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Saturday, 19 December 2009


In London we had to keep all our rubbish for up to a week before it could be put out for collection, and separated food waste, plastic, cardboard/paper/tin cans/glass, and garden waste, into different receptacles. Anything that didn't fit into those categories went in a general black plastic bag.

As we lacked a garage, all the rubbish bags, boxes and bins would sit outside the back door in all weathers, so it was usually wet through by the time we were ready to carry it dripping through the house to the front door. The rubbish was collected once a week on a Tuesday sometiem between 6am and 5pm, but by three different crews at three different times, so we had to put it all out either last thing Monday night, or first thing Tuesday morning.

We would frequently come home to find something left behind, and always, but always, mess strewn across the road due to bursting bags and lazy dustmen. There might be a road sweeper round later in the week, but not reliably, so usually I would pick up the largest pieces of litter and put them back in our bins for the next week.

In our apartment complex in Eugene, we have the benefit of dumpsters located in each of the parking lots, so although we've generated a huge amount of trash recently, mostly cardboard boxes from new purchases, we don't have a huge pile waiting to be collected stacked outside the door. We keep a small plastic shopping bag for putting small items in as they are generated, and tie this shut and put it in the dumpsters as necessary. Cardboard and plastics are recycled, and they go in a separate dumpster.

My favorite thing by far, however, is recycling drinks cans and bottles. In Oregon, and many other states, cans and bottles carry a 5c deposit, so when you have finished your drink you wash out the receptacle, store it in a plastic bag, and when you have enough you take them to a recycling centre. These are located at most big stores, so there's no need to go hunting for one, and you don't need to take the cans back to the particular store you bought them at.

You feed the cans and bottles into recycling machines one at a time, and when you're done you get a receipt totalling 5c each item, to use against purchases in that store. There are washbasins and paper towels provided so you don't have to go away with sticky hands. This is the sort of convenience that the US is great at providing, and the UK doesn't seem to see the need for.

It also guarantees that there is almost no litter on the streets, as throwing away a drinks can is throwing away money.

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