Natalie Haynes: Don't throw away the chance to discover your inner Womble

The thing is...

Share
Related Topics

The thing is that maybe the Green movement has been focusing on the wrong thing. For decades, it has tried to persuade us to recycle more for the good of the planet. It has endeavoured to appeal to our better natures, the part of us that realises that it may cost us half a second each morning to unplug our phone chargers, or recycle our newspapers but, heck, it's worth it because we don't actually need to leave stuff plugged in the whole time. And, anyway, what can we do with that half a second each day? Compose one syllable of a haiku?

The movement's relied on the fact that we will accept that if we take our bottles to the recycling bins, we'll almost certainly save a whale or nurture a panda – we'll feed the poor, or at least leave an inhabitable planet for our children. And if we don't have children, then we'll surely do our bit for the least-annoying children of our friends.

But, as anyone could have told them, appealing to the huggy side of our nature is a risky business. Landfill sites are spilling over with recyclable junk that we could have taken to the charity shop or the recycling bins had we just cared half as much about that poor whale or sad panda as we do about our own inconvenience.

The sorry truth is that many of us are not intrinsically Womble-ish. We don't make good use of the things that we find, and nor do we care very much if other people do. What we are, however, is intrinsically Steptoe-ish.

If someone is prepared to offer us hard cash, or even supermarket loyalty points, in exchange for our unwanted crap, that trip to the recycling bank suddenly looks like a bargain, not a chore.

Raw materials are increasing in price all the time, as you already know if you check your grocery bills. And the materials used in electronic goods are in greater demand every year, as more of us want more and fancier gadgets.

Yet one in three adults whacks an unwanted phone, satnav, MP3 player, games console or digital camera into the bin each year. And these turn out to be worth a whopping average of £43.54 each at a recycling centre. As a country, we're tanking 17 million devices worth £762m each year. That is some serious money.

So instead of focusing on our inner-hair-shirt wearer, perhaps environmentalists would do better if they concentrated their efforts on our inner pauper. The very existence of eBay proves that we like to make money out of stuff we no longer want. And since that is, coincidentally, the greenest thing to do, surely everyone can win here.

www.nataliehaynes.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
One 200ml bottle of codeine linctus contains three times the equivalent level of morphine you'd get in casualty if you broke your wrist  

The ‘war on drugs’ consistently ignores its greatest enemy: over-the-counter painkillers

Janet Street-Porter
The author contemplating what could have been  

I was a timid, kind, gentle-natured child, later to be spurned and humiliated – in short, the perfect terrorist-in-waiting

Howard Jacobson
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable