Recycling rubble without a car

Filed in Blog by on September 23, 2010 16 Comments
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bricks and stones at Chez Green

bricks and stones at Chez Green

Welcome to day four of my ‘zero waste with little emissions challenge‘. One of our readers, Antonio, has challenged me to recycle without the use of car, kerbside collections or home composting.

So far I’ve had to responsibly dispose of 3 bags of garden waste and a bag of broken wood. I think I’ve done really well, but Antonio isn’t convinced so I hope he will like my ideas for today.

Bricks and stones

Yesterday I had to get rid of a bag of rubble ie bricks and stones which is probably the most challenging day of the lot.

Carry it

First, I wouldn’t be able to carry a decent sized bag of rubble to the bus stop. It’s only 3/4 mile away but to be honest, I probably couldn’t carry a bag of rubble to the car either. That’s why I have a beefy nine year old girl who I feed spinach to and who does kick boxing every week and a husband who has forearms to die for πŸ˜‰

No pedestrians

Second, if I could somehow get a bag of rubble on the bus to my household recycling centre, they wouldn’t let me in. You’re only allowed in with a car, not on foot …

So what’s a zero waste chick to do?

Unleash the artist

Make something, that’s what!

I gathered inspiration from my gardening neighbour who does keep a mighty fine garden – a garden so fine he opens it to the public three times a year and raises a couple of thousand pounds for charity. The days his garden is open are the times when I’m out in case one of his visitors pops their head over the fence and takes a peek at our jungle.


Anyway, back to the plot. I’m seeing beautiful rockeries and borders in my neighbour’s garden of Eden. I’m spying cascades of colour and texture on his clay bed, which is where a few bricks and rubble can come in useful. They could be used to edge a pond, to create the edging for a flower border or if they were ugly bricks, they could go underneath something more pleasing to the eye for plants to creep across. Making a rockery can provide a labyrinth of fun for all sorts of beneficial insects and in winter when the rest of the garden lies in an inch of water, my rockery would be sitting high and proud and providing a place for wildlife to dry its feet.

Bunny boundaries

You might notice in the photo that I have already made use of some old bricks and stones in our garden – they are under a laurel bush blocking up a place that Bunny Green could get out of if they weren’t there. So I am using some for a very practical reason! They don’t look pretty, but they do the job.


Two of our readers, Hazel and Ben, suggested using or offering rubble as hardcore. Hazel had seen it on her local Freecycle groups, so wondered if my rubble could go on there. In addition, Ben recommended using small pieces for drainage in the bottom of pots; which is an excellent suggestion as I’m often on the lookout for drainage materials.

Another reader suggested a local building firm might pick it up – not sure about that, maybe they would in exchange for a bacon sandwich and cup of tea laced with whisky at the end of a long day at the building plot πŸ˜‰ So there are a couple more options for people who don’t have a garden…

What do you think? Marks out of 10 for my garden makeover ideas please.

Tomorrow, without the use of composting or kerbside collection, my challenge is to responsibly dispose of cardboard. Don’t miss it!

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 (16)

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  1. Jane says:

    Which household recycling centres don’t allow people in on foot ?

  2. a tribute to the artistic side–a clear 10 for you.
    although i should have voted for previous challenges..i’m a lazy voter so 7-8-9 plus a full fledged 10 currently…keep going, the world is in step, somewhere behind you Mrs Green…

  3. Judith Green says:

    I want to know the origin of this rubble. Because you don’t just suddenly end up with some rubble on your hands. It usually comes about as a result of building work of some sort. So, the issue of what to do with the waste exists before you begin to demolish your garden wall or whatever it is that has produced the rubble. And if you don’t have a way to do it, then maybe you leave the wall up until you do.

    Indeed, if you employ a builder, they are legally mandated to have a plan for waste disposal. I don’t think that legal obligation exists for DIY, but the moral obligation should. We are having an extension built. The good bricks from our existing kitchen are going to provide the outside face of the extension, the bad ones are going to be hardcore.

    (I guess it could be pulled out of your garden over time, if the builders of your house put it there! but then it is going to be one or two pieces at a time – and they can end up in the bottom of pots for drainage).

  4. Julie Day says:

    I’ll give you 8. I don’t think I’d come up with those.

