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Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Bags of Life!

I stumbled upon a fantastic local campaign today when I was out shopping. I bought a few things for my daughter’s birthday party and as I was paying I came out with my usual, ‘It’s okay thanks, I’ve got my own bag,’ at which point I was handed a little voucher.

‘Don’t bring my life to an end. Re-use me!’ was the slogan and a cheeky little picture of a polythene bag, bright eyed was pleading to be saved from the dreaded landfill.

It turns out that several of the shops on the high street have joined in a campaign with local schools to give out these vouchers to people whenever they refuse a bag. The vouchers can then be handed in to local participating schools and there’s a competition to see which schools collect the most with environmentally friendly prizes for the most successful.

A visit to the OTCN website shows this is just one of a number of schemes being run across the county aiming to reduce the number of plastic bags produced and thrown away. It is all too easy to forget that plastic bags are made from natural gas or oil, precious resources we can’t just keep throwing away.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Bottle tops

I checked out with my local recycling people today and found out that, yes, we can put metal and plastic bottle tops in our curb-side recycling boxes*. I delved a little further and found out that the best thing to do is to collect them up into a can – for steel caps use a steel food can such as a baked bean tin - then squash the can with the tops inside it so they can't fall out. This apparently helps to make sure they are efficiently recycled and don't get in amongst other materials such as paper and plastics. I'm told it helps not to have small bits of materials (of any kind) on their own as they fall through the holes in the separation process and end up being dealt with as mixed "fines" which are either land-filled or incinerated.

I also enquired at a local craft supplies place – they turn scrap into art and craft materials – and they take metal beer bottle tops there. So, if your local council don't collect them maybe you could find a place like this near you.

* Your local authority may have a different policy so, if in doubt just email them and ask.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Plastic Bag Recycling

Did you know that......?

'Flat plastic bags are hard to remove from paper and are easily contaminated by the leftover liquids in beverage containers. If plastic bags are to be collected in a program, residents should be required to place the bags within other bags and only set out full bags,not loose individual ones.' Source:

You may have noticed that larger branches of Sainsbury have plastic bag recycling facilities. In my local branch it is situated just inside the main door, rather than at the recycling point. Have you also noticed that on a lot of plastic bags that form the packaging e.g. of fruit and vegetables Sainsbury now print 'Recyclable at larger branches of Sainsbury'?

I try to buy fruit and vegetables without packaging, but I find this is not always practical. When I do have plastic bags from such packaging I check they are clean and store them for reuse. I use them for wrapping sandwiches and storing garden produce in the fridge or freezer. I haven't had to buy food bags for over a year as even though I try to minimise the packaging I acquire from shopping it provides me with enough bags for whatever I need.

I did wonder if my children would complain at having their sandwiches packed in an apple bag or the film from bread rolls – children are always so conscious these days of how things look – but they don't. I conclude that it must fit with the new eco-chic.

As these bags are only intended for single use, I only re-use them once or twice. I then rinse them and collect them into a largish plastic wrapper which has fulfilled its reuse already, then take them with me a couple of times a month to put in the recycling container at Sainsbury.

Does anyone know of other supermarkets that have similar recycling materials? My intention is to promote waste reduction, not Sainsbury, but I just happen to live near one. I'll be on the look-out if I am out and about elsewhere but please let me know of similar facilities in your area.



Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Charity Shop Chic(k)

I have two children, and children are constantly growing out of clothes, toys, books, games. I take all the grown-out-of goodies to my local community shop. This community shop gives out grants to various organisations. In the two full years that it has been running as a community shop it has given out £14,000 each year to local organisations such as the pre-school, the school, the Brownies, the cricket club, the playground, and many more. It is a fantastic resource for our village.

I have been making environmentally conscious decisions about what I purchase for a while now. Like most people, though, I feel I have been taking it a step at a time. I decided that over the coming year I'm going to change the way I shop for clothes. I felt that I hadn't really, up to now, checked out the ethics and sustainability of the clothes I buy. Time to change all that. From now on, I will make a point of thinking about where clothes have travelled from, what the lives of the people who make those clothes are like, who benefits from my purchase and who and what suffers from it.

I was out for the day with a friend in a nearby town last week and strolling down the quaint high street we spotted a shop called 'Resource'. The name caught my eye and we had a look. The shop was a 'fifty/fifty' style second hand shop where you can take along your quality second hand clothing and if the shop can sell the item they give you fifty percent of the sales price. I parted with twenty pounds for a lovely designer skirt. I'll admit I have no idea who benefitted or who suffered from the original purchase, but I did feel that as I was reusing resources it was a move in the right direction.

A skirt needs something to wear with it and a rummage through my wardrobe came up with nothing, so the next time I was out on an errand I checked out the nearest charity shop. For the grand sum of £3.75 I bought two designer label tops to go with my new skirt.

As my attention had been turned to charity shop clothing I decided it was time I checked something out that had been at the back of my mind for some time. I remember seeing an advert in the window of Oxfam advertising that they'd give you a £5 Marks & Spencer voucher if you brought in a bag of clothing or soft furnishings (towels, sheets, curtains, etc) containing a Marks and Spencer item. Sounds great, doesn't it. So what's the catch, I thought? I had several bags of children's clothes to take to my local community shop. However, there is an Oxfam in my nearest town, so I kept one bag back which contained a Marks and Spencer children's dressing gown amongst other bits and pieces and I took it along to Oxfam today. It was gratefully accepted and I was given my £5 voucher. The voucher can be used on clothing, home and beauty products when you spend £35 pounds or more. Fair enough, I thought. However, it is only valid between 1st and 30th of September 2009. Well, a fiver won't even cover the bus fare to my nearest Marks and Spencer and as I don't have a trip planned before the end of the month it is most unlikely I'll get to use my £5 voucher. Ah well! There had to be a catch.

But of course, forewarned, you'll know to hang on to your charity shop bag until you know what you're going to redeem your voucher on and when (or you could just enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that your unwanted items are being given a new lease of life and helping relieve poverty – there's no catch to that bit).