Friday, 13 March 2009

Day 5: On the bins for Comic Relief

Well it's been a fab day on the bins. I must admit after such an early start I am thoroughly exhausted and am very much in need of a bath, especially as I've got guests tonight.

To raise some lovely cash for Comic Relief I've spent the day walking around the Howard Estate in Bury St Edmunds for almost four and a half hours in steel toe-capped boots, lifting up the lids on the recycling bins and peeling off the old recycling stickers before slapping on the new ones, showing all the latest recycling guidelines.

I must have lifted up the lids on well over 500 recycling bins today. Although it feels like much more.

There were huge bins and slim ones, smelly ones and clean ones too. Such variety in both usage and contents. Even duvets had been stuffed in one particular bin. Now that was most definitely not on the list.

Anyway more on that another time. It's suffice to say it was a real fun day, with tales that I could probably never repeat.

But here are a few photos and videos of my very funny and surreal day.

Here's John the driver, loading up the bins onto the back of the wagon.

Did you know the loading mechanism automatically lifts the wheelie bin onto the back of the bin lorry! It's weight sensitive - which is why I stayed well away. There was no way I was going to chance my arm or indeed the rest of my body being lifted into there!

So here I am, keeping a very safe distance and dutifully sticking those stickers. Check out that fab Hi-Vis vest, which was kindly sent to me by the lovely people over at the Preston based charity Recycling Lives.

Peeling off some of the old stickers was not a very pleasant job.

Neither was lifting some of the bin lids.

Fortunately most of them were cleaner than this, but some had bird droppings and gunky stuff, having been stored underneath trees.

But I didn't have to do it all on my own. Here's Dan Sage, the Strategy & Policy Officer for St Edmundsbury Council, and who was the person behind last year's Zero Waste Week.

At one point the chaps (John and one of his colleagues, Scouse) disappeared through this gate into a garden. There I was thinking we were off for a cup of tea. It was still early in morning and I was in desperate need. But talk about wishful thinking. It emerged they were flats and they were just collecting the bins from the storage sheds. Oh well - I should have taken a flask.

Being a bit of a sociable old bird, the most odd thing about today was that there was hardly anyone around. Either folk were tucked up indoors or had gone off to work. Apart from a group of schoolkids dressed in Red Nose Day gear, the estate was deserted and I could have counted the people I saw on one hand.

But I did manage to catch up with a couple of folk and ask their opinions on the local recycling scheme. They are real supporters of the facilities we have and agreed to pose for the blog.

So here's a huge hello to Bury St Edmunds resident Bryan,

and to Mrs Dennis, who I also bumped into.

So after a brief chat, it was back to the bins.

But after being distracted, it's just a shame I lost the bin lorry. Serves me right I'd say.

So I just kept on sticking instead.

And finally it appeared.

But there was no rest for the wicked. So I kept on slapping on the stickers before finally catching up with Dan and going off to find the crew.

And it was good to hop into the cab and get a well-deserved rest.

Then we were off to the Transfer Station, a few miles away in Lackford, to drop off the load. For the crew, it was the second time today.

What a load of recycling eh. Just over 3 tonnes of it in fact!

Here's Tim who estimates the levels of contamination at the Transfer Station, before it gets sent to the Materials Reclamation Facility (MuRF) for sorting into bales of different recyclates.

It's impossible to root through everything at the transfer station, but it is here where any noticable contaminates - stuff that can't be recycled at the MuRF - get removed and transferred to the landfill pile.

And the landfill pile can be seen below, in bin bags over in the corner.

Before I left, the chaps at the Waste Transfer Station showed me their latest invention, which I thought should be patented for one of the big supermarkets.

Can you see what it is yet?

Methinks it's half shopping trolley half bin bag. Perfect for ripping off your packaging at the shop don't you think.

So, it was back to the yard and a big thank you to John the dustman - I mean Refuse Disposal Officer, for letting me ride on the bin lorry, ooops I mean wagon.

You see, I've even got to know the terminology.

And it was time to leave the yard and head off home.

I can really say it was an absolute privilege to see behind the scenes and witness what it must be like to work on the bins. And one thing's for sure, I'm going to be kinder to the bin men in future. They do a real grand job. I'll no longer lose my patience when stuck behind a bin lorry and I won't be chucking out all our paper at once. It certainly makes the recycling bins very heavy. These guys may be strong, but I'm sure they could still do with a break.

So thank you to St Edmundsbury Borough Council for putting up with my mad antics and to all you lovely people for sponsoring me. It's been great and I've noticed my Comic Relief fundraising page is already showing you've already donated an amazing £145. You are contributing to the most amazing appeal to help support those striken by poverty in the UK and abroad.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. It's been a real blast.

But would I do it again?

Hmmm...with my achey legs, I don't think so. Too much like hard work for a soft touch of blogger like me.



Karin said...

Well done! I'm not surprised you're exhausted, although it looks like it was fun, too. Hope the bath revived you.
And well done for posting all about it and adding so many photos and video clips. That must have take some effort. You would probably have rather had a nice nap after your bath, if it wasn't too near the end of school.

