Recycling – a postcode lottery?

Ok, ok, I just love sounding like a journalist, because you can make anything sound like a newspaper article by writing ‘a postcode lottery?’ at the end of the headline.  The situation with recycling in London strikes me as odd.  I live in Wandsworth, which as far as I can tell has one of the best councils in Britain, along with one of the lowest levels of council tax.  This is odd enough in itself, but that’s another story, for another day.

What I can’t understand is, why can I throw all my recycling into an orange sack at the end of every week, and happily leave it outside my front door to be collected, when friends of mine who live in other London boroughs have to separate into different bags, can only recycle paper, and even have special food waste recycling schemes, so that they need a box of mouldy old plate scrapings sitting around in their kitchens for days on end?

I can throw any of the following waste into an orange sack:

Which is great.  But it seems that there are huge discrepancies between the recycling facilities in different London boroughs.  For example, I recently saw a website advertising the fact that Tetra Paks are now recyclable.  Now I thought this was odd, because I’ve been chucking them in the old orange sack for years.  It turns out that Wandsworth is one of the only London boroughs where you can do this.

So in the majority of boroughs, you can’t recycle Tetra Paks via kerbside collection, you have to visit a recycling bank.  Now I can’t believe many people are prepared to do that.  Surely if Wandsworth, Merton and Lambeth can do it, then surely Southwark (for example) can too?

Almost Mrs Average over at The Rubbish Diet is making an incredible effort to ‘slim her bin’ down to a size zero.  I have been following her progress and attempting to follow her lead in terms of buying fewer goods wrapped in excessive packaging, carrying bag-for-life type bags around with me instead of collecting endless carrier bags, composting more, printing out 70 pages of eco magazine…ahem… but it must make the task considerably harder if your council’s recycling facilities are minimal.

Author: Rachel Wheeley

Comedian, podcaster, full time Mum, based in London, UK

6 thoughts on “Recycling – a postcode lottery?”

  1. I’ve been less than impressed with Haringey’s refuse collection. It’s rubbish.


    At the moment we get their ‘sorted’ recycling service, which doesn’t even take plastic bottles or cardboard – but they claim that at some point this year it’ll switch to the ‘mixed’ service, at which point we will be able to recycle those, but lose the ability to put clothes or textiles in the green box. Baffling.

    Thanks for that Tetra Pak link though – apparently I can take them to the bottle bank down behind the library. A fact that’s curiously absent from the council’s website.

  2. i think we can put tetrapaks in where we are (although i’m sure tom will correct me in a minute – he’s good like that) but we do have to separate to a certain extent and there is no kitchen waste facility at all. we can only put certain papers in and no plastic cartons but we are pretty minimal when it comes to packaging if we can be and of course having the compost bins means we don’t need a kitchen waste collection anyway.

    thing that gets me though is that 11 years ago wealden district council were doing kerbside recycling, glass, paper, plastic bottles. i moved to eastbourne borough council 7 years ago and they weren’t yet, they brought it in in 2003 just as i moved to lewes district council, by which time wealden were doing kitchen waste plus other things beside. when i moved to lewes district they weren’t yet doing the kerbside recycling thing in the villages, just in the town. why if one council can do it can’t they all as you say, and why can’t they all do the most possible?

    p.s. sorry we’re not going to see you saturday – triple booking on tom’s part i believe, including the fact he’ll be in southampton picking up the gas guzzler we’ve just bought!

  3. Hi Rach – I just wanted to say thanks for the link and the mention. It’s a very interesting point that you raised about the Postcode lottery when it comes to recycling. Only last week, I was chatting to my mum in South Wales whose experience of kerbside collection services are really quite bad in comparison to our service in Bury St Edmunds. I am very lucky to live in an area where waste is well-managed and it seems to be improving year-on-year.

  4. I live in Colorado and have found the same discrepancy. There is no recycling pick up in my apartment complex. There are recycling dumpsters by most grocery stores but you can only recycle paper, aluminum and cardboard. But if I drive five minutes onto the military installation there are bins for every kind of recyclable. It doesn’t seem to make sense.

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