I am peering through the blinds of my flat like a suspicious neighbour with something to hide. I have got something, it’s a full-to-burst black bin bag. Outside in the wheelie bin this sack of guilt is anonymous rubbish, here in my hand it is proof of my failure. Thankfully my peering reveals nothing, no friendly neighbours or inquisitive friends popping by with the dreaded question, “how’s it going Matt, with the rubbish challenge thing?” I make a dash for it.
Of course this guilt is self imposed. Lots of Britain’s residents, my peers included, happily bin their household waste without a worry. Some will not even bother to recycle. For me though I couldn’t escape a nagging feeling that I have developed bad habits at the expense of the environment. With this as my motivation I set about inventing a series of eco challenges to help change the way I live. Currently I am trying to cut out all my non-recyclable household waste and to start things off last year I tackled my dependency on fossil fuel powered transport.
In order to free myself from the temptation to drive I gave my car to a scrap merchant and then just to be sure watched him crush it with a JCB (watch the film). This kick-started a period where I cycled furiously round London braving rain and snow in one of the coldest Decembers I can remember. Clocking up twenty five miles a day on my round trip to work I became a sort of cycling superhero wrestling in and out of my lycra uniform in a post-work pub toilet whilst my friends waited patiently at the bar.
Good work showers became my greatest friend and potholes became my biggest enemy. I set the unenviable record of three punctures in one week. People I told about my pedal powered exploits said I was mad to risk life and limb each morning – cycling in big cities has a bad rep. I thought enviously of the pedal-pushers I had seen on a trip to Copenhagen, given priority on the roads they zoomed about on bicycle motorways that even buses did not cross. Surely this sort of commitment to cycling in the UK would persuade people out of their cars and on to a saddle.
Having passed the one thousand mile mark on my bike I switched my attention to cutting back my household waste. A trip to a landfill in Kent with film-maker Adam Westbrook provided good motivation and a bad smell I couldn’t get out of my clothes (watch the film). A brilliant Southwark Council scheme provided a discounted wormery and a suitable method for disposing of vegetable waste that didn’t require a garden. This handmade, all-you-can-eat worm restaurant now sits proudly next to the wheelie bin outside my flat and halved the amount of waste I send to landfill.
After this initial success progress has been slow. Inspecting my weekly basket it became clear that all the careful recycling in the world could not remove the plastic packaging from my bin, it was going to take serious changes to my shopping. I am struggling to pull myself away from the hassle-free, 24-hour shopping offered by the supermarkets. This is the problem really, there is no motivation for change. I am finding it hard and I actually WANT to do it. Unless encouragement comes from the big retail outlets people will find it difficult to resist the plastic shrink wrap on ‘two-for-one’. I don’t like to be beaten and I think that with determination my guilty bin journey can be a thing of the past but it will be difficult to achieve and it shouldn’t be.
Follow Matt’s progress on his blog mattwaltersonline.com and keep up to date on twitter @ecoMattic.