I went to the library and got out a kids’ picture book about recycling. It’s the dullest, worthiest thing I’ve ever read. It’s not true either. On the last page, without any supporting evidence, it tells kids recycling is “fun”. No it’s not. It’s important and a good thing to do, but it’s a pain in the arse. So what would I include in a book that tells kids the truth about recycling…?
Throw the genuine rubbish into one nice easy pile and then spend your evening splitting your recycling up into mindnumbingly endless categories:
The Black Box
Paper goes in here. No, not loo paper and nothing brown – that’s classed as cardboard and goes somewhere else. Envelopes are generally fine but it’s a national secret as to whether you can leave the little plastic windows in or not.
Glass bottles also go here. Spend ages cleaning them out first though. Yes, even the sticky peanut butter one that’s a stupid shape and you can’t get your hand into. And don’t forget to tip in all your used spectacles and engine oil too! You’re bound to have loads of that.
The Green Box
Now find the green box. It’s identical to the black one and collected by exactly the same people but mysteriously treated differently. Here goes all your plastic. Well, bottles and yoghurt pots. Although the yoghurt pots get shipped abroad which seems slightly self-defeating. And not black plastic, mind. Even when they put the little recycling symbol on it, it’s no good. No, I don’t understand it either. Orange juice cartons? Well that depends where you live.
This is also where cardboard goes, although mostly it’s too big to fit in the box so you have to faff about stamping on it to flatten. Then you put it by the side of the green (not black) box and hope it doesn’t blow away. Or become a soggy mulch in the rain overnight. Empty baked bean tins go in here as well but you’ll need to lacerate your hand cleaning them first. Scrunch them up otherwise hedgehogs and kittens will get stuck in them and it will be your fault they die.
The Brown Bin
Food waste is different again. You’re already storing it in a small brown bin in your kitchen. That’s the one that smells like great grandma and you’re afraid to touch because it’s covered in bin juice. Take every dripping thing out and tip it into the bigger brown bin outside that’s growing something furry and moist in it. This will generate new life forms when humans die out. You can put any food, even sprouts, in here although obviously if you’ve got a compost bin you’ll also be separating out cooked and uncooked. And meat and veg. And citrus fruits.
Everything in the brown bin gets composted to help plants grow. So this is also where you put dead plants from your garden, right? Wrong, you idiot. Not even vegetable plants. Even though it all goes to the same place. Don’t do it or your food waste won’t get collected and will instead fester outside your window during the only sunny week of the year.
The Garden Sack
For garden waste you need to walk to a shop, probably not a very convenient one, to buy a big brown paper bag. You can fill this with plants and, helpfully, as much excess sawdust as you can gather. Put it outside along with everything else. Don’t imagine it will just get collected when the lorry drives by! Instead, plan your recycling and complete a well-hidden online form at least 48 hours in advance. Cross your fingers! Sometimes the form doesn’t work properly and the paper bag is left out in the rain for over a week. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO MOVE THE BAG. The wet, putrid bottom will disintegrate, spilling rotting plant bits everywhere. You will need to buy a new paper bag and transfer the whole stinking mess yourself.
Is that everything? Pretty much. As you’re not supposed to dump stuff in the woods, most other things involve a trip to “The Tip”, where there is a permanent queue of 1,000 cars snaking down the road. Leave yourself a good nine hours for this and pack emergency rations. It’s a crime punishable by death to walk into a tip, even if you don’t own a car, so don’t even think about it.
All clear? Any questions? Good. Now remember, have fun recycling kids!
RESEARCH QUESTION: What else should we tell kids the truth about?