Monday 30 December 2013


One of the changes that I've had to come to terms with in moving to a new area, is the local council's recycling policy and particularly the receptacles for the doorstep collections.

Back in MK, we had weekly collections and four containers to play with:
  • household rubbish, in a black sack;
  • paper/tin/plastic, in a pink sack;
  • glass, in a blue box;
  • garden/kitchen waste, in a green wheelie bin.
So in a normal week, we would easily recycle more than we were creating for landfill.

The green wheelie bin was especially useful, as it could take just about any garden waste we created, certainly more than we could've composted. Plus, all our kitchen waste went in there as well. All of this green waste went off to be composted down into soil conditioner at a regional facility, and I believe our local authority used this product in its landscaping department.

Orkney, with a much smaller catchment area, obviously can't compete directly with that, but I now have five containers to play with, none of which is for green waste. And the collections are fortnightly (household waste alternating with recyclables on a weekly basis):
  • household rubbish, in a black wheelie bin;
  • 2 green wheelie bins, each with a smaller black container that slots inside, for glass, paper, plastic and tins, in whatever order I choose!
The paper, plastic and tin restrictions are much tighter. No thick cardboard, no food trays (eg margarine tubs), no tetrapaks (eg fruit juice cartons) and no tin foil (all those mince pies!).

In addition, we're back to composting for ourselves, though I have heard that there is a scheme whereby green garden waste can be taken to a recycling site and the resulting compost is available for sale.

But perhaps the biggest difference about recycling in Orkney is that the wheelie bins have to be tied down so that they don't blow over or away!

During our first week in residence at the cottage, we were sat in the kitchen one evening when there was a dull thud from one end of the building. This was followed by a long, drawn-out, scraping sound, as something large dragged itself across the roof, before silence descended once more. We sat and looked at each other in surprise, followed by consternation when we realised that neither of us fancied going out into the howling gale and the dark to see what it was.

Daybreak revealed that one of the plastic inserts from the green wheelie bins had escaped in the strong winds and was now nestled in the lee of the cottage. This prompted a trip to a motor factor and the purchase of a number of bungee straps. These have now been beta-tested by a further three storms, so far without mishap.

Once the festive holiday period is over, we intend to visit Orkney ZeroWaste, a charity set up to promote those good habits 'Reduce, Reuse, Recycle'. Is it wrong to feel so excited by the prospect?


Jeannette said...

Refuse and how a community sets up to handle it is an interesting window. And moving does seem to heighten one's attention to what may seem like insignificant details once customary. Can't ever get too comfortable with garbage, can we?...even when it all gets hauled "away." A 30 mile wide island, Where is away there?

Imperfect and Tense said...

Jeannette, good question and thanks for asking it. Had I done a little more research, I could have put the stats in my blogpost. Thanks for chivvying me to completing the task :o)

Orkney and Shetland have a combined waste plan that sees less than 20% of inert rubbish put into landfill. 70% of Orkney's waste is sent to Shetland to be converted into heating for 1000 homes. The remaining amount is recycled. See:

You're correct, there's not much room for a big landfill site, so this solution seems to fit the bill for the two archipelagos.