Friday, 22 July 2011

Recycling comments, from Enfield Councillor Alan Sitkin (column in the Enfield Advertiser, last February)

Recycling has quite rightly become a priority for most local authorities. In Enfield, for instance, the new Labour Administration has accelerated the rollout of wheely bins, with Chris Bond, our Lead for Environment, expanding the service to cover previously marginalised populations like council estates and flats above shops.

Moreover, with landfill sites overflowing everywhere after centuries of thoughtless dumping – and given the growing global market in recyclates – it is inconceivable that future politicians of any colour will abandon this crucial responsibility.

Yet according to the famous “waste hierarchy” model, recycling is at best a third-tier solution. This is because goods consume resources and generate pollution, not only during their initial manufacturing and recovery phases, but also because they have to be reprocessed back into usable products.

This extra footprint explains why it is crucial for local authorities to maximise the first two solutions in the hierarchy of waste: reuse, and especially, reduction.

Note that reduced use of resources does not always mean less consumption. Given the inequalities of modern society – with many people actually consuming very little, something environmental purists often forget – 'hairshirt solutions' are not desirable either. However, what we can do is 'consume smarter'.

One way to do this is by getting mass retailers to reduce packaging. For years, my wife and I have noticed that we have more to recycle after our weekly shopping, even though we purchase the same quantities as before. Clearly what is happening is that retailers are taking advantage of cheap plastics to cut stock management costs and wastage.

This would be fair enough – except that it has caused an explosion in the volumes that consumers and ultimately councils must dispose of. In essence, retailers are externalising their financial and ecological costs. This could easily be remedied, however: if retailers sold larger quantities in reusable containers; if they used bio-plastics, and so on.

I am trying to organise a cross-borough panel, with other North London authorities, in the hope that common ground can be found. Otherwise, more people might go into shops and leave their packaging at the checkout counter!

Alan Sitkin

From Enfield's web site:

"Enfield residents can recycle in numerous ways"

"We provide door-to-door collections for those living in houses, and communal bins for those living in flats or on estates. There are over 50 recycling sites across Enfield, and a recycling centre at Barrowell Green.

Use the links below, to find out what items you can recycle in Enfield

Home composting
We offer home compost bins at discounted rates for residents to use them in their gardens; we also provide advice on how to start composting at home.

Find out more information about composting.
Dealing with junk mail
Been getting unwanted mail?

Find out how to prevent unwanted mail with our Stop Junk Mail Campaign.
Furniture reuse
There might be a home waiting for the furniture that you do not want.

If you have good-quality furniture that you want to dispose of, contact us for a free collection. Our partner charity ReStore provides such furniture for people in need.

Recycling Networks
Is there an item that you no longer want that is still in good condition? To give it a new home, register with an exchange site such as Freecycle, Freegle, FreeGive or Gumtree Freebies.

Whether it is a chair, a set of gardening tools, a musical instrument or a bicycle, you can post your item on one of the websites and find someone in Enfield to take it from you.
Or, perhaps you want to acquire something for yourself?
Give Or Take Days
These are goods-swapping events where you can:
  • Get rid of things you don't need any more
  • Pick up things that you do need
... all for free! They are like bring-and-buy sales - without the cash.

If your community group or school is interested in holding a Give Or Take Day, we can help with organisation and publicity. Please contact the waste prevention officer on 020 8379 1000 or e-mail to:
Washable nappies
Using washable or real nappies instead of disposable ones saves nearly half a tonne of rubbish and over £300, by the time a baby is potty-trained.

To find out more about real nappies, including contact details for nappy agents, retailers and hire services:
National Real Nappy Helpline, telephone: 0845 850 0606."

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