by Erica Rose
Well, here are three happy faces! That’s because they’ve just helped save these six wheelie bin loads of recyclables from ending up in landfill after Ryedale Show. June Emerson, Steve Skelton and Chris Helliwell (pictured) joined me along with Helmsley residents Anne Stewart and Jean Marsden, making six of us in all taking part in our Resource Rescue Mission yesterday.
We were very pleased with how much we achieved in just a couple of hours, but it has to be said that our valiant crew, though naturally of very high calibre quality-wise, was extremely small. And even though we did ourselves proud with this haul, we guessed that twelve of us could have rescued twice as much – and even then there would have been plenty left over.
I was a bit disappointed, I have to say, that a big article in the Gazette & Herald, four blogposts on the Kirkby and Helmsley Town Blogs, a number of emails to various groups plus several tweets, had not resulted in a bigger turnout, and I wondered: why is that?
Lots of reasons, for sure, but I suspect that the above-mentioned newspaper article might hold a clue to one of them. Not because it described me, wrongly, as a member of Kirkbymoorside Environment Group (a group who do sterling work, I hasten to add, but which I have not been a member of for 2 or 3 years now) – no, it was the headline:
“Environmental campaigner? Who, me?”
That was my first response. Reader, I am not an “environmental campaigner“ – (do I look like Swampy?) – I’m just a conscientious person who hates to see waste.
At the moment, the way that recycling is often (not) managed at large outdoor events, like shows, results in a HUGE waste of resources going to landfill, and my five co-workers and I are not happy with that. Much more importantly, though, we’re not only not happy with it, we’re willing to do something to address it.
The point I’m trying to make is that calling people like us “environmental campaigners” puts a label on what we are doing: it implies that it’s something marginal, something a bit weird and cranky with no relevance to ordinary people. “Oh, look – the environmental campaigners have got the recycling angle covered,” it suggests; and if the beardy-weirdy, bicycle-clip-wearing, whale-saving tree-huggers are already on the case, why would Joe Public and Mrs Normal volunteer?
It’s not that I don’t think that environmental campaigners are doing a good job, you understand – personally I think that they very often are, and what’s more I’d like to take this opportunity to thank any that may be reading for all their hard work on behalf of us all – it’s just that, on this occasion, environmental campaigners is not what we are. Active citizens is what we are, and I have to tell you: there are not enough of us. Not enough, at any rate, to solve a problem of this magnitude by inviting each other to come and help sort through dumpy-bags of other people’s rubbish.
So how could recycling be managed better at large outdoor events such as shows? Well, here are a few ideas to start the ball rolling:
• Give prominent space in all show publicity (website, newspapers, social media) to flag up that there is a new Active Waste Management initiative happening next year
• Ensure that all stallholders are made aware of what recycling facilities are provided, and the fact that stallholders are expected to use them to dispose of their waste responsibly.
• Issue all stallholders with a form when they book, asking them to identify what recyclable materials, and how much, they will need to dispose of at the show, for example cardboard (there was loads dumped), glass bottles, plastic bottles (coffee stalls left dozens of milk bottles), cans and food waste.
• Supply stallholders with their own bins if they are going to produce a lot of recyclable waste. For example, catering stands with tables can have their own bins for bottles, cans and food waste, which their staff (and customers) can use when they clear the tables.
• Provide groups of brightly-coloured bins in clearly marked-off areas identified with banners (same colour as bins) on all four sides saying “RECYCLING POINT” at various places on the show ground. Each individual recycling bin to have very prominent signage: “NO RUBBISH IN THIS BIN – GLASS ONLY”, “NO RUBBISH IN THIS BIN – CANS AND PLASTIC BOTTLES ONLY”.
• Keep the usual dumpy-bags for rubbish nearby but put very prominent signage (of a different colour) on all four sides of them too, saying “LANDFILL RUBBISH ONLY – NO RECYCLABLES IN HERE”
Would it work? Well, it would be interesting to try it and see, wouldn’t it? Or maybe there are better ideas that have worked elsewhere – if anyone has any examples, I’d be very interested to find out about them.
One thing’s for sure: this is not a problem that is going to be solved by campaigning; it is only going to be solved by doing.