Recycling - is it worth the Effort?

Dear Margaret,
I try to do the right thing, recycling everything I can, but I often feel so hopeless. The kerbside recycling service only takes some items, & I have to travel a fair distance to recycle other things. However hard I try, I am overwhelmed by the rate at which stuff builds up. And now I see on television that recycling doesn't actually work. It makes me really angry when I take such trouble to help the environment. What should I do in future?

The problem, as I see it, is in our economic system. Until a responsible accounting system is adopted worldwide, & money ceases to be the bottom line in every situation, economic rationalists will always attempt to invalidate environmentally sound practices. MARYLIN WARING'S book: 'Counting for Nothing' addresses the issues, is eminently readable & inspiring. (The page is in Spanish, with links to French & English versions.) Another equally important & related issue, that of Social Capital, was explored by Eva Cox in the 1995 SERIES OF BOYER LECTURES These should be available from your local library. If not, ask :"Why not?!" & make the library get them in for you. Or get involved in ECONOMIC REFORM AUSTRALIA & TOES - The Other Economic Summit.

For a light-hearted musical view of recycling, listen to the Wombling Song. Sorry it's a bit scratchy, but the vinyl recording is recycled!
Right click on the link if you want to save the file.

There are no easy answers when it comes to guidelines for personal actions, especially if your time, money, & energy are in short supply. I continue to use kerbside recycling services, seeing them as one means to raise public awareness, & educate people to see rubbish as a resource. Very little of the material I recycle is my own, but picked up in local streets and parks. I concentrate on not acquiring stuff that needs recycling if I can possibly avoid it, & re-using rather than recycling wherever I can.
But it doesn't seem to me as though you need advice on how to do this. You need support, validation of your feelings, & encouragement. Reading periodicals like Earth Garden, Grass Roots, & Permaculture Journals can be inspiring. But real person to person contact is what you need. Reaching out in some way to others travelling in the same direction is the only way to find this. Why not link up with a local Permaculture group; in South Australia, with SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES SA; join Trees for Life, or Landcare; locate an action group through your local paper or radio station.(use your Search Engines!) Maybe you could enrol in a relevant course or workshop. Join a LETS system, go to community markets, jumble sales, bush dances, & Spirit camps. I'm sure you will soon find at least one or two people with whom you can establish a rapport. Then take responsibility for nurturing & advancing the relationship. Focus on the things you have in common, rather than the differences.
Most of us feel isolated some of the time, especially if family and/or immediate friends do not share our point of view, or support our actions. But be careful not to have unrealistic expectations. Because the issues with which we are dealing are so immense & far-reaching, we often forget to lighten up, & celebrate all that has been achieved. Lots of people fail to deal with environmental issues positively because they try to go it alone, & set impossible standards for themselves, other people, & society. Fundamental change doesn't happen overnight, but change is taking place - if it weren't, why would the economic rationalists be so worried?

We've come a long way since this letter was sent, in the early 1990s
Google "Zero Waste" for up-to-date information for your State or country.
The Zero Waste Alliance looks not just at kerbside recycling, but e-waste, and many other things that can be recycled if you are prepared to take this issue seriously.
It also shows you what happens to the stuff you recycle.

Take a look at some evolving and creative ways people are now "Re-cycling"
Just Let me Get My Hands on your Rubbish!
Radical Recycling
Really Radical Recycling!

Don't just recycle - go one step further and FREECYCLE

And Freegans are committed to living as far as possible on stuff discarded by others, and gleaned items

Note: In researching & answering questions about earthwise living, Margaret offers information, opinion, & personal experience, but no quick fixes! Readers should evaluate these offerings in the context of their own situations; they are suggestions, *not* recommendations. Any responsibility for their implementation rests *solely* with the reader.

Return to You Can Save the Earth!.......Another Look at LETS
Site Map.......Rough Guide to Site

Australia - This is an Australian website - Contact Margaret RainbowWeb