Tag Archives: a slice of life

a slice of life: “the big bin swap” – recycling in the swansea valley, wales

Standard
This is written as part of the Slice of Life shared blogging scheme, which is used American school children; I am submitting this is a possible teaching resource.  Terms that I expect you may not totally understand, are highlighted in red, and explained at the end of the blog.

TO FIND SOME OF THE ANSWERS TO MY QUESTIONS – PLEASE SEE THE FOLLOW UP BLOG HERE.

I came back home last Thursday to find this leaflet rolled up in my letterbox, as I pulled it out, I thought, what on earth is this?  Normally leaflets like this advertise things you really don’t need, and I throw them away before I even look at them!

the english version of The Big Bin Swap leaflet

the english version of The Big Bin Swap leaflet

As I was putting the shopping away, I glanced at it before putting it in the recycling bin.  As you will guess, it never got there, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to scan both sides, English & Welsh, in case you were wondering, and put the two scans up on this blog.

My first thought was, my neighbours weren’t going to like this!  They have 6 children, and on bin days, there is so much rubbish outside their house that you trip over it!  So even with a large bin, they can’t cope, and yes, before you ask, they do recycle too – the recycling sacks are stacked up above the bin, and tend to fall onto the pavement.

Now, before you start thinking – oh what a good idea – taking the large bins away and replacing them with smaller bins will ensure that everyone recycles their rubbish – what environmentally responsible Councils they have in Wales, let me tell you why they are doing this.

A few years ago, the EU made a new law, that fined any country that used too much landfill to bury their rubbish.  This was supposed to force everyone in Europe to recycle waste.  A good idea, in principle.  It has now become UK law and, as the Councils are responsible for collections and disposals, they are the ones that get fined, if they go over the limit they have been given.

the welsh language version of The Big Bin Swap

the welsh language version of The Big Bin Swap

“The Welsh Government has set out a requirement for all Councils in Wales to increase their recycling rate year on year, with a 58% recycling rate having to be achieved by 2016 and 64% by 2019/20. Strict fines will be imposed on local authorities if the targets are missed.”

As they are local councils, and we pay council tax, that means we, the residents, will end up paying the fine.  So, it may be a good idea, but, did we agree to them spending money on the new bins – no, we never knew about it!

Do we know what they are doing with the old bins – no idea?  Are they being sold, recycled, or just dumped in a big bin mountain! Most people generally agree that recycling is a good thing, but it has got a bit ‘over the top’. (SEE HERE)

In our Council area, we have small bins for food waste, large plastic boxes for tins and bottles, and free thin plastic sacks for paper and cardboard, which must go in separate bags, and another one for garden waste.

In the neighbouring council area, they have three differently coloured boxes, as well as plastic sacks and bins.  There are different schemes in different parts of the country.  Recycling policy is up to each Council, and so is the way they dispose of their collections.

Our Council does compost the garden waste, and they sell it on to market gardeners – altho sometimes the compost contains things that wouldn’t normally be there, because not all the waste has been sorted properly. I’m not sure what they do with the tins and bottle and paper and cardboard.  Maybe I will ask, and let you know.

But I do know that lots of our waste gets exported to ‘Third World Countries’ where young children sift through it and try to make a living out of selling what they find. Slumdog_millionaireIf you have watched the film, Slumdog Millionaire, you will know that sometimes they get sick, because they don’t even bury the waste in India or China, they just dump it somewhere, and the gases affect the people who live near it.

Is that being environmentally responsible?  Are we colluding in this abuse?

People here are liable to get fined if they do not recycle their rubbish, and there have been known to be “bin wars” where people steal others bins, because they haven’t got enough space in the large bins, let alone the new small ones.

Most people now paint their house numbers on the bins! There has also been a rise in illegal dumping, as companies now have to pay to have large amounts of waste collected.  Rogue operators, collect the rubbish for a fee, and then dump it on remote mountain tops and fields, sometimes even paying small amounts to the farmers for ‘looking the other way’.

“The Council investigates environmental crime along with partners such as the Environment Agency. If anyone is found responsible for causing crimes such as littering, dog fouling and flytipping action will be taken against them. There could be an on the spot fine of £75 or even prosecution in some cases.

Fly tipping of waste is a serious criminal offence which carries a fine of up to £50,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 12 months (or an unlimited fine and up to 5 years imprisonment if indicted to the Crown Court). Any vehicles involved in incidents of fly tipping may also be seized. We have a successful prosecution history and will prosecute all caught offenders.”  (quoted from the Council’s website)

How is this change going to affect me? A small bin is fine for my household. I recycle most of the waste in the ‘old fashioned way’. I have a compost heap in the garden, where all the food & garden waste that can’t be eaten by my chickens goes, and after a year, when the bugs have done their work, its great for the garden.

my kitchen fire

my kitchen fire

In the 1920‘s the owners of my stone built terraced house, dating from the 1860’s,  must have been very proud when they made a major improvement to the kitchen.  They replaced the open fire with a Chattan.

It’s a cast iron fireplace, with an oven on the side, and must have been very expensive at the time. So I recycle the paper and cardboard into heating, for the room, and, the fire also heats a tank of water connected to the back of the Chattan.  Old newspapers and unwanted leaftlets are great for starting the fire, especially if they have been soaked in the old oil from my chip pan!

For once, the Council was very efficient about The Big Bin Swap (get it?), the very next day, as we get a collection every other Friday here, they came along with three huge trucks, one to empty the rubbish, one to collect the old bins, and another one to dole out the new, smaller bins.

*****//*****

Councils – the local tier of government – in Wales we have the Welsh Assembly and the UK Parliament. EU – then we have the European Union, who seem to make most of our laws these days! landfill – literally what is says – digging huge trenches in waste land – filling them with rubbish, and then covering them over with soil. rubbish – you use the word ‘trash’ in the States. council tax –  this is based on the value of your property, the more expensive it is, the more you pay as a contribution to the services the council supply.  These include waste collection, street lighting and road mending, schools, and all kinds of other services. chip pan – for frying chips or ‘french fries’

Suggested tasks: 

  1. click on both the versions of the leaflet, and see if you can work out which welsh word means thank you.
  2. write a short piece describing what you do in your house to recycle waste.
  3. how important do you think recycling is?  write a short piece about the place it has in the environmental issues facing us today.
  4. do some research and find out what measures your local state takes about recycling.
  5. start doing some recycling in your school.