Monday, 1 April 2013

Talking Rubbish

Recycling is pretty much second nature to most of us at home nowadays. We all have our own routines; where the paper goes, where glass goes, when the bins go out. So when that routine gets interrupted or changed it takes a while to readjust.

Having lived in Northamptonshire, Durham and Preston I know that changing area almost always means a new recycling routine and Exeter is no different. Having lived here for almost five months now, I've finally got around to have a good search through the council website to find out exactly what can be recycled and where. I've blogged about recycling lots in the past (here, here, here, here, here and here) and I feel I am somewhat of a recycling routine veteran after having to adapt to seven different systems in the last five or six years but there are still a few surprises on the Exeter website.

The strangest thing about recycling in Exeter is that there is no household glass collection. I do faintly remember going to the bottle bank to recycle glass when I was very little (there something so satisfying about pushing bottles through a slot and hearing them smash) but for most of my life having someone come and collect my glass has been the norm. Thankfully our flat is only a minutes walk from one of the glass banks in the city. So for us it's only a quick walk round the corner to get rid of our waste glass. But even then, it takes quite a while for us to remember to take it out, and for people who are further from a bank I wonder if this means they are more tempted to just chuck the glass in the normal bin instead. When it comes to recycling making it the easiest option is definitely the way to convince people to do it.

One other difference to my recycling routine in Exeter is the joy of living in a flat. I have very little idea of when bin day is, because we take our rubbish and recycling down to a communal bin and then that is emptied once a week by the bin men without us having to drag it out onto the street. I find it really interesting to see whether the rubbish bins or the recycling bins are fuller, as I guess that shows what the whole block of flats is doing more of. I'm pleased to say that the recycling one is normally fuller, although that might just be because if it's not flattened first recycling fills a big space with lots of air gaps. 

When it comes to what we can actually recycle there aren't many huge differences compared to previous places I've lived. Exeter seems to be most similar to Durham with recycling for almost all types of plastic, paper, cardboard and tins. It's fantastic that I can now recycled ALL types of plastic from milk bottles to plastic wrapping around fruits and plastic bags. It's even changed our habits as we cannot recycle tetra-packs and so we now make an effort to buy fruit juice in plastic bottles instead. Another plus point is that we can recycle aerosols although we use hardly any of them, but it's still nice to know that we can.

Being able to recycle plastic food containers is a huge positive change for me compared to Preston. So many foods come in plastic boxes; meat in particular. While in the long run I want to move back to getting most of our food from a veg box company for now it's good to be able to recycle all the extra packaging the supermarkets use. And when we do swap back to veg boxes it's good to know that even the small amounts of plastic they use will be able to be recycled.

There is one massive downside of recycling in Exeter compared to Devon though and that is the food waste. In Preston I could recycle almost all our food waste. Cooked food, veg peelings, egg shells, even cooked meat. Here there is nothing and so without a garden and without access to a compost heap I sadly throw any food waste we have away. I'd guess that almost half of what is in our rubbish bin could be composed. This does mean I've been trying even harder than usual to reduce our food waste and use those leftovers for new meals, but there's always something that has to be binned. I wonder why Exeter doesn't have a food waste collection.

So there you have it, a comprehensive look at what you can and can't recycle in Exeter. While wandering around on the Exeter Council website I discovered that Exeter residents recycle 38% of their waste. I'm certain we recycle more than that in our household, I'd guess maybe 60% so that 38% looks a little poor to me. Maybe one day we'll forget what rubbish bins were because we recycle and reuse everything we haven't reduced. We got to that point pretty much during WWII in the last century, so it seems crazy that we can't get there will all our new technological advances now. But until we do I'll keep recycling everything we can, and hoping for a food waste collection from Exeter City Council as a late Easter present....


  1. Hope all is well down saffff

    Do you have the details of the veg/meat box scheme you were in in Preston?



  2. Hi!

    The veg/meat box scheme I was in was Riverford. Not as small and local as some but having visited their SW farm down here in Devon I can definitely recommend them for service and for their staff's dedication to sustainable, local food production.