Can you recycle without a car?

Filed in Blog by on September 20, 2010 12 Comments
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Mrs Green fearlessly takes the 'zero waste with little emissions' challenge

Mrs Green fearlessly takes the 'zero waste with little emissions' challenge

Never one to shy away from a challenge, one of our readers, Antonio, wants me to explore life in another person’s shoes. (just as long s they are Birkenstocks I don’t mind)

I am well aware that my living conditions are not the same as other people’s and I frequently comment on interviews that I know I am lucky in many ways – I have the space to store recycling, we have a car so can get to Bring Banks and the household recycling centre, I can compost in my garden and my entire family are on board with the project. For all of these things I am grateful and consider myself lucky.

Zero waste with little Emissions

Antonio has set me his “Zero waste with little Emissions” challenge where he wants me to experience recycling without kerbside collections or the use of my car!

The idea is that I have to find companies or places within a commuting distance (i.e. within my council area) that can accept the following materials for free or very low cost BUT I’m not allowed to drive to reach them and I can’t put anything out for kerbside collection. I can use a bus, train, my own feet or some other means but not my car.

List of Recyclables

1) 3 Bags of garden waste. I cannot use compost bins or my council collection.

2) A bag of broken wood. Again I cannot compost it.

3) A bag of Rubble i.e bricks and stones.

4) Cardboard- No council collection or composting allowed.

5) a small WEE item-such as printer, kettle, toaster

Non drivers

The point of Antonio’s challenge is to highlight the difficulties non drivers with limited kerbside collections face. Civic amenities cannot be accessed by non-car drivers due to health and safety concerns. He is setting me this challenge to understand how difficult it is for non-car drivers to recycle some materials and Antonio feels that I cannot fully understand zero waste reduction and the problems people have until I attempt this for myself.

With my sleeves rolled up I’m ready to dive in, but I’ve got to hand it to Antonio, I think I’m going to fail miserably.

1 item per day

I’m going to have a think about things, do some research, make some phonecalls and I’ll be back tomorrow to share my progress. I’m going to challenge myself to deal with one of these items for each day of the week – for today then I’m going to take a look at 3 bags of garden waste.

Wish me luck; I think I’m going to need it!

Each day this week I will report back on my challenge and you can be the judges – you can give me a score out of 10 in the comments!

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 (12)

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  1. Abi says:

    Good luck! I don’t have a car either, but we have quite good kerbside collections. Before they appeared all recyclables tended to get shoved in the cellar until the imminent demise of a visiting energy-meter-reader shamed me into fishing it out again. Then I’d take as much as I could carry to the local recycling place before I picked the kids up from school. About a week and I’d have it clear. Neither easy nor fun. Now my DH has a bike trailer, so he can take it all in one go.

  2. Kelly says:

    Wow! Good luck!!
    we are soon to have another car-less spell. we have basic re-cycling in the village (paper, cans, glass and plastic bottles) but for bigger items its a pain here even with a car as we live so far out of town and don’t go in much.
    Good luck πŸ™‚

  3. Chris says:

    I would put the wood on freecycle for someone to burn as fuel. I couldn’t be without my kerbside collections and my council is very good. For small electrical items I’m afraid they often end up in the wheelie bin unless they are fit to put on freecycle

  4. Julie Day says:

    Good luck with this. The bricks and stones might be taken by a builder or building firm locally if you have one. I am lucky in that my bring back and recycling banks are local for me and I use the bus usually. Ah, but I do use the car to recycle mixed plastics now as the banks are at my local Sainsbury’s where buses don’t go.

  5. sandy says:

    Freecycle is a wonderful thing, (just found out that we have one around here, last time I looked we did’nt)
    I too would burn the wood, our local council take almost everything, including batteries. the rest we would have trouble with because althought the recycling centre in in our nearest town, it is the other side of town, with three buses a day, and a long walk, this would not be easy. good luck

  6. Poppy says:

    Small items I could cope with, and with the use of a set of wheels (usually a shopping trolley abandoned somewhere round here!) I could most likely get heavier stuff to it’s final resting place as well.

    I guess in that respect I am lucky.

    Good luck with your Mrs G πŸ™‚

  7. H0gg1t says:

    I wish you all the luck for this challenge! I myself don’t drive but OH does. Council collections second to none here and also have weekend access via the car to recycling collection depots. Would agree Freecycle a “must”.

    I have always felt that many issues, not just recycling, are devised by those who have no clue as to the difficulties faced by us “non-drivers” who need access to things at the end of long, tedious journeys involving laborious and tedious bus journeys. More power to your elbow, maybe town planners need to see the results of your endeavours to plan better public transport systems with this portion of the populace in mind!!


  8. Mrs Green says:

    @Abi: Gosh, life pre trailer sounded challenging! I applaud you for even making the effort in those circumstances.
    @Kelly: We used to have paper, tins and glass in the village, but they took it away! I can’t understand why either as it was always overflowing, which would indicate to me it was popular.
    @Chris: Chris, Freecycle is a great way to pass things onto a new home – you’ll have to wait and see about the wood, but you’re pretty much spot on with your ideas for reuse πŸ˜‰
    @Julie Day: Good to hear you have some local facilities. I would not have thought of a local builder for the rubble!
    @sandy: Thanks Sandy; good to hear your council collect batteries too.
    @Poppy: HA! a shopping trolley – never thought of that; don’t tend to get them around here, but we do have horses and cows; now there’s a thought!!
    @H0gg1t: It’s bought up some very interesting things already HOgg1t; I never thought about taking these ideas to the council; I’ll see how I get on for the rest of the week πŸ™‚

  9. Poppy says:

    LOL! Mrs G!!!!! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

  10. carless in the US is a long shot–we have had to take our aluminum cans and other metals to the only local recycling plant–on foot–that was heavy and heavier as sun climbed the sky upon our backs–next time we took the wheel barrow, and proudly marched on.
    most people appreciate my dedication to cleaning up their environment although they would not do it.
    as for textiles and other items–we call a church charity to pick up a large collection. recently the group has announced termination of their pick-up privileges, so back to begging truck owners to haul the heavy loads.

    twice a year, the town has a city-wide yard sale, when the folks pull out all their excesses and sell or give away. working or not. i gave buckets full of rubble to someone in need of repairing their driveway which they filled with brick bits and cement shards. gave wood to outdoor cooking enthusiasts. and dug a pit in clay to compost the rest.

  11. Alyson says:

    I hope you do well on your challenge. I, too, don’t have a car.Plastic bottles (not trays!), tins and card and paper are kerbside collections. I load my shopping trolley to take glass to the bottle bank outside the pub. I also have a nice collection of foil that I would love to take to the recycling centre if I had a car. I’ve read that they do do take foil but you’re not allowed to walk up there. And, of course, small weee appliances, nothing within walking distance. I once took 3 different buses to get to the industrial estate, where the recycling centre is, what a nuisance! Ooh and carrier/plastic bags go to Sainsburys, an hours hilly walk away. Last week I went to the bottle bank, armed with a shopping trolley filled to the brim with glass only to find it full and bottles sitting outside in bags and boxes. Had to come home with a full trolley. Its still sitting in my kitchen waiting for me to muster up the energy to give it another go. But don’t worry. I have a smaller shopping trolley so I can still go shopping.

  12. Mrs Green says:

    @nadine sellers: Wow, I applaud you for your tenacity with recycling in those conditions. I love the idea of your large yard sales; it sounds like a wonderful idea and brings together the idea of community.
    @Alyson: thanks Alyson. Oh my; you are one dedicated person. Your stories are amazing; especially the one of coming home with a trolley full of glass. πŸ˜€

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