Triangles part 1 • 12 July 2010 • The SnowBlog
Triangles part 1
Apparently Stephen King didn't realise he was an alcoholic until there was a garbage strike and all the bottles and cans he'd been getting through started to pile up. Being considerably less hardcore than Stephen King, my recent revelations are rather more twee and liberal, but nevertheless a little similar.
I recently decided to do more recycling and Step One was not throwing away things that looked like they could conceivably be deposited somewhere other than landfill. So I put aside bottles and jars and tubs and dispensers in glass and plastic and coated paper. And two very troubling things happened. Firstly, there turned out to be so much of it. A week's worth of packaging pretty much provided me with all the plastic bottles I thought I could ever reuse myself; so what about the other fifty-one weeks of the year? And secondly, a lot of it turned out not to be recyclable - at least not by my local council. And looking online there didn't seem to be anywhere else I could take these things.
I've even started to get familiar with the little recycling triangles with the numbers on that you see on plastics. I can locally recycle 1s and 2s, but nothing else. And I've been surprised to see that maybe a quarter of the packaging I buy still doesn't have those marks on it. Are they made of mysterious moon-plastic? Or are the manufacturers just lazy? If they can fit the maker's name on there I reckon they can manage a little number in a triangle.
Anyway, picturing what the heap of rubbish - mainly packaging - little-old-me must have produced in his lifetime is guilt-inducing. Picturing what that heap would look like if you were to combine it with everyone else's from just, say, the UK... well, that's a mind-boggling and scary thought. I've even found myself looking for alternative brands of my favourite things but which come in packaging that I could recycle more easily and it hasn't been easy. Guilt has made me cut way down on eating and drinking some of the things I like, because once you line a few week's worth of bottles or tubs up on the counter the whole exercise starts to seem recklessly wasteful. I'm even beginning to think I'm going to have to learn to cook properly. Not because I have any interest in it at all, but so I can find a greengrocers, like my grandma used to use, and only have a few brown-paper bags left over once I've eaten my fruit and veg. (And I think I'll try to find somewhere that doesn't fly in half the produce from the other side of the world.) I know this is a cliché, and not a very interesting one either, but when you think about the vats of oil that get used up making indestructible packaging for something that only lasts a week, it really is difficult to imagine we can all do this for much longer.