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).
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!
but looks like there's a whole gang!