As an enthusiastic waste-minimiser trying to do her bit it’s a wonderful thing to feel that you’re supported by the council to cut your waste.
In most places I’ve lived effectively dealing with my food waste has been an impossibility. Composting, wormeries, and greedy pets to eat up leftovers are viable options for only settled people with space and gardens. While I may be transient for years to come, and can forget about the luxury of a garden in London, living in Hackney is fantastic from a waste-reducing perspective.
Hackney Council makes it really easy to recycle a broad range of things. You can imagine my delight when the food waste collection bin (see picture) appeared opposite my house. I collect my food scraps – peelings, food waste, mouldy stuff etc – in a non-recyclable soup container and when it’s full, empty it into the collection bin just across the road, which I am sad enough to reveal gives me a deep sense of satisfaction! I then bring the slimy soup container back, rinse it out, and start over again. If I’m not immediately intending to go back home I’ll put the food waste in some unrecyclable packaging e.g plastic food wrap, take it to the food waste bin, tip it out, and then put the unrecyclable packet in the normal bin.
But that’s not all Hackney help you to recycle. WEEE recycling bins have begun to arrive and are dotted around the place. There’s one a five minute walk from my house, which is even more delightful to use than the food waste bin. You can take your broken piece of electrical gadgetry there and sleep easy knowing that you have done your bit, and up to 97% of the electrical appliance will be recycled.
And if you haven’t done enough recycling yet for one day, you can rummage through your wardrobe and make a pile of unwanted clothes to take to the nearby curbside TRAID textile recycling bank. You can save your best things for your favourite charity shop and use trade for your scrappy or damaged things. As their policy is to recycle all textiles it’s the best place for things you’re not sure about. as if you give poor quality items to a charity shop or hospice they most likely won’t sell it, and it will cost them to dispose of your unwanted tat! (Believe me I have experienced firsthand how a lot of unsaleable tat is given to charity shops).
And at the end of a long day’s recycling and sorting you can take a walk around the borough and admire the cute cow recycling bins, which are smaller than conventional waste bins. Their added bonus being people react to their small size and use them just for overflow of recycling materials which helps prevent dumping.
Note: Hackney has been shortlisted for this year’s National Recycling Awards in the The Waste Minimisation Awards category
Is your local authority helping you to maximise your recycling? Have you any council to name and shame?
Have you ever asked yourself if you are green because you believe in environmental stuff, or if you just are because it is fashionable to be green?
While an enthusiastic first year undergraduate reading English at University of Kent I hadn’t fully grasped the notion of argument in critical theory; the very fact the texts I was reading had been published and canonised gave them an unquestionable authority. Being a keen student I dabbled in feminism, marxism, and structuralism – believing every word of it. Such texts were all written in a way that expressed argument as fact, and as an inexperienced reader I couldn’t tell the difference.
With time and distance I have been able to gain perspective on myself. Being an especially keen, it sounds silly to say, perhaps radical (!), student of English I established a fanzine to challenge the reigning insipidness of the student newspaper and the lack of creative writing confidence I perceived in my fellow students (how arrogant I was!). What I now see when I recollect those bookish days is a young person looking for their –ism. I didn’t find it then, but there could be a chance I found it later, unawares.
Let me first explain what I mean by an –ism. Most eras in the last century can be defined by their prevailing –ism both in culture in general and on university campuses. An –ism will be a dominant counterculture push for societal and cultural reform in a given epoch. So for example, feminism, marxism, and socialism are –isms in that have influenced society and how people live today. On university campuses these ideologies have greatly influenced the ways academics and students read and understand literature. At any given time one –ism, or in other words, one reading approach, will be in fashion.
So for example, my lecturer-friend who is an established figure in the School of English was once a card-carrying Marxist in his own student days in the 1970’s. By all accounts student campuses were much more radical in the 70’s than they were between 2005-9 when I was an undergrad; something I lamented at the time. The radicalised environment enabled students then to find their –ism, whereas the relatively sedate and prosperous years of my own university career, saw me flit about from cause to cause, looking for something I could believe in and define myself through.
