Little and often is the key

Filed in Blog by on February 26, 2009 22 Comments
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box of polythene for recyclingGeesh, I’m pooped and I should know better. After following a zero waste mission for over 6 months, I STILL have to discipline myself.

I had a “I’ve had ENOUGH!” moment, and that, dear friends, is not a pretty sight as Mr Green will testify. Once one of those whirlwind moments strikes, you’d better look out because your day is on hold and you are my hostage. I will delegate and fuss and fight until I get my own way.

I declared last Thursday ‘Procrastination Thursday‘. Mr Green thought it meant that he could spend an extra day procrastinating wildly about all those ‘must do’ jobs.

Alas no.

You see, I started the morning with my oats – every girl likes to start the day with something good inside her right!?

No no – minds out of the gutter please; I’m talking porridge. I reached for another box of oats and whoosh! Out they came. I’d bought a faulty pack and I ended up with half a kilo of oats all over the floor and in every crevice imaginable and those not so imaginable.

I figured, if I had to clean up the oats, I might as well do the entire room and that meant dealing with all the recycling.

I count myself blessed. I have a separate room on the side of the kitchen which houses all our recycling. It’s part of the house, but you can shut a door on it and pretend it doesn’t exist. This week we heard that Maisie had converted one of her sheds into a recycling centre. I was goggling at Mrs A’s lovely tidy recycling over on her You Tube vid a few weeks ago (yes, Mrs A; I know all about your kitchen now!) and then I looked at my own mess.

I have to be honest; it looked more like a rubbish dump than a recycling centre.plastic for recycling at GHS

Amongst the piles of tetrapaks waiting for a new lease of life, there were bundles of foil, newspapers crawling over the floor, and a massive box of polythene. The polythene was held in place by the shelf above, but when I yanked the box out (and boy, it took some muscle) the contents came springing up like a jack-in-the-box or a naughty springer spaniel and littered the floor. It was a very sad sight indeed.

I looked at the pile of polythene and with a determined grimace on my face began folding it up neatly, ready to send off for recycling. I spent half an hour diligently doing this and Mr Green walked in, took one look at me and rolled his eyes heavenward. He wasn’t singing my praises or calling me an angel mind you; he was clearly hoping that Divine Inspiration would find me. Either that or a miracle.

With helpful phrases such as “Do you know how tall a tower you will have created by the time you’ve done that?” and “you won’t get all that packaged up you know, it will unfold and spring out everywhere” I found myself getting more and more flustered. Most of all because he was right.

We decided that the weight and size of the parcel deemed it more economical to DRIVE OUR CAR to a supermarket to offload it in the carrier bag recycling.

Simple right?


I made a few phonecalls to local supermarkets and not one of them would take it. Most of them don’t even recycle carrier bags let alone polythene. Rural life is fabulous, but ya know; there are times when 21st century life needs to be enjoyed to its fullness and the middle of the country is not the place to do it. I got a little, erm, shirty with two of the people I spoke to who made a guess as to whether I could recycle or not.

I was in a ‘not to be messed with’ mode and said “It sounds to me like you’re guessing, could you find out for certain please?” with a guilty sigh, each telephonist scuttled back a few seconds later to tell me that No, they did not recycle polythene.

I thought I’d phone the local council; they’d be able to help me!


I was told that there was nowhere in the COUNTY that could recycle polythene. Dang; that meant I’d told Radio Gloucestershire listeners a big, fat lie and that I was again, single handedly responsible for the execution of thousands of polar bears across the icy lands.

To be honest, I didn’t think this could possibly be true, so I tried a large supermarket in our main town – Sainsburys. At last I found the music-to-my-ears answer I was longing for. A hearty Yay for Sainsbury’s Barnwood who will recycle my polythene. It’s a 15 mile trip, but it works out cheaper (and much less stressful) than packaging up our big box of offerings and posting them to a recycling company. I go over to the town once every few weeks anyway, so I’ll just hang onto the box and take it with me next time I go.

In addition, we packed up and posted a large pack of yogurt pots to GHS. This cost Β£4.20 by Parcel Force, which was fine. But now I am free of my burden, I might start offering old yoghurt pots in small batches to local playgroups and schools.

Going to the recycling centre took ages in itself; we had so much stuff. The car was LOADED and Little Miss Green had her legs on piles of papers and plastic milk bottles. I think the total job from clearing everything from the house, taking it to the recycling centre, packing up the yogurt pots, making all the phonecalls and depositing of our goods in the right receptacles took about half a day.

Not good is it?

I was stroppy, I felt it was a total waste of time and I have a confession to make. At one point, I thought about just tossing it all in the landfill. Oh yes I did. The task seemed so overwhelming and not fun at all. I had in mind incinerators, people who throw heaps of stuff out every week without thought and for a moment of weakness I felt like jacking everything in and closing down the blog.

