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