While a student I was very much interested in environmental issues although they didn’t seem to have a bearing on my course. I pondered how cool it would be to read and criticise a text from an environmental perspective in the same way that my student forebears had read texts from a feminist, marxist, post-colonial perspective, according to their inclination, or favoured -ism. I even predicted that such a school of criticism might emerge in the future, though I wasn’t going to be a trailblazer; I was a lowly undergrad with essay obligations and a fanzine to edit.
You can then imagine how vindicated I was to learn of the ‘Emergent Critical Environments: Where Next for Ecology and Humanities’ conference which aims to explore ideas shaping the direction and response to contemporary and historical ecological issues. At last environmentalism has emerged as a fully-fledged –ism on university campuses.
Environmental themes and issues are already being explored in art and mainstream popular culture. You could have imagined even five years ago that the biggest grossing film of all time, Avatar, would essentially be about protecting nature over the forces of capitalism. In time mainstream environmental issues and concerns will be assimilated into policy and incorporated into more climate-friendly lifestyle choices on the domestic front.
Once this occurs there will be no more environmental-ism as there will be a new flavour of the month, and new social and political concerns. When that time comes I will no longer write posts about waste and climate issues because it will all be irrelevant, it won’t be fashionable to be green – it will be a way of life.
The fate of the Heygate Estate, Elephant and Castle, was sealed in 1997 when Blair gave a landmark speech at nearby Aylesbury Estate, offering his assurances that Labour would deliver renewed hope and prosperity to its supposedly miserable inhabitants, whose social and economic disadvantage had given them the misfortune to live on London’s archetypal sink Estate.
From the moment of his speech all the Elephant estates became locked together in the public consciousness as dangerous, even lawless. The die was cast: the Heygate was to be knocked down and the area redeveloped with a public plaza and tram system. Meanwhile, Southwark Council began rehousing the residents of the Heygate further out in the borough than the conveniently situated Elephant, and where possible, pursued an agenda of persuading residents to replace their secure council tenancies with less predictable housing association contracts, in developments with colourful facades.
My bus journey to school took me past the long flank of the Heygate where the imposingly brutalist architecture of grey concrete and angular walkways as it appears immediately after the Elephant roundabout etched forbiddance in my mind, and until recently I took pains to avoid it. After 25 years I ventured into the estate to be struck with an enormous sense of waste, and a dispelled sense of fear.
Only a few residents remain in the boarded up estate as they hold out for reasonable offers from Southwark Council for their properties. One resident I spoke with was offered just £160,000 for his 3-bedroom maisonette; surely no equivalent, centrally-located property can be purchased for this negligible sum?
The Heygate is made up of a series of blocks facing each other with large inner courtyards, gardens, and communal greens in a totally unexpected, urban location. The longer the council tarries with its demolition, the more time nature has to reclaim the overgrown, once tended gardens, now filled with weeds.
I spoke with a team of guerrilla gardeners who have squatted vegetable plots in abandoned gardens for as long as it takes for Southwark Council to enforce evictions from the estate and start to demolish Heygate Estate. One gardener, Jen Jen who has waited for 16 years for an allotment in the borough has a modest, well-tended plot from which she hopes to harvest potatoes.
Elsewhere there was a troupe of free-runners practicing on what must be one of the most extraordinary sites in the city. This strange, abandoned landscape has been reclaimed.
Struck by an enormous sense of waste, I looked up at hundreds of abandoned satellite dishes. A staggering amount of concrete will be pulled down to leave a big hole in the Elephant, until yuppie flats and Starbucks move in. To demolish 40-year old buildings that are structurally sound and house thousands of people is criminal for climate and offers no solution to the estate’s supposed social problems.
London Councils think the solution to social problems is to knock down, rebuild, and disperse council tenants. Yet without investment in these communities the problems are merely being shifted elsewhere. Investment and proper maintenance would have brought decency and respect to the Heygate . But then perhaps it was already there, only I didn’t take the trouble to venture past the façade.