If you want to cause a stink at our local recycling centre, don’t refer to it as the tip or the dump. It will get you into big trouble with the two new men in charge, Richard Hallett and Charles Glassbrook.
There’s a whole new team at the recycling centre, on the outskirts of Kingsbridge. Part of an overhaul of the way we handle our waste, they are committed to further educating all of us on the need to reuse and recycle rather than simply throwing things away. The days of dump and run are well and truly over and it’s working – Kingsbridge exceeds its recycling target of 68 per cent with an impressive 71 per cent, but Richard and Charles say they know they can do better.
Experienced recycler Richard, who worked at the recycling centre in Totnes for many years before taking over the reins at Kingsbridge, said we have to look hard at how we get rid of things for which we no longer have a use.
“I want people to think of the recycling centre as a last resort,” he said.
“It is far better to reuse than to recycle. There are charity shops, second hand stores, markets and websites where you can give away or sell things you no longer want or pass things on to friends who need them – ask around.
“Most things can now be recycled which is brilliant, but there is a process involved. Take the desk in my office, which was brought in by someone who no longer wanted it – if it were recycled it would be broken down and recycled as wood. It would have to be taken apart, the nails and handles taken off, put in a skip, the skip onto a lorry, then there is the fuel and fumes caused by transporting it. Far better for the environment to reuse it for the purpose for which it was intended – as a desk!”
There have been some changes to the way Devon County Council organises our recycling centres – separate from the collection service which is run by South Hams District Council. Gone are the rural skips, including the one in Dartmouth which closed at the end of March. The county council has also introduced charges for some waste – a controversial decision.
Charles explained: “The list includes hardcore and rubble, asbestos, plasterboard and tyres. It costs nearly a million pounds a year to dispose of these things properly in Devon, and if the person getting rid of this waste is not paying directly for that, the cost is passed on to all of us as council tax payers. It has never been appropriate to dump this sort of waste at recycling centres, although we were allowed to take small amounts. That has not changed. The charges are in place because again this centre should be a last resort – if you are ripping out an entire kitchen or demolishing a garage you should hire a skip or pay for the waste to be removed, not bring it here. But some people do, and without the charges we all end up paying for the few, through our council tax.”
As part of manager Richard’s new regime, as many cars as possible are met by a member of the team as they arrive at the recycling centre. Charles is often at the gate. He said: “We are trying to re-educate and encourage people to sort their waste properly.
“I met a lady the other day who was about to drop off tied up bin bags, and I asked her what was in them. She told me it was just rubbish, so I said let’s have a look. We went through it and separated it out. Just a couple of bits were actual rubbish – nearly all of it could be recycled. Everyone needs to take a little more time to sort through what they don’t want – there isn’t much these days that can’t be recycled.”
The recycling centre is very well organised into sections, and the team are on hand to direct everyone to the right area. From cooking oil to garden waste, clothes to car batteries, bottles to cardboard boxes, Tor Quarry can take it all.
But not everyone just turns up with their sack of bottles for the bottle bank, and Richard said: “We get some very unusual items in here. You would not believe what some people throw away.”
Charles agreed: “A lot of people get rid of things that are in near perfect condition because they have bought a newer model – entire three piece suites, televisions, dinner services and crystal glasses. We had a chest of drawers in here the other day which was almost brand new and would have cost £400 in the shops. We sold it for £20 – there was nothing wrong with it.”
He went on: “We get a lot of games consoles. Parents buy the latest X Box or Play Station and they bring the old one in here because it is out of date – but it still works perfectly. We are not allowed to sell or pass on electrical items, so unfortunately they get taken away with all the other electrical goods and broken down for their component parts – and there was nothing wrong with them. Surely it is better to pass on such items to other children, not just bring them here.
“It’s a similar story with bicycles – brought in here and dumped because they have nothing more than a flat tyre. It’s unbelievable really.”
The plus side is that the recycling centre is a great place to pick up a bargain, and Richard said people were beginning to make it a regular port of call – a great way to find useful things are very low prices. A warehouse is a display centre for salvaged items.
“The generation coming through now has grown up with recycling. They don’t even throw away their chewing gum without stopping to think about it. It has taken a while but we have a whole generation of young people who instinctively recycle and we have to work on a similar message for reusing.
“We waste so much in our society and we are running out of holes in the ground where we can bury our rubbish. It’s no good putting plastic in the ground and expecting it to disappear – it won’t happen. We need to think harder about reducing packaging, reducing waste and making use of things rather than throwing them away. Recycle and reuse – it has to be the way of the future.”
First published May 2011 By the Dart