On the eve of the greatest day of the week, Bin Day, I can often be seen climbing on to my front garden wall then carefully stepping into my recycling bin.
I push down as hard as I can with my feet; letting go of the wall once I’ve managed to push my cardboard, dog food cans and other recycling down far enough to be able to balance, unaided.
The temptation to crouch down, pull the lid down and live out my days in there – like a homeschool-avoiding Oscar The Grouch – must sadly be relinquished.
I have so much to stuff into the Tardis I have made of this bin. Like most people in London nowadays, I have my recycling taken away on alternate weeks – and each fortnight.
This purge of the junk my life spews forth in the form of plastic, paper and metal is a rebirth, a new chance, a pledge that, “next week, I will not be standing in my bin!” That never happens though.
I have more recycling than all of my neighbours each week – and I have no idea why. I only have two dogs, two cats, two children and an online shopping habit!
Sometimes I ask my neighbours if they have any room in their bin. Somebody always has, and I make the ever-so-slightly awkward journey with my rubbish, to put it in someone else’s street.
I wonder about these neighbours, who have room left each fortnight in their bin – both the black bin and the recycling. Do they batch-cook? Eat plastic? How do they do it?
The lady directly next door to me is exempt from having a wheelie bin. She is a woman in her 70s, who lives with her son; and every week they have a small green box of newspapers and a few tins and bottles. It sits neatly next to my groaning, over-spilling giant wheelie bin of recycling, shaming my consumption.
I don’t do online food shopping from supermarkets, because firstly, I never remember my password and keep locking myself out of my account – but also because the packaging that all the fruit and veg and what-not comes in, puts me in grave danger of filling my recycling bin to the brim, long before it’s due to be picked up.
I go to one of those massive 24-hour Middle Eastern shops to buy a lot of my food, especially fruit and veg. We are lucky enough to have those shops in most parts of London.
All the fruit and veg is heaped in racks outside, and you take what you need in little paper bags and have it weighed. None of this, “bunch of grapes in a massive plastic coffin” business you get in the chain supermarkets.
I don’t like waste. Long before I knew what our waste was doing to the planet, I found packaging baffling and unnecessary.
Bananas and many other fruit and veg are ready-packaged by nature. Why stuff them in a plastic bag? I’ve seen apples individually packed in hard plastic prisons, which is nothing more than a hate crime against the simple purity of this humble fruit.
A few years ago, I heard that a group of people in my local area were taking part in direct action towards packaging, and taking it all off in the supermarket; putting their fruit and veg into bags and leaving the rubbish there.
The point was to force supermarkets to decrease their packaging. I made the mistake of doing this myself on a shopping trip, then tweeting about it.
“YOU ARE MAKING MORE WORK FOR LOWLY MINIMUM WAGE EMPLOYEES, YOU EVIL CRETIN”, came an avalanche of replies from the ever-fair and nuanced app.
I didn’t bother explaining that, as it turned out, I’m a bit of a coward at direct action, and took the empty packaging away with me to put it in the bin outside – awkwardly smiling at the woman on the till, as I clumsily gathered it all up and scuttled out. I am no Peter Tatchell.
Anyone who has been raised by parents who have known poverty will tell you that wasting food when you were a kid was absolutely forbidden. I still cannot bear food being wasted.
The only bin of mine that is rarely full is my little green food bin. It’s even emptier now that my neighbour from across the road got an allotment, and started a WhatsApp group for compost collection.
It’s been the collective effort on our street to collect compost fodder for her – and I have become an expert. No peelings from onions or citric fruit, no rice (attracts rats) and no meat (what is WRONG with you?)
I feel relief when I know our food, foil, cardboard and glass is being used again – and I’ll be honest, my fortnightly jump into my bin to stomp around is a great lockdown stress reliever.
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