Recycling WEEE without a car

Filed in Blog by on September 25, 2010 13 Comments
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Mrs Green and her broken kettle for WEEE

Mrs Green and her broken kettle for WEEE

It’s the final day of my ‘zero waste with little emissions‘ challenge. So far this week, without the use of a car, kerbside collection or home composting I have successfully recycled some cardboard, rubble, a bag of broken wood and some garden waste.

Today Antonio wants me to recycle a small WEEE item and I have just the thing. Last week our kettle finally gave up working. Mr Green has taken it apart, but alas it is beyond repair.

WEEE Collection

On the way to Little Miss Green’s kickboxing lesson is a small WEEE collection point. It’s not a household recycling centre, so you are free to go there on foot. There is a bus that goes around the industrial estate that I could use, so I can definitely manage this. A kettle is small enough and light weight enough to carry (unlike the bag of rubble of 3 bags of garden waste I was challenged with earlier in the week) so I’m confident I could manage this challenge.


Before I took my kettle, however, I would have to let Mr Green have a rummage around its under parts. Mr Green is a great DIYer and needs a certain amount of materials for his eternal projects. The first thing he would do is cut the cord and plug off. If the item has a number of screws, he might even remove them as they are often stainless steel which are expensive to buy and can be reused several times. He might remove other electric and electronic items as well, but he does realise that his background in electro – mechanical engineering gives him the salvage and reuse advantages many others might not have.

Recycling at home

As well as concentrating on responsibly disposing of my electric kettle, I’ve been reflecting on the entire week. What seems clear to me is that most of us fail to use one of our most precious resources:

Our community.


I’m fortunate to live in a village. It’s not a Utopia of cricket on the village green and gossip at the local shop a la Darling Buds of May, but it IS supportive in many aspects. My neighbours are absolutely wonderful and I know for instance that if, for some reason, I couldn’t get rid of my own green waste, they would stick it on their compost heap, take it to the allotment for me or sling it in their own green waste collection bin.

Family and friends

If I had a bag of broken wood or a bag of rubble I could call on my neighbour or my Dad (Hi Dad!) to drop it off for me next time they were going to the household recycling centre.

With cardboard, one of my neighbours would happily shred it on their compost heap for me and for the WEEE item I could ask one of LMG’s friend’s mothers, who sometimes takes the kids to kickboxing, to drop it off on her way.

Isolation or independence?

I think isolation is a worrying sign of our times. We are encouraged to be independent and get on with our own lives. In some towns you might live next door to someone for 10 years and never know their name. One of my personal, I won’t say ‘fears’ but certainly something that gets to me, is the idea of being on my own as an elderly person, dying at home and nobody finding me for a couple of weeks…

Pool resources

I often wonder how many people from my village are all driving to the recycling centre on any given day. Wouldn’t it be better to pool resources and help each other out? This would rebuild a sense of community, would make recycling easier for everybody and reduce the burden of emissions on the environment. For people who can’t join in because they don’t drive, we shouldn’t let that stop us – we should just reach out the hand of friendship and do it any way. Random Acts of Kindness are good for the soul!

One man’s rubbish

In addition, there is no truer a phrase than ‘one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure’. If I had a bag of textiles I wouldn’t be able to wait to cart them off to a textiles bank. However that bag of textiles would be a gold mine to a seamstress or artist. Where I see rubbish, they see a resource. It’s the same with the cardboard I had to dispose of as part of the week’s challenge. Little Miss Green would LOVE to have a box of assorted cardboard to play with. Before long there would be farms, a dolls house, rabbit bedding and a thousand paper dolls added to her collection.

Gifts and treasures

WEEE items and broken wood are like gifts to Mr Green – he would salvage what he could and make them into something new and functional.

I’m the same with food! Show me a plate of leftovers and my creative juices and manifesting tomorrow’s meals.

Exchanging goods

This is where a community exchange could be so valuable. Freecycle is a wonderful organisation, but it’s not quite local enough for my liking. Imagine if you knew the sorts of things your neighbours valued and were able to offer them your offcasts, knowing they would be appreciated. Nadine spoke of a city wide yard sale – what a fantastic idea to get to know people and share the buzz.

Car free

I’ve also learned how much more difficult it is for people without transport and good kerbside recycling facilities to recycle well – and this was Antonio’s aim. I’m pleased with what I’ve achieved, with how I’ve figured things out creatively, but I’ve seen how much green waste we generate here and how much cardboard we recycle and I have to be honest and say that without the car and kerbside collections, things would be much harder for us.

Casting the net

So to sum up, I’d like to thank Antonio for his challenge; it’s been a great insight for me and it’s also got me thinking about working with my immediate community more. On interviews I’m often asked what my neighbours think of us and I have to be honest and say I don’t really talk about it. Perhaps I should. And the next time I’m passing a recycling centre and take a box of tetra pak cartons with me, perhaps I’ll knock on my neighbour’s door and see if I can take theirs for them as well.

Marks out of 10 for my WEEE recycling efforts?


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 (13)

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  1. Julie Day says:

    I’d say 7 and 8 for Mr Green who reuses some of the components. Just like my brother. He took some things out of my old base unit and took them home to his house to use in a pc he’s buliding himself.

  2. Antonio Pachowko says:

    From the bottom of my heart I like to thank you for taking my challenge and have hope that you now understand the everyday challenges non-car drivers have to face and probably why we tend to produce more landfill than car drivers. I agree with using your community and neighbours more but the problem is where to find information on such organisations. The problem with neighbours is that you will start to feel that you are imposing all the time and tension can start.

    WEEE Collection points is very hit and miss in that in some council they have and in others not at all. For example some councils actually collect small WEEE items from the kerbside, whilst others have points in bring sites where you can deposite them, whilst others have nothing but HWRCs (I fall in latter ). By chance I was recently surfing the web and looking at Currys’ website from this I found out that Currys take back WEEE items and that you can take it to any store in the UK. The nearest one to me is about 2.5 miles away and 2 weeks ago I manage to recycle an old printer that we had for a couple of years. Website is

    You probably agree that the average Joe will not have the knoeledge of electronics to know what is good and what is bad. How does Mr G know what is good? Does he use a multimeter testing each component one by one. This would be enough to drive anybody insane and I admit electronics is very tedious (and breathing in all the soldering fume is not very healthy). The problem with electrical items nowadays is that it is cheaper to buy a new item than to get one fix and unless this is addressed i feel the problem of WEEE items will get worse.For example my brother broke his winding up mechanism of his watch. he got aquote from a watch repair and it said it would cost £36.5. at that price you can easily afford a new watch with a spindle, where is the logic in that.

    Once again thank you for all your effort it was very much appreciative btw was Mr G any help or was he a hinderance.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I wondered if you could do a letter box drop (on recycled paper of course) and share some of these thoughts about community sharing with your neighbours, invite to a tea and biscuits session and see who wants to be involved.
    We do sharehoods over here in Melbourne. I dont know how popular they are but at least they are on the radar. There must be something similar in the UK ? I thought they must have started from over there ?

    The Sharehood is all about sharing resources within your neighbourhood and helps you to meet and make friends with people in your local area. All sorts of things can be shared, such as sewing machines, vegetables, wheelbarrows, tools, cars, books and computers. Skills can be shared too: gardening help, bike fixing, accountancy, language skills, childminding, how to make wine or dance the tango. The Sharehood holds regular talks at different locations.

  4. Jane says: Have you seen this? It’s new.

  5. Have just caught up with your adventures.What an interesting week you’ve had and think you deserve 10\10 for effort all round . The community aspect was one thing I was going to mention, especially with reference to LETS groups where some people actually sign up to help others with their recycling. Sharehood looks good and I love Jane’s link to Streetbank in the UK. That looks brilliant and I’ve already signed up. The idea is very much like the Justfortheloveofit site but seems simpler. Will try and get it kicked off in my neck of the woods. x

  6. Shirlann says:

    I give you 10/10 .
    I really do not know how you found the time to
    and the energy to do it. SO REALLY WELL DONE.

  7. Mrs Green says:

    @Julie Day: Great reuse by your brother, julie – sounds like he and Mr G would get on well together!
    @Antonio Pachowko: Thanks Antonio, it was a great challenge and I learned a lot – which was your intention. The biggest learning for me personally, is about community and neighbours; and this has given me a lot of food for thought for the future. Great news on your printer recycling at Currys. Regarding Mr G knowing what is good and not, as I said, he is a electric / mechanical engineers, so knows how to test these things with simple and cheap tools, available to anyone. Mr g was right on board with the challenge! He’s very good at supporting the whole zero waste vision 🙂
    @Stephanie: Thanks for telling us about sharehood and I love your idea of a letter drop 🙂
    @Jane: I had not seen it Jane – looks fab; thanks!
    @[email protected]: Great suggestions for some brilliant campaigns – thanks Mrs A
    @Shirlann: Hi Shirlann, good to see you. Thanks so much for your magnificent score! 😀

  8. Jane says:

    Walked into our HWRC this afternoon with an old defunct iron, a toaster that went bang and several dead low energy bulbs. A collection that had been sitting waiting for us to pick it up and drop it off. Pedestrians aren’t banned. It must be your Council or their Contractor’s rules and regulations. Interesting that a Minister this week has complained about too much pandering to/or hiding behind Health & Safety. You should call for your Council to make arrangements for pedestrians to safely use your Recycling Centre and stop discriminating against them.

  9. Antonio Pachowko says:

    Jane I am going through the council complaint procedure at the moment and should hear on Friday after waiting six weeks for a reply, which has been delayed once. If this fails I will take the complaint to the local government omsbudman. I don’t understand it myself as you see Sita men walking in and out all the time with no trouble. Why can’t they have a phone ahead service where a person at the site you choose can wait for you to deliver the waste. it is a puzzle? And no nearly all council in England do this.
    Think about about! if you work for the council and You are responsible for HWRCs where trucks and car come and go all the time, would you risk you council finances and responsibilities in CASE a pedestrian get knocked down and killed (remember alot of pedestrians have bben killed at waste sotes in the Uk. In fact the record is appaling)? In most case the answer is no. The record speaks for themselves.

  10. Karen says:

    West Devon Borough Council are in the process of supplying every household with 2 food waste boxes. One for the kitchen and a lockable one for out side . This is to be a weekly pick up. We are given 2 boxes for glass bottles and jars, paper. card, food tins and drinks cans,aerosols, plastic bottles, batteries,textiles,mobile phones and spectacles. These boxes are picked up weekly .We are also give strong white re-useable sacks for garden waste and cardboard. The garden bags are picked up 2 weekly. Anything else goes in a 2 weekly black sack. The council will also collect large items by arrangement from our house.
    I think that pretty much all of our needs are catered for now. I guess it will take a few weeks to work out what goes where.

  11. Jane says:

    @Antonio Pachowko: Some companies are far more bureaucratic than others. Some don’t even promise a service in their contract! Since cars don’t empty themselves there are always going to be people around.

  12. Jane says:

    @Karen: Do you have to pay extra for a bulky waste collection?

  13. Karen says:

    @Jane: Jane , I haven’t in the past but that was a while ago. i have a feeling that there is a certain amount free then a charge. Will have to check it out.

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