choose what they like rather than what we hope they would like).
The above illustrates a hierarchy of waste. There is no one answer to a very complex problem. What we must all do is “think” and “act” so as to reduce the impact of waste but best of all, reduce the need for waste.
The overuse of the planet resources may well be causing global warming. This reduces the chance of a white Christmas. So may I wish all the readers of the Gazette a very ‘Green Christmas’.