What is it going to take to cure our wasteful society?

June 24th, 2012 by Richard Lord

The St Peter Port Constables ask that St Peter Port residents place their household waste for collection in the appropriate location after dark on the evening before the morning of collection.

Bags of good quality clothes put out for household waste collection at the top of Hauteville, St Peter Port on Thursday 21 June, when States Works collection wasn't until the early hours of Saturday, 23 June (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

St Peter Port parish distributes a notice to all households, which states “only one bag of refuse is anticipated from each domestic household within the Parish for twice weekly collections”.

By 11 am on 22 June several more bags of household waste had been added to the pile, which wasn't to be collected by States Works until the morning of 23 June (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Guernsey’s one remaining landfill, Mont Cuet, is filling up fast. The vast hole in the ground that was a quarry no longer exists. Guernsey’s rubbish has filled it up. When the landfill reaches a height of 35 metres it will be closed and then disposing of Guernsey’s solid waste will become more expensive.

The number of household rubbish bags grows to form a wall at 8 pm on 22 June 2012. Most of the contents of these bags are currently recyclable in Guernsey (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

This is an important reason why Guernsey’s population should produce as little solid waste as possible to maximise the length of time the Mont Cuet landfill can remain operational.

To incentivise recycling, the States of Guernsey Public Services Department set an expensive landfill tipping fee for household waste, which currently stands at about £144 per tonne and has been rising every year. Every tonne of waste sent to the landfill costs Parishes and ultimately the parochial rate payer.

However the parochial refuse rate to pay for this mounting cost, is not based on the amount of waste each household generates but on the value of one’s property. So someone producing very little household waste, because they recycle, may be paying a refuse rate of hundreds of pounds per year, while someone who generates a mountain of waste, may pay very little.

Some members of Guernsey’s community make no effort to recycle or minimise the waste they produce while others have the determination to recycle as much as possible even if a lack of mobility makes it difficult for them.

What is particularly galling about the household waste put out for collection by Hauteville on the 21 and 22 June, is that from feeling the bags and seeing the contents from the openings, the bags didn’t contain typical household waste at all.

Many bags were filled with clothes, handbags, shoes and pillows; and some were filled with pots and pans, baking dishes, skillets and dinner plates. This added a tremendous weight to the typical amount of household waste put out for collection.

It was decided to bring as many bags of clothes as possible to the Salerie Corner Salvation Army bring bank.

The Salvation Army makes money from the clothing it receives and uses the money to look after homeless people. The Salvation Army accepts all clean clothes. If the clothes are damaged they can still be put to use.

As long as it is clean, the fabric of damaged clothes can be shredded, and used as packing and insulation material in many applications.

Salvation Army bring banks located around Guernsey that accept clothing, shoes, books, DVDs, CDs, videos and video games. Some of the Salvation Army bring banks aid Les Bourgs Hospice (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Some household waste bags on Hauteville contained heavy items that are expensive to deposit at the Mont Cuet landfill.

One bag contained the remains of dinner and plates and pans weighing about 10 kgs (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

The perfectly-good dinner plates could have been washed and given to a charity shop, and the metal pots, pans and trays could have been washed and taken to Guernsey Recycling Ltd for the benefit of Les Bourgs Hospice or to the newly refurbished Longue Hougue recycling facility and scavenging yard (after 25 June 2012).

Some of the clothes taken to the Salvation Army bring bank were in perfect condition.

A good quality heavy duty overcoat in the household waste on Hauteville, which would have ended up decomposing in the Mont Cuet landfill (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

A small suitcase that had been used few times was also in the household waste destined for the Mont Cuet landfill.

This barely used suitcase was destined for Mont Cuet but was diverted to the Salvation Army bring bank at Salerie Corner (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Four or five bags of good quality clothes were diverted to the Salvation Army bring bank although many bags of clothes were still left on Hauteville that could have been recycled.

The person who placed the bags of clothes on the street didn’t realise that he shouldn’t have throw out his wardrobe into the household waste stream.

The household waste collection service is not designed for accepting wholesale clearances of personal possessions.

High quality clothes from one of the many bags put out for collection on Hauteville that would have ended up rotting in the Mont Cuet landfill if the clothes hadn't been diverted to the Salvation Army bring bank (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Guernsey offers many ways of recycling items of value. Reuse and recycling does take a little effort. The person who threw out many bags of good quality clothes has a car and could easily have recycled them for the benefit of charity, and for the benefit of the Parish that wouldn’t have to pay the cost of having them delivered to landfill.

If our community works together we will be able to minimise the amount of solid waste thrown out. This will reduce our parochial refuse rates, and our costs in the long run. Most items in our household waste stream can be recycled.

Minimising waste, reusing materials that have value, and recycling materials for our manufacturing industries to use, can become habit forming, can make us feel good, and can give us a stronger sense of belonging to our community.


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