Why Recycling is Rubbish

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

William Morris

If we were to apply William Morris’s words to all the things we buy, would we need a recycling bin?

multi coloured farm eggs in a basket.

I hate recycling. The recycling bin makes us feel all comfy and smug about throwing stuff out. But it is a lie. A spoon full of sugar. Why are we bringing things into our houses that we KNOW we are going to have to Throw Out.

Because recycling is still throwing stuff out! But into a bin that gives us a wee patronising pat on the head as we close the lid. It’s like picking something up from one counter and putting it down on another, then expecting someone else to deal with it while we walk out the door, telling everyone we did the housework.

Because now it is in a box and abandoned at the gate – AND THEN WHAT happens to it? I have no clear idea.

large hereford hog in the mud

The more I research this the more I am convinced that we have been sold a crock of shit.

But what do we do? Where else are we going to throw the wine bottles! The garbanzo beans tins!

Because recycling is big business. The market size, measured by revenue, of the Recycling Facilities industry in the U.S. is $10.2bn in 2023.(Random google search gave me three slight variations on this figure). Suffice to say: Recycling is Big Business.

The saying “out of sight, out of mind” means that if these companies can keep their activities hidden from us, they can continue to make big profits without us questioning it. And I know something is being hidden from me. Because I know for a fact that much of what we put in the recycling bin cannot be recycled at all.

But what can we do? Well you and I do plenty already. Right?

Below are a few of my thoughts in a large nutshell: Add your own in the comments so we can get this super polished for The Sustainable Home. (which will be launching in a month or so). ‘So’ being the operative word.

tomato seedlings in trays in a glasshouse shot from above

HOW TO AVOID THE RECYCLING LIE: Try to think of our purchases as a cycle.

  1. PRECYCLE: Apply ‘AND THEN WHAT’ to your purchases. What happens to (insert article) when you no longer use it? What is going to happen to the packaging? What happens when it is old and ugly. If it will end up in either bins (recycling or trash) look for alternatives. Is it VERY BEAUTIFUL or VERY USEFUL. Cloth napkins, rags, refillable water bottles, and washable containers for leftovers all for the win. What else?
  2. COMPOST: Set up a compost bin or pile for food waste. Composting can help to reduce the amount of organic waste that goes to the landfill (read methane gas) and can provide nutrient-rich soil for your garden. But many of you don’t have a garden for compost. So what are you doing? Have any of you tried the Lomi Composter? I have pigs and chickens. Food to garden is the cycle.
  3. DONATE clothing very carefully. The clothing bin is just another BS recycling bin. Don’t donate worn out clothes, they will be graded out and thrown away to burn. The donate bag is not a rubbish bag. Only donate good wearable items. Instead – RAGS are the answer. Turn those old fabrics into rags. Which means try not to buy fake fabrics that don’t absorb anything because your rags should end their lives in the compost. And fake fabrics made from oil do not compost. See the cycle happening?
  4. CLEANING PRODUCTS Use Vinegar sprays for cleaning and grated Castile soap for laundry and dishes. More on that another time.
  5. BUY PRODUCTS THAT WILL LAST A LIFETIME: Before making a purchase, ask yourself all those important questions and never ever say Just This Once. Not anymore.

For Kate:

Here is the snow fence. John puts it up half way across the field so it stops the snow blowing into the driveway. It needs to be far back so the snow can pile up on either side.

old wooden snow fence in snow free field

We have had no snow though so it has just hung there all winter feeling useless!

Have a lovely day out there!


PS! NEWS! Today a friend of mine has added her new book to The Library. It is a meal-kit cookbook for busy cooks.

From CJ – My NEW plant-based mealkit book has just been released. If you are curious about plant-based meals, I invite you to take a look.

I am very much looking forward to my copy! You know how much I love my veges!

And while we are on the subject of books don’t forget to read The Bonne Chance Bakery by our darling Charlotte Rains-Dixon. The link to that is in the Library too!

The Library is busy lately – don’t forget to add any books you have been reading or writing – anything that you think we might like.

56 Comments on “Why Recycling is Rubbish

  1. Refuse what you do not need; reduce what you do need; reuse what you consume; recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse; and rot (compost) the rest.” (I don’t know who said this but I like it!).

  2. Supermarkets love plastic in spite of the fact that they say they are cutting back on it. I buy my vegetables from the farmer, so they go straight into my bike bag, or reusable paper bags. In Spain you can go to the bodega with empty wine bottles and they fill them up for you! Sadly 7 litre recycled water glass bottles were phased out 30 years ago in favour of plastic 😦

    • I want to be able to refill my wine bottles!! I am shifting to Spain!

      There is a huge to do about supermarkets taking back plastic bags then just storing them because there is no way to recycle them at all. It was a huge marketing lie. Did we talk about this before?

      This is yet another reason to go to the farmers market – (I love that you have a farmer) as well as strengthening the local economy you can easily take your own bags. I was in Walmart the other day – usually I do self check out – but this time I went through the check out lane and the packer PACKED my own cotton bags INTO their plastic bags with everything else and handed them back into the cart while I was not paying attention. I was so gobsmacked I just said NOTHING!!

  3. A question: what do you use to brush your teeth? I’m asking because I use an electric toothbrush (works better than a manual one, does less gum and tooth damage, so it is useful). But I have to buy replacement heads, which contain plastic and are packaged in utterly useless plastic packaging. I understand that there is now an electric toothbrush made of bamboo, but it costs $100 USD. Two part-plastic toothbrush heads cost $54 the other day. What’s better? To keep using the electric toothbrush I have, which means buying replacement heads, or buying a bamboo toothbrush, which means I have to throw the plastic one away?

