Our Journey with ecobricks and aquaponics.

Why I put nothing in my recycling except tins…..

1 April 2020|Ecobricks

Why I put Nothing but Tins in my Recycling

So your passionate about saving the world from plastic? Surely you recycle everything you can? I am often asked this question

Well no I don’t,  I am working towards living my life in a very different way, taking inspiration from how things used to be along with some very wise people from around the world. 

I have always been a bit of a hippy, and always felt that the way we lived was wasteful and it felt as though the only way to avoid this was to be a hoarder, keeping everything “in case it will be useful”- and then that has its own issues, I have had to clear hoarders homes who keep everything for a rainy day and I don’t want that for my children. Nor do I wish to live that way.

I used to recycle everything, and believed as most people like to think, that I was quite good at it.

Most people in the UK have the ability to recycle tins, glass, paper & card 

And these processes are fairly straight forward, with a high percentage of recycling happening – ie a tin can become a tin, a glass bottle can become a glass bottle. And it is easy to get right, put the glass with the glass etc. 

I remember the start of glass bottle banks in 1977, and slowly we have been provided with many ways for the result of our consumption to be whisked away from us so we do not have to give a second thought to what happens with it  – the magic recycling fairy will wave a magic wand…..

Let’s look at the recycling  – or to give its correct name – reprocessing of plastic.

To be truly circular plastic would have to be able to become oil again, back to its original form which of course can’t happen as plastic is made of one part of oil ( we are also now using gas from fracking ) – the once waste part  – now turned into a resource, IF used wisely……..

The journey  of the oil goes from the rigs collecting the  oil  – to the refinery – to the factory – into the products we use ( how long for ) and then we pass them on to where?

Depending on where you are in the world will depend on the exact route  into the biosphere.

– burning in fires or incinerators gets the toxins into the biosphere.     Fires directly,  incinerators indirectly.

– landfill or open dumps a very quick route to the biosphere

–  or back through factories and processing plants where we have no way of knowing how careful they will be, a huge exercise in trust

I am sure you have all seen the numbers on plastic to tell you what type of plastic it is, all of which need to be processed using more resources to become something else. At the moment this system be it council run  – via our bin collections or through our own actions via collection schemes is all geared up to make money, and to support our consumerism. It all has the magic reprocessing fairy waving a wand to take the responsibility from our hands.  Her wand takes a huge amount of energy and biospheres resources to wave.

Each time plastic is reprocessed it is in effect downcycling to end up where?

Trees are a good way to look at how nature works in a simple form, when a tree loses its leaves they fall within 10 metres or so of the tree, they decompose back into the soil and provide nutrients for the tree to grow its leaves next year. Our biosphere is a wonderful clever system. 

When did I stop sending things for reprocessing?

I live in the New Forest and we have a set number of council bin bags given to us each year.  We have bags  – plastic of course because the forest is very pretty and a tourist destination and wheelie bins would look unsightly apparently

Black ones for general use, and clear for recycling, they don’t take many things  – 6 in all cans, tins, PET plastic bottles, aerosols, paper and card.  Plus a glass bottle box.  And I tried to be good with what I put in, making sure I got it right, and then slowly I realised that things were not as they seemed. Our black bags go for incineration, and so do large amounts of our reprocessing bags. The council have tried to tell us it is just when they are contaminated, but then it was found out that if they ran out of room for the reprocessing bags or they ran out of things to burn, the reprocessing was sent to the incinerator. This happens with other councils as well I have been told.

Christmas day 2017 I discovered ecobricks, I saw a picture on facebook, and saw the amount of plastic in my living room, and something clicked, I made my first one, and that sent me on a journey of living differently. I have become an ecobrick trainer. I run workshops all over the country and have looked at people’s plastic consumption. It horrifies me, and made me realize how we had changed our consumption already as a family. We have almost no income  – life events and along with being self employed meant we had already changed our shopping habits through lack of money. 

So as a family we had already cut out all the beige plastic wrapped pretend food from the middle isles of supermarkets.  But a few things persisted. Gradually as our family ecobrick adventure took place and we embedded the ecobricking as part of our normal daily routines  we were able to explore in more detail all aspects of the leftovers of our consumption.  Our food consumption had become the component parts – as in, we cook from scratch, and our lack of income had got us out of the habit of buying anything that wasn’t a total necessity. 