Thanks for letting us see how they do recycling in B-S-E.

Anonymous said...

Well done Mrs A - you did brilliantly. I don't think I could have done it. thanks for writing about your day and I hope you 're not too achey today!

mrs G x

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi Karin - thank you so much for your support. It was real fun, and the children really love the clips of the bin lorry, especially the one of all the recycling emptying out at the back.

Watching Comic Relief last night really made it fell worthwhile. Shows that I'm not used to this kind of thing though, because this morning my fingers are aching and my hands sting somewhat.

I'm glad I took the photos and put up the video yesterday, otherwise having got up this morning it would feel like a weird dream.

There'll be more detail about St Edmundsbury's recycling later over the next few days. Thanks again for cheering me along :-D x

Hi Mrs G - LOL. Thanks for cheering me along too. Dan jokingly asked if I could do this again next week. I thought I'd leave it to him and his colleague Mike instead. Especially as my feet are now tingling too. It's good exercise though and it's no joke that my jeans seemed much looser at the end of the shift. However, it was a really useful day and one that I will remember forever :-D x

Anonymous said...

Hi Mrs A,

A very worthwhile day, seeing the actuality of recycling. Comingled is in the news a lot. The percentage of waste in the recycling stream would be a good follow-up with ways to reduce this unwanted waste element.

It is amazing how easy it is to get lost. I remeber years ago while driving from 1 place to another for work duties, I could not find the way there and back due to a disorganised roundabout system. Eventually, I followed landmarks.

Layla said...

WOW!! Mrs A, this is WONDERFUL work you've been doing!! :)

It's so AMAZING to see it all in picture and video!!

/& you got to ride on the bin lorry!! :) I'm so jealous!! :)/

Video-before-the-last, is that paper recycling or..?

Indeed, like John said, it would be interesting to tell people what NOT to put in also..
It's great that there are guidelines on the bins & online (not sure if that link worked for me though?), still, sometimes people need to be reminded several times what NOT to put in..

I do hope some things about this will end up in the local newspaper too! & hopefully nation-wide? :)

It's great to see you cooperate so well with your local council on this!! :) Gives me hope into the future!! :)

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

Well done Karen - you did a fabulous job. I'm full of admiration for you. I'll bet your sons were envious weren't they, riding in the bin lorry - (and your husband)! A x

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi John - yes, there is much debate in the news about comingled recycling as opposed to kerbside sorting. As a resident I've had experience of both. Some time ago, where I used to live in Hertfordshire, we had several boxes for glass, tins and paper and needed lots of space for storage. However the benefit of that system was that the refuse collectors could actually see what they were collecting. Interestingly since we've moved that area has gone to comingled collections too.

In Bury St Edmunds, the comingled collection accepts mixed paper from envelopes, newspapers, magazines right through to cardboard. We also have the facility to recycle mixed plastics too, including, meat trays, yoghurt pots and margarine tubs as well as aluminium. So as you can see there is very little excuse for me not to do well with a zero waste approach as far as packaging is concerned.

The key misunderstanding as far as some residents are concerned is that they often put in shredded paper, bottles, wax cartons (tetrapaks) plastic bags, plastic film, polystyrene and crisp packets. These are the items that the council's awareness campaign is trying to keep out. What's great though is that apart from polystyrene and crisp packets, there are local alternatives for recycling the others.

As for statistics, chatting to the staff at the waste transfer site revealed that the levels of contamination are getting lower and they are recording better tonnage for the quality of recyclates year-on-year and that St Edmundsbury's recycling performance figures reach over 50%. And that's 50% of total waste not 50% of recycled collections.

Hi Layla - yes it was fun and no doubt if anyone else had been for a trip in a bin lorry I'd have been jealous too...(I think my next target now is a tractor LOL).

The waste that you see coming off the lorry is a mixture of cans, plastics and papers (as well as the odd pillow and duvet).

The council's stickers are great because they show what shouldn't go in too. Hopefully they will help raise awareness. :-D

Hi Anne - thank you so much for your support. It really is appreciated and talking of support, I must remember to tap the boys for their pocket money. I think they are pretty much impressed that mummy's been on a bin lorry. They certainly love the video of the recycling popping out at the end. ;-D

John costigane said...

Hi Mrs A,

50% is an excellent figure. I think best practice should be highlighted and copied around the country. The present system is full of holes, bottomless pits more like.

Behringer said...

I'm a student in USA who's researching about UK recycling. Your post showed more for my research comprehension than most websites have. Thank you so much for your hard work!!

rudy said...

great... this is what i looking for... thanks :D

Almost Mrs Average said...

Hi John - sorry, can't believe I missed your comment here. It must have disappeared into one my black holes :-D But you're right. Highlighting situations that I come across will hopefully help other organisations and the public alike. Fingers crossed eh! :-D

Hi Behringer - thanks for dropping by and leaving such a kind comment. Good luck with your research. It would be great if you could drop by again when it's finished. Enjoy your studies. It is such a fascinating subject. :-D

Hi Rudy - thank you, that's very kind :-D

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