    • There are bamboo heads for electric toothbrushes, my partner uses them while I use a manual bamboo toothbrush. Mine come in unbleached paperboard packaging, ten to a box, no plastic. I know his were wrapped in paper but I didn’t see the outer packaging.

      • Great addition Sherry. Once my old plastic one is had it (It has a good two years to go yet with 5 heads) I will look at the bamboo ones. I do wonder what else will be on offer by then!

      • Alas, no one makes replacement heads of bamboo for my style of toothbrush — the brush head is set in an egg-shaped cone that screws onto the base. When this brush stops working, I’ll get whatever seems most sustainable and least wasteful at the time.

    • I am not convinced about bamboo either – there is a whole industry around turning bamboo into a malleable slurry to then mold into all this stuff. Chemicals are used. Environment is impacted. I also use an electric toothbrush with the disposable brushes – and plant a tree. At that point we just have to look for a carbon co-pay. I do use the toothpaste tablets though so I save on some plastic that way.

  4. I agree with you 100%, Cecelia. Recycling is a “so we can feel better about ourselves” industry. Little more.

    It makes me wonder…. maybe the recycling centers and the extra fees we pay (no choice) to use their service is really just set up to “recycle” (er.. launder) money.

    One does have to wonder.

    I need a compost bin. I need to pursue that. But one thing I have been doing is saving all my veggie scraps, bits at a time. Freezing them until I have a good amount, then simmering them down to vegetable broth. Add some seasoning and I get to miss out on all the sodium that is added in the store bought broth.

    PS- thanks so much for the book plug! I look forward to checking out all the other recommendations as well.

    ~ Carol (CB)

    • Welcome to the original Lounge of Comments – your vegetable broth sounds like an excellent idea! Good thinking to freeze them until you have enough to start a good broth. I look forward to working through your book – writing and publishing a book is such an accomplishment! Thank you so much for the introductory price!

  5. In the UK we have something called click and collect. When you collect your groceries it is waiting in the supermarket baskets totally unwrapped so you can put everything straight into your own bags. We are also very lucky to have a local Green grocer( not many of those about now) and so l just put everything l buy straight into my bag. They have brown paper bags for the small things which l then reuse at home. I feel so well served with these services.

  6. I now buy shampoo and conditioner bars; so convenient and no more plastic bottles. In NZ plastic bags are now banned from supermarkets. I take my own cloth bags too. Home delivery arrives in paper bags which I reuse.

  7. PS there are examples of genuine recyling also: the NZ company that turns tetra packs (containers for milk, juice etc) into wallboard. The tetra packs have to be sent direct to the factories and not put in the recycling bin.

  8. i am having problems reading your page because my eyes are not good like they used to be. but if you could write in a dark or bold writing then i could see them. age does this to most of us as time passes. ty

  9. I just saw your flood post this very today & sent a contribution I hope can still be used in NZ where I sincerely hope they are beginning to dry out & heal. I didn’t see any place to label it so use it as best as you can. Judith

    • Judith – thank you so much. I will send it straight to the marae where they are feeding so many as they work in the clean ups. It will fill a pot in days!

      Thank you so much!

  10. No single-use plastic items here in NZ we were assured. No big grocery bags to take home your shopping. We have all been educated in using our own bags. But..in the fruit and vegetable aisles, there are still plastic bags to put your chosen item in, and the bread and cakes are in single-use plastic. If you don’t have your shopping bags, you can purchase one of their brown paper bags or a fabric bag advertising the store. The paper bags are gratefully accepted by the op-shops that abound here, but how many are just simply put into the recycling bin? Oh, and over the past year or so, supermarkets have been using recyclable plastic for their meat products. I will stop there because recycling is my pet hobby horse. BTW Sweden has this thing right. They replace fossil fuel with waste to produce energy and they also earn 100 million annually by importing trash from other countries. See http://www.blueoceanstrategy.com

    • The check out people here get deeply concerned when they see my veges in cloth bags.

      Hopefully we will see waxed paper making a comeback – especially for bread.

      Interesting that the op shops take the paper bags/ that makes perfect sense. I will remember that!

  11. Yes we have paper garbage kitchen bags . We have a garbage bin with our paper bags . We use blue recycle plastic bags with bottles and plastic and we have white plastic bags with cardboard. We have cloth bags in our grocery and clothing stores. We use electric toothbrushes.
    Let’s follow our blogs. Anita

  12. I do wonder about the scourge of micro plastics and whether there are so many today because plastic is recycled. Aeons ago we took to plastic because it was durable, would not degrade, but unlike glass it loses it’s durability each time it’s recycled. We have products at home that have just flaked away – something that plastic never did in the past – completely unscientific but something I have been thinking of late :/

  13. Absolutely. It’s really hard not to become disheartened. Sometimes I think I invest a ridiculous amount of time thinking about and reducing our household rubbish. If me and you and others likeminded didn’t do it would only make it worse. I have no control over what happens to rubbish after it leaves my property, so make sure there is as little as possible and what there is sorted as well as possible.

  14. I have stopped putting my bin out every week. I must be doing something right because I don’t NEED to. It doesn’t get filled up. I’m very glad that the government here finally got with the program and paid people to recycle their drinks containers. We no longer see waterways filled with empty plastic bottles and cans. The materials get recycled and people get paid for their efforts. Now to encourage them to do something similar with soft plastic waste, which is still by far the worst problem for people who want to recycle. But I agree with you. I’d rather Pre-cycle. Maybe we need to work harder at encouraging people to allow/bring their own produce nets, paper bags for dry goods and waxed paper for animal foods.

    • I am so happy to hear that you are thinking along the same lines. Pop in again – we all support each other in this – we would love to have you in our team!

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