When I lived in Sydney, my mind was hard-wired into a weekly cycle of recycling.
Sunday night was my allocated night – the night I would lug the recycling bins out into the street along with their monster-sized cousin, the wheelie bin.
My recycling was all carefully sorted, of course – blue for newspapers, black for bottles & cans, green for garden waste. A bit of a hassle, but you do your bit, don’t you?
Mind you, compared to what I have heard from some ‘Greener’ inner-west suburbs of Sydney, I think I had it lucky – apparently they once had to find room outside their space-challenged ‘workers cottages’ for 6 or 7 different bins.
(Incidentally, I sometimes wonder about the true environmental impact of mass-producing myriad plastic tubs, just so residents can separate out their free trade coffee grinds from their organic cardboard)
Anyhow, back to my own Sunday night ritual…Usually this would be an early evening affair, but on occasions I would wake in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, my mind racked with indecision – did I put the rubbish out?
And then, having checked outside and discovered that, yes I had indeed left it out…and just as I had settled back into a fitful sleep, the racket would begin.
A large council recycling truck would drive noisily down the middle of my street, whilst the ‘Garbos’ (to give them their official Aussie title) would shout loudly to each other about how drunk they got at the weekend, oblivious to just how far sound travels in the pre-dawn air.
Then, they would inevitably stop outside my house for their ‘sorting’ which seemed to involve throwing all of the bottles, one-by-one into the back of their truck so they smashed violently, before triggering some kind of crunching device that compacted the recycling in high decibel fashion.
Eventually, after a good deal of mechanical grinding, the driver would accelerate away up the street as fast as possible, so he could then brake abruptly some 20 metres down the road and repeat the whole process again. Still well within earshot, I might add.
By now, any hope of returning to sleep was long gone and my week would inevitably begin in a grumpy mood, generally at about 5 am.
Moving to a new town in a new land, I was understandably keen to understand my new recycling regime and as part of my journey of discovery, I have noticed a couple of significant differences.
Firstly, my bins are now only collected every 2 weeks (during daylight, I might add) and I have realised that I generate recycling at a quicker rate than that.
And secondly, I have discovered that the collection is policed a lot more militantly by my local council.
Paper, but definitely no cardboard…no milk tetra packs… bins must be outside your home before 8.30 am (or else you get a ‘naughty boy’ sticker…I know – I’ve had two already).
Indeed, most weeks, I would find some random item left behind in a bin after ‘collection’ because it doesn’t fit their stringent recycling rules.
Of course, this all means that there is a fair amount of household recycling that falls outside the system, but this is where we come to one of Lewes’s hidden treasures, The Tip.
The Tip is a location on the edge of town where residents can drive with a car full of rubbish and deposit it into one of their giant skips.
Needless to say, the skips are all coded by rubbish type with one for almost everything you could imagine – cardboard (obviously), large electrical items, wood, MDF, garden waste, building waste …if it can be recycled, there is a receptacle for it down at The Tip.
There is even a sort of Tip retail outlet where the enterprising Tip workers sell off items dumped by other people to raise a bit of extra cash (for a new skip? or maybe the Tip Christmas party?).
In the few months I have lived here, I have been ‘down The Tip’ many times and have become somewhat addicted to it – it is always a hive of activity at weekends where you may well bump into a neighbour or two for a quick chat about your rubbish.
Besides which, there is something quite cleansing about driving down there with a car packed full of detritus and returning home with it empty again.
Plus, of course there is the massive benefit of now being able to wake up gently on a Monday morning, without the sound of crunching metal outside my window.