I think my reader has realised by now that I am slightly obsessed with the environment and how we are destroying it. I am not by any stretch of the imagination the best at producing zero waste or not using single-use plastic but I am at least trying. It wouldn’t be any good being perfect anyway – I am a practising Catholic and we live and breathe guilt so if it wasn’t waste it would be something else!
I am lucky to live in Bristol. Bristol Waste takes as much plastic as it can for recycling. As discussed before it would be much better not to have it in the first place, but … one step at a time.
That leaves us with approximately one kitchen bin full of rubbish per fortnight for the black bin, unless the grandchildren are staying when nappies take over. The rubbish we do have is mainly single-use plastic so I decided to do something about it.
The solution I found was EcoBricking. To put it simply unrecyclable trash is re-used by making it into bricks. This is the type of rubbish which often ends up in the sea so it can make a real difference. Not all countries around the world are as aware as we are, or can’t afford to deal with their rubbish effectively so this is a real solution. The bricks are made into various structures. In this country they are usually made into outdoor furniture, compost bins etc. Find out more about the concept at https://www.ecobricks.org/
So, enthused, I set about making my first brick. We saved all non-recyclable plastic and washed it, drying it on the radiators. I could not believe how much we had – toothpaste tubes, sachets, cotton buds (we don’t buy plastic ones any more but found an old box in the cupboard), film wrapping, the dreaded black plastic, non-stretchy plastic bags, tablet blister packs, cellophane, scraps of wool, polystyrene, sponge bits etc. Everything must be dry and clean and the golden rule is NO ORGANIC ITEMS (which could break down).
I started with a one litre squash bottle. The bricks need to weigh at least a third of the volume (in ml) so mine needed to be 333g. To fill it the pieces needed to be as small as possible or the bottle will never be heavy enough. I tried the shredder – not particularly successful – so I set about cutting everything up and filling the bottle as I went. This meant that I ended up with a little kit in the lounge – scissors, wooden spoon for poking down, ice cream box for the cuttings, bag for the dried plastic. I then added a pair of shredding scissors which were thoughtfully bought for me by my supportive husband.
My evenings were taken over! Luckily I love watching TV so I spent several evenings cutting and stuffing and I still only managed 220g. My knitting suffered – that’s the time I often knit so I couldn’t do it. I was beginning to have second thoughts. Is it worth the time it takes? AND my hands were hurting!
Then I had a sign from above (well Facebook actually). I am part of an Ecobricks UK FAcebook group which is jam-packed with hints, queries and answers about how to make Ecobricks and what to do with the completed ones. If you’d like to join click here
A clever lady pointed out that in Bristol, the black bin waste isn’t buried, it’s burned for power. Burning plastics can produce horrendous emissions but in a controlled environment this can be avoided. Also, the heat is used to generate power. This is the excuse I needed to throw my non-recyclables away!
So I had an easy way out but I would encourage those who don’t have this luxury to give it some thought. I think it would be a good project with children or teenagers. As well as getting them to do the work it’s very educational. Just the few days I spent cutting up plastic made me realise how much we could cut down on the plastic we buy and I’ve started doing something about it.
That’s a story for another day.