"He He - That Dustbin Has A Moustache... That One A Surf Board... That One A Rubber Duck!" - Recycling and Motorhome Touring

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Tuesday 12 January 2016

"He He - That Dustbin Has A Moustache... That One A Surf Board... That One A Rubber Duck!" - Recycling and Motorhome Touring

I just wanted to share a couple of the pictures I took this morning and the fun it brought to our simple walk around San Jose to find recycling bins! Once we found one, they just seemed to be everywhere!  In recent years making a commitment to recycling and reducing our waste as much as possible has become very important to us.  However, when travelling in a motorhome this commitment to recycle is made more challenging due to the limited living space and the fact that recycling bins aren't always convenient to find.  But as recycling is an important issue to us, as it is to many people we know at home as well as other people we meet along the way, and so we do find ways to make it work for us.  Today's fun Dustbin faces we found just adds to the smile and joy we already feel from this simple act which helps the local and global community.

The importance we attach to the act of recycling in a consumption-driven world doesn't really need to be explicitly stated here.  I think it's fairly obvious.  However, recycling when travelling in a motorhome isn't as simple for us as when we lived in a flat in Durham.  Different regions of the UK vary with which recycling bins they have (a fact which we can't see a good reason for) but our flat block had dedicated bins for plastic & cartons, cans & tins, paper, glass and general household waste.  The houses around us individually had several bins which was an interesting sight on bin day!  But when travelling and staying in an area we are not familiar with it, it often means we end up travelling with a big bag of our recycling, as many motorhome aires just have one general waste bin (although increasingly we are finding that the more aires we visit some do have recycling bins provided).

Our recycling bag is a small inconvenience at times, especially if we haven't found a recycling bin after a few days, as space in our motorhome is a little limited but the reward we feel when finally finding recycling bins more than makes up for it for us.  Obviously for other larger motorhomes with outdoor lockers or even a garage, this makes the practical space issue less troublesome and we see do many motorhomers who have recycling bags with them.  Actually one thing that has really impressed us recently, whilst we were wildcamping on the beaches south of Valencia, was that two independent fellow motorhomers had litter-picking kits with them in their garages.  Armed with gloves, a rubbish bag and some litter pincers, they would go off in the morning or late afternoon to the beach for 30-60 mins and pick litter.  They said to us that as the community was letting them stay for free in such a wonderful place, they felt they wanted to give something back, even if it was just a little bit of their time.  We were really inspired and will definitely try to do this regularly when we are next wild camping.

Over the past 18 months, travelling in a motorhome has actually had an added benefit to our commitment to recycling.  Another way we have found to overcome the inconvenience of having too much recycling in our living space is that this inconvenience forces us to consider far more what we buy and look more closely at whether food packaging is necessary or not.  As we'll maybe write about in the future, for many reasons (cost, supporting local community, freshness) we now buy far more of our food from markets - where there is little, if any, food packaging - or from shops which offer traditional dispensers for things like beans, grains, rice, pasta, nut, seeds, dried fruit, sugar, even thing like biscuits etc.  Again, not only is there a cost saving, but as you normally dispense the item into a brown paper bag (which we later reuse for our waste) there is a massive reduction on packing - some shops have notices up with the figures of how much plastic this saves (next time I see these figures I'll try and write them down and update this post).

On our travels, we have found that different countries do have different focuses on recycling, and just like with our experience in the UK, different areas also differ.  Often it's a little frustrating - take the area near the Hague in Holland where we stay with family - paper and glass recycling is offered in bins alongside household waste, but a bin for plastic and cartons isn't.  This frustrates me, particularly as in Holland for many many years, bottle recycling has been so good.  All plastic and glass bottles have a 'deposit' (statiegeld) charged on them at the time at purchase which is only refunded when you return the bottle to a designated machine (usually most supermarkets have one).

When staying on motorhome aires or wild camping, we obviously have to make an effort to go in search for recycling bins. This isn't normally an issue as along the road when we do get driving there are normally frequent bins or again most supermarkets have recycling points.  Most campsites are now also very good at encouraging recycling, providing bins and also leaflets on check-in encouraging recycling and making it as easy as possible.  Sometimes there is an 'environmental tax' added to the bill which is charged by the community's council, which we do find fair enough as during our stay we are a part of that community and feel it is only right to contribute to the cost of collection and recycling etc (but I do have to admit that when we were younger, naive, too focused on our own budget we didn't always see it that way!).

I really want to highlight, on one particular community in the Rhone Valley in Switzerland which we visited last year that had a great scheme for encouraging recycling and making you consider how much waste you were generating.  On the campsites in this community you had to 'purchase' your general waste rubbish bag.  It was bright orange and you could only throw waste into the bins tidied up in one of these bags.  Based on how much waste you thought you'd generate you bought a small, medium or large bag and could buy more if you needed during your stay.  It wasn't a lot (something like 4 CHF / £2.50 for the small bag) but it did make you think very much about the waste you were generating, making sure you filled your orange bag rather than just starting a new bag every day and along with the recycling bins provided it was a great way to encourage recycling. (Sadly on that occasion we opened a huge watermelon and it was off, so we had to buy another bag especially for the watermelon!) It wasn't just the campsite, the owner explained the whole community operated like this.  Anyway,  I mention it here just because we were so impressed.  I know that when schemes which propose to charge people by the weight of their rubbish are suggested, that some people highlight the downsides to schemes like this such as increased risk of flytipping etc.  But all I can say is that we found, as did campsite owner, that in this community it was working and very well - maybe because the cost of the bags wasn't very expensive or maybe it was because the surrounding Swiss alpine scenery was just so beautiful fly-tipping wasn't on anyone's mind.

Anyway, not sure where all this has come from.... something inside me was obviously very inspired by finding our amusing recycling bins in San Jose this morning to share some of these thoughts. Maybe it just filled me with hope, showing that others too want to encourage recycling, making it fun easy or maybe it just reminded me once again that even serious topics can be approached with a bit of humour!  Thank you to the San Jose community and whoever had this idea!

These two were hiding, having been moved due to some building works
but looks like there's a whole gang!

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