Why is recycling so often seen as something to be conducted only in grim carparks? Why can’t it (at least in the case of small amounts of material) be viewed as an opportunity for people actually to get together in their communities?
There have been some very interesting debates buzzing around this week. Not only have we (some of us, anyway) been hearing about Enterprise in all its manifectations, social and otherwise, but there have been big debates about how we should get a grip on environmental issues such as emissions and sustainability.
Mulling these things over, I also happened to come across some stuff on how difficult things currently are for towns and ports dependent on farming and fisheries. It strikes me that’s not really too much different from some of the issues in the disadvanatged areas I sometimes work in. They all need ‘new’ ways to build their economies, and to enhance their social and business connectivities.
Which led me to think more about the Eco- aspects of Enterprise.
Let me ask, why do we make our domestic recycling facilities so grim? Do they really all have to look like blots on the landscape? Isn’t there some way that at least some local recycling facilities could be part of the community ‘offer’?
The joined-up alternative
What would it look like if some recycling became a feature of community connection? Somewhere where people could pop in as they pass to the shops or park, and where you could at the same time join friends for a coffee, let the kids play, or visit the library?
In the past few years bookshops have at least twigged that people who buy books also like tea and cakes; it’s proved to be good for custom. Why isn’t the same applied to the idea of recycling? (I’m not talking here of the mega-visit with the car full of all sorts; that’s still a superstore carpark job.)
If the theme were ‘little and often’, and the facilities alongside recycling permitted, recycling points could become community hubs which local people visited becaue it’s a good place to go – recycling to one side (preferably covered), playspace and coffee shop / library / community facility / adult education venue of whatever sort at the other…. with the feelgood factor guaranteed, as we do our eco-duty.
The imaginative entrepreneur
Maybe the ‘problem’ is that eco- / recycling is perceived as a green wellie activity; not something for entrepreneurs, unless they’re of the ‘social’ sort. Let’s move from the vague notion that only Environmental Officers – who might be thought of (doubtless unfairly) as a pretty puritan lot – should have a remit for recycling.
Let’s see if this whole activity can become a central part of community life. If it gives people with their small bags of recyclable material, their pushchairs and their shopping an opportunity to enjoy half an hour’s chat, that would be really great.
Then maybe people can find out more about how they all connect and what in common they have or would like…. never underestimate the importance of actual person-to-person encounters when thinking about capacity building in communities!
And if local entrepreneurs can use any of this to develop or tempt business, that’s better still.

Posted on November 18, 2005, in Equality, Diversity And Inclusion, Liverpool And Merseyside, Politics, Policies And Process, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, Sustainability As If People Mattered. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hilary’s vision of recycling as a localised, social activity is one I share. I’m not sure how we get there from here, but I would like to try.
    Armed with the ammunition of examples of making it work, I’d certainly try to use (Liverpool) City Council as a forum to promote the goal.
    Anybody able to help with examples?

  2. Hmm, by the time you pull together couple of day’s worth of reclyclable stuff, you’ve got: half a dozen newspapers, a small handful of tins, a couple of glass bottles, a few more plasctic bottles, both large and small, a mix of putrid vegetable and garden waste … this isn’t a small bag load!
    In this local authority at any rate we sort this stuff at source and a number of contracted collectors pick it all up, do some further minimal sorting and cart it off for us.
    If we want to encourage recycling, we need to understand much more about making sustainable choices in all sorts of areas of our lives, including the balance between us each driving our waste to the recycling centre as against having it collected.
    Polluter pays sounds a good principle to start from.
    I think you were more on the mark with your previous comments about supermarkets. One of their roles must surely be to help rebuild the communities that used to surround the smaller retailers they have replaced. But given that most folk have to drive to get there, how sustainable is that!

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