Recycling? Is it really efficient?

Some years ago, in the mid 1970s, one of the great themes in the worldwide ecology debate was the slogan… ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’……a slogan which is think was, and is, brilliant and succinct

The idea seemed extremely sensible as we appeared to be consuming the world’s goods at a horrendous rate

…….. perhaps we could ‘do without’ occasionally. In other words…so we would use a lot less of our dwindling material resources, as the world is not infinite.

…… If we could find some other uses for the items, we might double or even treble the lifetime for which the item could be used

…….and only lastly, when no further use could be contemplated, it could go in a recycle box. It was then out of our hands, and we would have played a part in the three stages.

This, however, requires us returning a couple of generations in our thinking……..we have to learn that just because something is heavily advertised, it is not absolutely essential that we go out and buy one……..we have to be more knowledgeable and inventive in our attitude to repairing, modifying and adapting items for re-use in some other guise……….and thirdly we have to be able to recycle (in an economic way) those items which cannot be reused in any other way.

Fast-forward to the 21st Century…………and how far are we on in the crusade to ‘Reduce, Re-use, and Re-cycle’ ? Frankly I don’t think we are much better! But let’s look at it all in a bit more detail……


  1. Watching people in supermarket check-outs shows me we are purchasing more than we used-to. Food is certainly a necessity, but we are eating more than we ever did, as obesity remains high on the list of medics’ concerns.
  2. Continuing persuasion, by marketing folk, to get the ‘very latest’ tech gadgets, furniture, clothes, mobile phones, and holidays etc from larger and larger stores, at lower and lower prices has been evident and shortened the life-time, and reduced the ‘valuation’ of almost everything we own.
  3. So we are consuming more, of everything, we are travelling more miles on our way to exotic locations for holidays. I know of no areas where we are consuming less. Economic growth seems to be all important to the good of the country, but not of the world.
  4. Regarding packaging….When I was young, I remember my mother opening her carry-ing bag , to allow the grocer to put in loads of potatoes, carrots etc, followed by beautifully-wrapped chunks of cheese, fish, and meat, and this worked well. The bag was reused many times, and some of the greaseproof paper may have wrapped my lunch-piece, and ended up helping to light the fire. The use of more-complicated wrapping materials has caused a problem As much cannot be recycled.
  5. As far as repairing and re-using items, we in the West are not particularly good as doing this, whilst less-developed civilisations are much better. We have lost many of the skills which our parents had, for self-sufficiency and rarely is something repaired. It us almost impossible to get a cooker, fridge or washing machine repaired, as the tradesmen often suggest that it is cheaper for you to buy a new one than repair it.
  6. And finally, recycling may recover some of the materials, but cannot regain the energy used in the manufacture of the original product. So we really have only one option……buy fewer things, repair, and then, and only then see if there is a proper re-cycling programme available, and not just a massive skip of mixed stuff…

So maybe it IS time to rethink our attitude to usage of what is, after all, a finite resource. The future generations will condemn us, and rightly so, for this inordinate consumption, and the way in which we dispose of our waste into the oceans, and landfill……oh, dear, what a mess we are in…..

Shopping Madness………

The nonsense in our shops today, based on the concept of Black Friday,  is surely very indicative of a sickness in our psyche. The sight of supposedly grown-up adults fighting and shouting over the acquisition of some ‘bargains’, does not lead one to the conclusion that we are civilised as a society or, in many cases, as individuals.

The bad example set to our children, the threats and trauma caused to shop-staff, police and other shoppers , the snub to those who do not have the money to join in the melee, and the damage caused to premises and stock, don’t really show any kind of appreciation of why we have this season.

Even those, who don’t accept the Christian significance, can still spend a considerable amount of cash and time, in purchasing gifts for their nearest and dearest. Much of it may be trivial, with gallons of after-shave and perfume, and numerous bits of technology, car accessories, clothes etc among the pressies. But this is how they express their friendships with people, and relations, and a good time is had by all. No problem with that.

But the thought that people will queue from an early hour, fight their way through crowds, physically argue with other shoppers and staff, just to get some goods at a discount seems out of synch with a season of peace and goodwill.

Maybe sometime they may think of the people who wait patiently in areas of deprivation and drought as they are handed bottles of water and basic food, and take that as an example.

……so America, you are welcome to take back the idea of Black Friday, and let us get back to celebrating our Christian Festival or Winter Solstice, whichever we wish.

I think that size DOES matter!



I detest shopping….let’s get that straight!

The thought of wandering-about in faceless malls/shopping centres looking at the same things as can be seen in any of these great cathedrals to consumption, does nothing for my mind. I can vividly remember going-into the St Enoch’s Centre in Glasgow for the first time some decades ago. It looked like a large railway terminal with an enclosed glass roof. Several levels of shops looked for all the world like cells or places where monstrous hens would go to lay eggs! I uderstand from those who know these things, that this is where people come for retail therapy…..good grief!

Within the hour, I had seen representatives of all the major shops with household names, selling clothes, mobile phones, coffee, sports gear, holidays, computers etc, etc……

After an hour of this, I had had enough! I felt cooped-in, trapped in a world of jostling people, bored children, even-more-bored shop staff. I think the problem was that there was too much choice. ‘Let’s try next door, they’ll have a better-designed/slightly-cheaper/more-colourful/better-quality/newer-style, example’ was the cry of the dearly-beloved Lady of the House…..and all I needed was a pair of grey socks, or a pair of underpants!

Going to a large DIY store or furniture warehouse brings the same amount of displeasure!

Where have all the small specialised shops gone? We had a very-good local butcher, whom everyone admired, too-few patronised, and then all sympathised when they heard he was closing up due to lack of business. ‘His quality was very good, but he was not as cheap as Sainsbury’.  Of course he couldn’t beat any of the major stores, where the meat comes from anonymous farms, killed in anonymous abattoirs, prepared by rows of anomymous butchers, packaged by clanking machines and stacked in neat rows in polystyrene containers. But that was not what he offered. He would supply a very small amount of meat for an old couple, give advice on how to prepare a stew, and could tell you where the animal grew up.

We still have a sweetie shop, where we can recall the flavours and odours of yesteryear, and perhaps pass on to the next generation some appreciation of the subtle tastes of rhubarb-and-custard sweets, or the black sticky mess on your teeth when you have some licquorice! He will be busy over Christmas but let’s hope he is still there this time next year.

Over much of my working life I have been involved with small independent businesses. These are often made up of one or two people who have a speciality knowledge, who know a lot about their customers, and are able to give advice. Also, a £100 order to a supermarket may not mean much, but spend that in a one-man  business, and you will make a very-happy shopkeeper, and let him (or her) live another day.

But if you don’t use them, you will lose them. Why not see if you can buy some of your Christmas presents (and maybe even the turkey, or licquorice comfits) locally. You will be saving petrol, hassle, putting back some money into the locally economy, and perhaps saving a local business and his family from ‘going-under’!


P.S. The photo at the top is a Russian supermarket….exciting isn’t it!

Male retail therapy?…surely not!

Son is obviously getting a bit better as he has decided to trade in his old Civic for a BMW. Like me, and my father, (and probably 90% of the male population!) he has always had a passion to have a nice car, and this is his dream. It has been snowing today, so I hope he can enjoy a run in it, without the inherent dangers of this weather.

Safe driving!

P.s. It corresponds in time with an increase in business after a year of worries, so is well deserved.