Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Like a glittering prize

Why isn’t recycling a competitive sport? Yes, I know we shouldn’t need external reward; we are supposed to be motivated solely by a warm self-righteous feeling. That used to work for me; I’d ostentatiously recycle the Guardian, secure in the belief that I was offsetting the hundreds of long-haul flights taken by politicians attending environment conferences in interesting places.
I’m so over that now. The thrill of putting out plastic Matey bubble-bath bottles for its own sake has dulled. Prizes would help reinvigorate the whole process, and create an upswing in the amount and quality of everyone’s recycling, and help save this whole goddamn planet of ours. I’d certainly not have chucked that hard-to-clean Nutella jar in the dustbin if there’d been points at stake.

I suspect that my idea will eventually lead to a major award, presented by David Attenborough. But I’m just going to focus for now on the recycling competition categories I think I’d do well in. Let’s start with those Matey bottles, the ones in the form of a sailor, pirate, or mermaid. Or the rarer parrot. Our house is the world’s archive for those bottles. I have probably singlehandedly made a whole fleet of politicians’ aeroplanes, if planes are made from recycled plastic, how would I know, out of Matey bottles. Yet I just looked in the bathroom and we still have fourteen. I will put them out this week.

I am also a dab hand at getting shot of important papers that look like rubbish. Was it Tolstoy whose maid used his manuscript for kindling? Or Samuel Johnson? I get those long-hand pen guys a bit muddled. But anyway, I am in that maid’s league. Members of my family are always saying, “Has anyone seen that phone bill/homework/decree nisi that I left on the table?” Then they have the cheek to complain as I quietly retrieve said document from the paper box. Only a few times has it been actively too late, the little Trumpton recycling truck being too far away to run after.

The big trophy, of course, will come for my natural talents in the cardboard category. “There’s no more room,” less serious competitors might say, on seeing a bag overflowing with cereal packets. They might even consider a supplementary bag – usually a plastic one from Waitrose, but sometimes a paper bag, as if that makes it better. They have already lost. Stand back, I will say. Let an expert through. One time, we missed a recycling collection, and nonetheless the following week I still managed to cram all the cardboard into the one bag. I squeezed toilet roll tubes into places the bag didn’t even know it had places. When I held the bag upside down and banged its bottom, nothing budged. I reckon that effort alone will make up for any UK politicians who are jetting off to the forthcoming climate change summit in New York.

Beth Miller. Published in Viva Lewes July 2014, and in Illustration by Michael Munday.

No comments:

Post a Comment