So there you have it.

Fortunately, it was a beautiful day when we went on our trip. The sun was shining and there was a feeling of spring in the air. Heck; I even took my coat off when I was heaving a box of papers to their fate. The birds were singing, there were lambs in the fields and we passed wild ponies and a mother about to give birth (of the horsey kind, you understand). We had to stop to let her cross the road and she was so beautiful as the sunlight caught her chestnut mane.


After that I felt better about things and was able to reflect on what I had allowed to happen. It wasn’t rocket science; I had simply wanted to combine convenience, laziness and procrastination with a helping of miracles and recycling fairies but my wish was not granted.

Instead I inherited a massive pile of recycling that took me hours to sort.

You’ll be pleased to hear I’ve now decided to keep short accounts. There is no shortage of recycling centres around here and every week we pass at least one of them. So every week I shall pack up the car as I am passing a recycling point and drop off my goods. That way I should remain clutter free.

Or at least until the procrastination kicks in again …

What about you – are you King or Queen of organisation and discipline or do you need to give yourself a swift kick up the derriΓ¨re every now and then?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (22)

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  1. Kris says:

    Because I get so bogged down with things sometimes, I rely on discipline and organisation to stop me getting to the point where it’s all too much! I think it’s always a good idea to take things as often as you’re passing disposal sites.
    The only thing I have enough space to let run on a bit long is cardboard and I always feel that’s more of a chore to gather up and take away, so there’s definitely something in the little and often thing!

    And on another tangent – please accept a virtual hug πŸ™‚ It’s sad to see you had such a dispiriting day, but you’re a very big inspiration. I hope it feels better today!

  2. Sally says:

    We are lucky lots of stuff is collected for kerbside recycling here so i only hold onto my mixed recycling for 2 weeks at a time. I dont buy much in tetrapaks but save them up until i have a bag full and drop them off along with clothes/fabric at a very local recycle point. Batteries i saved but now have a gizmo that gives them new life. Halogen light bulbs i am saving until i know what to do with them? polythene i have to admit goes in the bin (naughty)I must search around for somewhere to take that. So in answer to your question I am pretty darned organised but thats partly thanks to the council (shock!!!)

  3. Although we can only put certain things into our doorstep recycling, alot of items are able to be taken to our HWRC which is approx 10 miles away.

    According to the list I was sent from our County Council who run the site the only things they won’t take are “printer cartridges” and “water filter cartridges”.

    Both of these I have places for:

    Printer cartridges are collected in school
    water filter cartrdiges can be deposited in many shops or sent direct to Brita.

    This list is not exhaustive as the last time I went they even had a recepticle for used cooking oil.They also even take car tyres.

    The main reason I set up my recycling centre was so that I could collect it all in one place rather than having lots of little boxes in different areas including the kitchen.

    The odd times I do buy yogurt pots they usually go to school, but have found now that I can take the type 6(PS) ones to HWRC as well.

  4. Sandra Jones says:

    Here in my local district, the majority of recycling is picked up curbside. For the items I need to take in on my own, which are glass and mixed paper, I have come up with a simple solution. I collect it in a somewhat “public” spot in the house ( the front entryway ), and therefore am forced to keep it tidy. This also makes me dispose of it rather often, as space is limited. This way, my natural tendency to procrastinate does not have a chance to kick in, or I wouldn’t be able to get out the front door!

  5. Katy says:

    If I tell you that the last time I took my collected Tetras to the recycling bank, I was worried about being collared on the suspicion it was trade waste, that should give you an idea of my level of organisation πŸ™‚

  6. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    It can be very annoying when other parts of the supply chain do not recycle properly.

    Polythene is an issue for me too with posting the only option. I therefore reduce polythene to a minimal amount by buying loose/containered items.

    At Morrison’s today the previously cooperative staff turned negative about containers. Their attitude is ridiculous since we are providing the reusable packages they cannot provide. We just have to stick to our guns until the penny drops. There are alternatives to Morrison’s as well.

  7. Mrs G, you are not on your own. You should see my bag of polythene film and plastic wrappers – two month’s worth ready to go to the HWRC. Each week, I hope it will last another to avoid the trip. Because we have so little space I hardly buy drinks in cartons anymore because we don’t have the space to store them, otherwise it would be an experience similar to Katy’s. And finally…yes finally….I managed to take the bottles to the bottle bank today. See, my bins might have looked organised but the reality is organised chaos. πŸ˜€ x

  8. Recycling fairies – ha! I have those thoughts sometimes, when I want to say, “screw this, just put it in the bin.” Usually the thoughts center around plastic bags and styrofoam (both of which don’t come into my house very often).