One thought I hold close to me when I am tempted to buy something I don’t need is 

“There are people in the world who do not have the privilege to express greed. “

The rules we now live with in our family are 

Consume less

Avoid plastic

Go organic – as in only things that can become part of the biosphere again


But I felt I needed to go further, to really understand what my personal impact  is, and I wasn’t totally sure how, just buying something that was organic – as in not plastic – felt like it was adding to the problem.  I constantly get people saying to me if we all change just one thing it adds up to a big impact……..

One thing didn’t feel like enough, so I sought inspiration elsewhere

I remembered an essay I had read during my ecobrick training and went back and read it again and again, and then I was lucky to have an in depth conversation with the author Russel Maier,  I knew that this was the way I wanted to live my life, it was the thing that made sense.

Ayyew, a way of living within the biosphere 

As Russell states  

“It became clear to me that this was an important Igorot virtue, a word used to describe the attribution of value to the tighter cycling of an object.  The closest we have in English is ‘thriftiness’– but its emphasis on saving money, and slightly derogatory connotation mean it is not the same. Ayyew, is entirely positive and exults and praises the maximizing of cycles of utility.”

We have become so far removed from our connection to living naturally,  things that we just “did “ as the circles of life turned have long been forgotten.

We wrap up our children so they are protected from our biosphere and live a  life afraid of connection. If we are to solve the many problems we have with anxiety and mental health we need to find our place again. 

From Russels essay – 

Children are encouraged to be more Ayyew and finish their meal down to the last grain of rice — not because it will be ‘waste’, but to respect their place in the cycles of harvest, season and sun that made the rice possible. Sure, the leftover food could be given to the pigs.  However, the cycles of life are even more enriched when the rice is eaten by a human, who can then tend the cycles of the pig and garden.  It’s a subtle, yet powerful, distinction and affirmation.  This exultation of Ayyew, leads to not only to the prioritization of  maximizing ecological cycles in Igorot culture — it enables the Igorot to know their place in the cycles, and work towards enriching them at every turn.’

Sounds idyllic and maybe impossible to apply to our modern lives? Well that became my challenge! 

It was important to me that I needed to be responsible for everything that left our lives  – I had to be able to trust where the result of our living went, I had to know what effect it would have long term on our biosphere.

I was already ecobricking plastic, so I started there, re-examining the plastic that was coming into the house, and what we did with it.  We eat lots of cheese, it comes in plastic, so now we select the bags that are resealable, these get washed and used as sandwich bags over and over again, or as freezer bags, and only when they can no longer be used as bags they will be ecobricked.  

This is just one example of many of how to reuse the plastic before it is ecobricked. 

I ecobrick because I know where the plastic is, I trust myself and my family to look after the ecobricks and to use them responsibly. The plastic becomes useful and valuable to us as a family instead of passing it on to others who may not be careful with it. 

Cardboard, paper, organic materials like food peelings, hair and fur, egg shells, tea leaves all get composted. I am lucky that running New Forest Aquaponics gives me space for lots of compost bins  – 5 pallet sized bins. 

Cooked food waste. The solution for this is a work in progress as we still need to refine some of the process but we will be using black soldier flies to eat leftover cooked or non compostable food. Black soldier flies can eat anything, and once they have pupated they can be fed to chickens and more importantly to us, fish. 

Clothing – everything is 2nd hand, as a family we buy no new clothing. The only exception is shoes,  My shoes are all from the charity shop but my partner has size 15 feet and my older son is a size 13 already, these sizes  just do not appear in charity shops! But we have given a lot of thought as to how we can minimize the impact of our footwear with wellies being turned into planting spaces, and out clothes have repairs on top of repairs

I could go on – but you will have far better results if you work out the things you can do and how you can do them from your heart. It is your responsibility how you impact our biosphere 

This should lead you to AYYEW !

You will notice there are some words missing from blog post

Trash –  Waste –  Rubbish

As Russell Maier says 

“The words ‘trash’ and ‘waste’ are essentially linear judgments.  The act of “trashing” an object is a condemnation. We are judging the object to be worthless and no longer fit for a place in our world.  Is there any difference between a piece of plastic before it has served its purpose, and after? The molecules and atoms are all still the same. The only difference is the word “trash” we’ve labelled it with. 

A glance at the highly evolved civilizations that came before us, and in particular those still with us, shows us that solving the pollution crisis, has little to do with technology and way more to do with our way of looking at the world.”

Let’s be positive in our thoughts towards our biospheres resources. 

I went looking for some slides to illustrate the negativity of the words trash etc.

All the ones I found were like this one,  what does it tell us about our view of the world that the words environment, ecology and conservation and mixed in with all that negativity 

Change the words, change the story.

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