  5. Ben says:

    I think rubble is fairly useful stuff. Small bits can make drainage in pots, bigger chunks can be used for hardcore, while paving slabs can be used for making paths and stepping stones (broken ones are fine for crazy paving). Bricks, if you bury them can make stepping stones and paths too. Edging flowerbeds as well. The main problem with rubble is the weight if you do decide it’s not useful in your house or garden and needs to go somewhere else. Older bricks, if you bury them can eventually become crumbly and turn back in to harmless little bits that mix in to soil. I buried some at the back of flowerbed to get rid of them and was surprised to discover that they have degraded away after a couple of years – ironically when I dug them up to do something with them.

    From my experience of not having a car and no accessible council tip, the small electrical item is going to be the really tough one (I’m assuming it’s broken?), but i’m interested to see what you find you can do with it.

  6. Antonio Pachowko says:

    Thank Mrs Green I am enjoying your inventiveness

    The problem with rubble (i.e. waste building material of broken bricks, chippings, sand, plaster and cement) is finding something to do with it when you have no jobs around the house or garden. You could keep in storage and hope it will go away. I know I tried but it is still there. I still have bricks and roof slates from the early 1980 and I don’t know what to do with it. In my back garden I have some dry walling and I use stones to fix it when holes start to appear (it has not fallien in 40 years). I agree without a car this is probably the hardest material to recycle as nobody really wants it.

    Judith nowadays people are doing more DIY and as a result producing more rubble, which has to be disposed of. Some jobs must be done quickly to stop a potential problem from getting worse. It is case of doing a job now and think later.

    Jane in the UK all Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) by law are not to admit pedrestrians due to the possibility that a person can get hit by any vehicle (normally big 20+ tonne trucks) resulting in that person’s death. You can bring materials to bring sites, which are usually car parks but they are limited in what materials you can recycle.

    Ben yes the small electrical item is kaput ot at least whould cost more to fix than buy a new item.

    Mrs G I give to you a 7.

  7. sandy says:

    as a gardener, the ideas are very good, but I would have to know where it come from in the first place, as this may have been contaminated, but a good idea 7/10

  8. Judith Green says:

    “Judith nowadays people are doing more DIY and as a result producing more rubble, which has to be disposed of.”

    Yes, that’s the point! Your starting point is “I’ve created all this waste, now what do I do with it”. My starting point it “How do we all create less waste, so we have less to deal with”. That includes not filling my garden with more woody plants than I can compost and not engaging in a lot of DIY without considering what I’m going to do with the waste that results. If you asked a builder to do the work for you, then he or she would be legally obliged to plan for responsible disposal of the waste. Why should the standard for DIY be lower?

  9. Sarah says:

    @Judith Green:
    “I guess it could be pulled out of your garden over time, if the builders of your house put it there! ”

    My garden is horrendous in places, parts of it could easily pass for a land fill site. It’s not only stone, chunks of cement and bricks – that could be used around the garden in some form. It’s sharp bits of rusty metal of unknown origin, broken glass and other debris from previous occupants, possibly the original builders. It’s a serious job sorting and disposing of it all and I don’t have the advantage of knowing what is under the brambles and surface soil so I can’t plan in that way. I just have to deal with what comes out.

  10. H0gg1t says:

    Again I would give an 8.

    There are a good variety of options from Mrs G, along with further suggestions in the comments.

    Our garden used to be part of an orchard (trees, long gone, boo-hoo) and also a Piggery. We have unearthed no end of glass from cloches/greenhouses which have been recycled. Gardens are unending sources of historic landfill solutions.

    My local freecycle group does a roaring trade in rubble. There most be no end of solutions and uses for this unsightly waste item!

  11. John Ashwell says:

    Just store it if you can Mrs G, Ok, we have a large garden and can store things in. It’s amazing what you find useful over time, something you once felt was useless, could in time, prove to be just what you need. I save all rubble, pant tiles, glass whatever, and reuse the lot. Even if you don’t find a use for it, someone else may need it in time.

    Now if you will excuse me whilst I go off message and blatantly advertise a new blog.

    I am creating a network of possibilities, for everyone to share. An index that anyone can use for information or for communication.

    This blog will attempt to keep abreast of these new ways of living. And try to act as a catalogue and index of all that is positive. There are other similar links out there, that are working in positive directions, and a world wide network is emerging where everyone can share each others ideas

    It’s time to bypass the tired, old conflicts and activities that do nothing but harm people and the planet. Leave the politicians, economists and war mongers to their power games, ignore them and eventually they will crumble.

    There are other ways, other possibilities of living, that are not based on a wage slave society, where the earths resources are shared equally between all of its peoples, and not as at present shared by a wealthy and privileged few. There are enough resources on the earth to share, feed and shelter everyone, once we move away from the present economic mindset which is based on scarcity and where these resources are viewed as commodities to sell and profit from.