  9. Layla says:

    oh gosh ((((hugs))))

    We’ve all had one of those days, eh?

    Sorry to hear about it all…

    Well, I do hope Sainsbury’s are responsible with it…
    (Read an article saying all sorts of things about superstores accepting plastic bags and such recently – can’t find the link right now.. it was a US article though so let’s hope..)
    I just try to avoid, but I know it ain’t easy…

    organized? – lol! πŸ™‚ even my bookmarks are all messed up lol.. we do our best eh… πŸ™‚

    Not sure if I told you about this site already: – very calming.. πŸ™‚
    I just put it on while I surf or write online.. πŸ™‚

  10. Layla says:

    oh gosh ((((hugs))))

    We’ve all had one of those days, eh?

    Sorry to hear about it all…

    Well, I do hope Sainsbury’s are responsible with it…
    (Read an article saying all sorts of things about superstores accepting plastic bags and such recently – can’t find the link right now.. it was a US article though so let’s hope..)
    I just try to avoid, but I know it ain’t easy…

    organized? – lol! πŸ™‚ even my bookmarks are all messed up lol.. we do our best eh… πŸ™‚

    Not sure if I told you about this site already: – very calming.. πŸ™‚
    I just put it on while I surf or write online.. πŸ™‚

    Oh, & John – what problem did they have with your reusable container & what were you buying?

  11. John Costigane says:

    @Layla: Layla, I bought 6 mackerel fillets 2 weeks ago, no problem. Today at the same shop, I bought 6 smoked haddock slices, big problem. I insisted on using the container but they said that it had to be wrapped in their packaging. I finally agreed and they stuck the filled container in a company plastic bag, with barcode/price label. At checkout, I removed the plastic bag and the girl took the bag from the counter.

    What a rigmarole. Next time we shall see what happens. If I raise my voice that may sort them out. What would you do, Layla?

  12. Carole Blake says:

    I am just about to have a go at Kraft Foods. Youngest son came out of his bedroom earlier asking me if I wanted some chocolate. I (suspicious) said what chocolate?
    Some Terry’s Chocolate Orange he’s been hoarding since Christmas?? I had a slice, he finished the last few bits then he said what about all the packaging. I looked at it: 1 bit of foil, fine, 1 cardboard outer container, fine, 1 three sided shell of plastic (similar to inside easter eggs but much smaller). No code number on it. Hmmmm.

    I looked at it, then looked at the box, “Why don’t you give us a call?” it said and printed on the side was the Kraft Foods phone number (0800) and freepost address!!!

    Well, what would YOU do???

    I’m just putting the shell into a (recycled envelope as we speak.

    Not often you get to have a go for free is it?

  13. well, sorry to report that out here in the land of paradox, we have no recycling facilities; unless you count the 2 metal recyclers.
    one local, the only local grocery store does offer a barrel for bags, they also have given and sold many re-useable grocery bags, and i have not seen any in use (except for mine)
    so what to do, we have not driven out of town for a couple years. no one would take two leaf bags full of plastic to the big city, an hour and a half from here. so i use and re-use any plastic which dares cross my threshold.

    in a community with 6 churches and one bar, 6 knick-knack stores and one grocery store, it is a little frustrating to talk to consumers about the merits of saving a mountain of bubblewrap for posterity. but they do admire my dogged use of cardboard to burn as logs in the fireplace. that makes sense to them. do wish me luck or sunshine.

  14. Sarah says:

    Oh Mrs G we all have days when things are just too much hassle. Have some cyber hugs and a big Well Done for getting it all done in the end.

  15. rosie crawford says:

    Due to a serious illness, I’ve had to stop work and move to a smaller home, but it has focused my mind wonderfully on recycling.
    As I now have a tiny kitchen and can’t make trips to the tip, I have started ‘CAN’T RECYCLE? DON’T BUY’.
    York ciy council has kerbside collections of paper & small cardboard, glass and plastic bottles, tins and garden waste.
    If something isn’t packaged in these, I try my best not to buy it.
    I have a tiny trolley in the kitchen to put my recyclables and when it’s full, it goes into the kerbside collection boxes (about every 2 days).
    I no longer buy tetrapacks (I make smoothies instead), yoghourts (I make my own yoghourt and flavour it with fruit frozen from my allotment), meat in plastic trays from the supermarket (I’m using up everything in the freezer and going to buy in bulk from the local farm shop).
    And if I could park in the centre of town, I’d use the bucket shop where you can buy dry goods loose.
    All envelopes & junk letters that just have writing on one side is re-used as notepaper, then shredded and put onto the compost heaps.
    A friend comes once a month to take any broken metal to the tip for me (recently a cassette radio and a lamp stand).
    She also helps me on my allotment as I can’t manage on my own now.
    We reuse all plastic plant pots by soaking them in Jeyes fluid solution for 1/2 an hour,
    broken pottery and bits of polystyrene can go into the bottom of plant pots for drainage – I put some in the bottom of compost bags in the greenhouse before I put in the compost for my new potatoes.
    I had large compost containers ( 4ft x 4ft) and raised beds made last year out of scrap wood. In large compost heaps, you can add shredded newspaper ( good mixed 50/50 with lawn mowings), tatty fabrics made from natural fibres ( wool, linen, cotton etc), feathers, hair, bedding from non carniverous pets, anything that has grown.
    Generally, this has reduced my landfill bin to a couple of carrier bags a week – mainly bits of plastic.
    Hope this is of use.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    @Kris: Thank you for the HUG! I certainly do feel better – a day in the sunshine yesterday helped no end. I’m definitely going to learn from this; there is no excuse; once a week I pass a recycling centre, so I need to leave ten minutes earlier.

    @Sally: You make a good point Sally. Local kerbside collections can make a big difference to the way we can deal with things. Hopefully you’ll find some local supermarket to recycle your polythene.

    @maisie dalziel: Great news on the yogurt pots – it seems you have a lot of facilities local to you. And of course, I know that you are the Queen of organisation from reading your comments and blog πŸ˜‰

    @Sandra Jones: Hi Sandra – this is an excellent idea. My ‘problem’ is that I can shut a door on everything. Maybe I need to start keeping it in the porch instead πŸ˜‰

    @Katy: Hehehe! I think I get the picture, Katy. Two peas in a pod then?! (except I’m now reformed of course!)

    @John Costigane: Sorry to hear about the attitude in Morrisons, John. But as you say, you can always boycott them! Just remind them that the customer is always right πŸ˜‰

    @Almost Mrs Average: You hide your chaos well, Mrs A. I think my polythene was from 6 months storage – shocking isn’t it? I just kept shoving it in hoping for it to magically disappear πŸ˜€

    @SavvyChristine: Good to hear I’m not alone. I guess we all have our moments of weakness. The best way around it is to not allow it in in the first place I guess.

    @Layla: Oooo, thanks for the relaxing link, Layla. All I need now is a cyber massage and I’ll be well away (although the blog might be quiet for a few days!)

    @Carole Blake: Loved your story about Kraft foods! I hope they do something responsible with the packaging or get the hint and reduce in future.

    @nadine sellers: I wish you luck AND sunshine lovely one. I lament at the lack of facilities around here, but how do you manage? I guess you are the Queen of Reduce and Reuse.

    @Sarah: Why thank you Sarah – that feels better!

    @rosie crawford: hi Rosie – welcome to the site and thank you for sharing all your wonderful ideas. I’ve learned such a lot about your lifestyle that is very inspiring and it goes to show that with a little care and thought, you really can make amazing changes.

  17. Thankyou,

    I am determined that I will beat the amount of landfill we as a family produce.

    And have just found that both M&S and Co-op do fairtrade, fully compostable cotton buds.the sticks are paper.

    M&S Β£1.50 for 200
    Co-op 89p for 200

    So those are now on my bathroom list.

  18. Sally says:

    masie, thanks for that info, as a therapist I try and keep my comsumables recyclable but had never come across compostable cotton buds.

  19. VegBoxClara says:

    Mrs G – I TOTALLY identify with that feeling. What a triumph not to have given in to it though. Nice one. I live in a room at the top of a friend’s house, and I store all the stuff I want to find ways to re-use or recycle in a built in wardrobe up there! And the last time I opened the door a crack … well, it’s looking, er, busy! Yikes!

  20. Carole Blake says:

    We spent some time yesterday sorting out my fiance’s recycling, taking it all down the the SITA site which is just down the road from him in Saltash.

    One clean kitchen corner…for about five mins.

    (oops, one empty bottle of Cava, wonder where that came from??) :S

  21. Mrs Green says:

    @maisie dalziel: Thanks for the tip on the cotton buds, Maisie. I have been holding out from buying more but now I know where to look. I’ll check our Co-op this week.

    @VegBoxClara: oh my goodness, vegboxClara; i’d be having nightmares about a wardrobe like that LOL1

    @Carole Blake: what a great achievement, Carole – I bet that feels good πŸ™‚

  22. If they don’t stock the cotton buds ask them to order some I did this with the fairtrade drinking choc and now it has place on the shelf.

    My Co-op is very small and it had both the cotton buds and cleansing pads in fairtrade this morning and the packaging is clearly labelled as type 4 so can go in with carrier bags etc.

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