Quakers Talk Rubbish

Thursday, 8 April 2021


Here’s a quiz to start:

a.What percentage of UK overall waste comes from households?

b.What percentage of that gets recycled?

c. In 2016, how many tonnes  of clothing was purchased in the UK? And how much has that increased since 18 years ago?

d. How much clothing is sent to landfill every year?

e.What percentage of a car’s life is it not used?

f.How many tonnes of electronic waste were produced by the UK in 2019?

Answers (source: UK climate assembly material and UK Parliament’s  Environmental Audit Committee)

  1. about 12%; b. about half.; c. over 1 million tonnes, 60% more; d. 300,000 tonnes; e. 95%; f. Over 1.5million tonnes. That’s 130 times heavier than The Shard’s structural steel.

The Polmont Commitment

In May 2019, Polmont Meeting committed itself to becoming a low-carbon community. It encouraged each Friend to:

  • commit to an action plan with three aspirations they wished to achieve.
  • share progress with, and support, others
  • become active and speak out
  • consider how they will speak truth to power
  • be a lifelong learner about sustainability and our wonderful planet.

 Marriot Dallas, clerk of Polmont Meeting, tells how in March 2019, eight of them set up a meeting with a waste minimisation officer from Falkirk Council:

     The officer  spent about 90 minutes with us, sharing a video presentation, and encouraging us to think of waste as a possible resource with a value. The video included  pictures of a recently upgraded recycling centre and also before-and-after aerial shots of land reclaimed from landfill sites. Kinneil site is now grassing over, with a good diversity of wild plants, birds, rabbits etc

    He talked in some detail about how local councils can make income from properly recycled items, for example paper and card. We talked about our kerbside bins (we have collections for paper and card, plastic, garden waste, electrical and batteries and general waste) and got a glimpse into the challenge local councils face when communicating with us about what goes where. No dog poo in the food bins, for example.

  The big topic of the evening was plastic. We are instructed to place our food waste in plastic bags before putting in the bin, but were puzzled  that the council doesn’t ask us to use compostable bags.  We touched on the  complexity of the different types of plastic and the meaning of the recycling symbols and numbers printed on packaging. There was a sense of the power of multi-national companies who produce plastic packaging. One of our members used to remove all packaging from her purchases and leave it at the supermarket checkout. The encouraging news is that Morrisons has now introduced bring-your- own-container schemes. Both Morrison’s and Tesco will recycle used plastic carrier bags, also bread wrappers.

   I went home with a better understanding of some of the recycling processes and a sense of hope about reclaiming land from landfill, but still bewildered about plastic packaging.

So, where are we now as we approach 2021?

 Our Meeting has grown. We now have about 30 members and attenders, with several young families joining us. One of our new attenders started a Zero Waste Falkirk group on Facebook, because she was frustrated that most online groups were based in England, rather than locally. Zero waste shops sell goods without packaging, so you take your own empty bottle and fill it in the shop.The  group posts encourage us to visit a zero waste shop in Larbert, enjoy a litter pick on a sunny day, support a new local zero waste grocer and deli, give away items rather dispose of them and sew tote bags out of scrap fabric, and much more.

    Many of us continue to try to reduce our plastic use, for instance by collecting plastic for eco-bricks.  These are  plastic bottles, stuffed with non recyclable plastic, till they are very hard, then used to construct  garden furniture, for example.  We haven’t yet  found a destination for the bottles. .Some people are active in Friends of the Earth. We have two electric car drivers in our Meeting, with other drivers seriously thinking about making the change. Many of us are keen composters. These all feel small, but important, steps.

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