    Please met us know your news and views, send us your links, ideas and moments. Together change is possible.

    Do join us at:

    Warmest wishes

  12. Hazel says:

    I do think Judith has a point about thinking about waste before you start a project. I did wonder where the bag of broken wood suddenly appeared from…

    Equally, however, DH was digging to put a new gate post in on our chicken/duck run last week and unearthed the extensive remains of a brick wall we had no idea had been there (it’s 8 foot in from our boundary fence and was pretty much just pushed over by the look of it!). What we had to remove was decent bits of brick, so it’s been reused to hold up a slab with a (converted wheelie bin) water butt on it and to stop the hens from pushing dirt up against the wooden fence (or doing a Steve McQueen).

    I hadn’t thought of a rockery, and that’s a good idea. Stone herb spirals seem to be very ‘in’ at the moment, though as Sandy said, it would depend on what the rubble contained.

    We partly chose our builders for our extension a couple of years ago on the grounds that all demolition rubble went in the head builders tractor to become hardcore on a neighbouring farmers field. I know that doesn’t exactly make it zero waste, but it helps. (They also separated all burnable/reusable wood out for us, and found the perfect reclaimed roof tiles. If anyone needs a builder in North Oxfordshire, Richard McNally and son are fab :0) )

    So 10/10 I reckon. Hardcore, even if you couldn’t use it up in your own garden.

  13. Jane says:

    @Antonio Pachowko: Which law is this? HWRCs appear to have differing Local Authority rules and regulations. They are not uniform in size and layout and I see no reason why they (or many of them) should not be designed with pedestrian access. They are an important way for those who do not have kerbside collections to dispose of their recycling. Having said that though I think that many of them have banks that might be better in a car park leaving the space they have for more difficult to dispose of items. Moving cars, lorries and machinery are a hazard everywhere.

  14. Antonio Pachowko says:

    Jane I have ask my council on this and they replied ” I can advise that the policy of no pedestrians at our HWRCs have been adopted by our contractor, Sita as best practice in view of the guidelines set out by the Health and Safety Executive. There have been a number of fatalities at these type of premises throughout the UK”. You see Jane the policy is dictate by the HSE and I think councils are covering their backs as they don’t want to be sue in case a pedestrian gets hit by a car, van, or a 20 tonne roll-on roll off lorries. At the present moment I am going through the Council complaints procedure on why non-car drivers having no access or ability to recycle certain types of material are to do. It is a serious issue and in most cases the council have no idea why people landfill for.

  15. Mrs Green says:

    @nadine sellers: Thank you lovely lady; no repercussions for late scoring πŸ˜‰
    @Judith Green: Great points, Judith. I must admit, my first thought was ‘where has this rubble come from’. You point out, quite rightly, that if we’re planning some DIY then we need to fully figure out our plans, right down to end disposal of materials; just like we do when we shop…
    @Ben: Loved your suggestion about drainage material, and the idea of digging up disintegrated bricks was too funny πŸ˜€
    @Antonio Pachowko: Wow, those tiles and bricks; I would have offered on Freecycle long ago. Mr G is more like you though, they’d probably still be in the garage 40 years later.
    @H0gg1t: Thanks for sharing your thoughts – i LOVE digging up old bottles; there’s something amazing about that; don’t you think?
    @John Ashwell: Unfortunately I agree with you John; you just never know when that old piece of ‘junk’ is going to come in useful. Thanks for sharing your new blog details; I hope you get lots of interest and support πŸ™‚
    @Hazel: Thanks for the builders recommendation; it’s worth knowing that they offered a reuse idea. Strange about the wall; you just never know what you are going to find!

  16. Jane says:

    What to do with the waste must be part of the DIY plan. It should be part of the builder’s plan and price. If he isn’t a registered waste carrier then you could/should be using a registered skip or one of those large bags from a specialist waste company that you pay for at a DIY store and which you phone up to have collected when full. What about your Council – is builder’s waste one of the things they will collect as bulky items? Some Councils do although you can expect to pay for this service (after all why should everyone else be paying for your DIY waste to be collected?). Since the cost of landfill is high they all should be recycling as much as they can if they are sensible – and if they are organised they will be. Ask them. You can’t micromanage everything!

    Just don’t use an unregistered waste carrier as they are infamous for taking your money and then dumping your waste around the corner or in your nearest beauty spot and the law does say that as it is your waste you can be prosecuted – not just them!

    Reduce… Reuse… Recycle and all the other Re-s inbetween them!

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