If you live in Brighton & Hove, I’m sure that you would make the same assumption as most when it comes to the city’s recycling. We are the only city in Britain that is home to a Green Party Constituency so Brightonians must be green?
Surely we would have some of the best recycling statistics of the nation?
You may be surprised to hear that in 2014/15 Brighton & Hove was ranked 337th out of 351 English authorities for the performance of household recycling, composting and reusing - with only 24.6% of household waste being sent to council waste management. Top of the list was South Oxfordshire District Council, managing to send 66.6% of their household waste to council organised recycling, composting and re-use management.
However, if you walk from one end of Brighton’s city centre to the other, you will come across an abundance of environmentally driven restaurants, activists, and pub conversations. This could lead you to the conclusion that Brighton has one of the most green-conscious communities in Britain. So why isn’t this reflected in the statistics?
If you take a look at the list above and compare the recycling capability of South Oxfordshire and Brighton & Hove, you can see that the number of materials that can be recycled in each city varies greatly. So if the only plastics that can be picked up from your home to be recycled are bottles, where do you turn to when it comes to drinks cartons, tin foil, and other recyclables?
OUR RECYCLING SOLUTIONS
One answer lies in Brighton & Hove’s well known make-do and mend mentality which stretches as far as the resident’s approach to recycling. In the true community spirit of Brighton and Hove, 3 volunteers from Hanover Community Centre began to collect recyclable waste around residential and business areas in 1990 and are still running 27 years later under the name of Magpie Recycling Co-operative Ltd. Magpie Recycling Co-operative has a far more extensive list of items that can be recycled and offer weekly home collection services under the name of 'Green Box' from as little as £1.39 a week. They have also set up 'Shabitat' - a warehouse of bric-a-brac that gives truth to the phrase ‘one man’s trash is another’s treasure’.
There are several other recycling organisations that provide similar services, for example, The Wood Store who collect unwanted wooden items.
Brighton and Hove have also grown as an online recycling community, with a very active group on Freecycle (a site similar to gumtree, but where everything’s free!) The combined Brighton and Hove Freecycle communities have over 54,000 members which is far more than Oxford, at under 30,000.
So if you’ve got a spare microwave or child’s buggy, you know where to go. This free cycling mentality has hit the streets too, where there’s an unwritten rule that if a sofa/BBQ/desk chair is sitting outside, it’s free for the taking - and someone will definitely take it.
Katie, a current Brighton resident who used to live in Oxford, commented on how she felt both cities council recycling compared,
“I was surprised that as a green seat, Brighton doesn’t do much about food waste but in Oxford, they communicated information at least 4 times a year about what we could and couldn’t put in bins and gave us loads of resources for food waste.”
Although there is currently no food waste collection by Brighton and Hove City Council, they are aiming to help reduce food waste by working with The Brighton and Hove food Partnership organisation to set up community composting around the city. They have already set up 16 community composting sites, as listed below. In addition to this, The Brighton and Hove Food Partnership alongside the council are on track to set up a community fridge, funded by Sainsburys. This will allow local residents to leave any spare food for hungry people and again help reduce food waste around the city.
Having reviewed these areas of recycling around Brighton and Hove, you could argue that although the statistics for household recycling may not seem very high, there is without a doubt a sense of community ownership of recycling which is not quantified in these statistics. The council decided, only a few days ago, to phase out the use of single-use plastics in the city. This motion was supported by a public petition, proving that the people of Brighton & Hove take it upon themselves, with the help of private and public organisations, to find creative ways of cutting down, re-using and recycling waste in the city.
So perhaps the fact that we have a lack of recycling resources available on our doorstep doesn't matter as much when there are efforts in place to cut down on the production of waste in the first place.
There is that old saying that 'prevention is better than cure' after all.
We are going to start talking a lot more about designing out waste.