May 1, 2002
At one of my recent meetings with the Corporation of London I was given a plastic ruler made from recycled vending cups.
I knew it was made from recycled material because it was emblazoned very strongly across its front. The City authorities were taking a pride in the fact. And so it should. Plastic is a great invention of man’s recent past but we all have had to recognise that there is a price to pay for it.
Experts are already talking about the destructive enzymes that are being developed beneath the oceans as the huge amount of indestructible plastic and chemical waste that is dumped in the sea. And the prospect of landfills becoming full is a concern that all local authorities and national politicians are having to address.
In my constituency recycling is as key in the war on waste as the successful household initiatives that have developed over the recent years. That is where it is so difficult.
Recycling is personal. It requires the individual to make an effort, to make a choice. Leadership in environmental matters is vital but it still comes down to us as local residents to consider our actions constantly.
So it is my experience that the success of recycling links very strongly to the sense of community and belonging to one’s immediate environment. In the business world offices, shops and the like there seems to be much less enthusiasm to separate paper, plastic, glass etc than there is at home which is understandable.
In Westminster the initiatives amongst residents over the last few years has prompted a tremendous response but because Westminster has a high turnover of residents it’s also a continuous and hard job keeping everybody up to the task.
In the City of London the paper mountain is still huge despite the advent of the paperless office. In Westminster no matter how hard the cleaning services work it is us, the public, that can do so much more by being more considerate with our unwanted material.
I’m a great paper user because I write letters and handle personal correspondence by mail rather than e-mail. That is my way and I don’t apologise for that. But it is a miniscule amount of paper usage in comparison to just one document that can arrive from bodies like the GLA eulogising one of its current hot topics.
To be honest for many years I used to get guilty about not recycling, but when I was first elected as the local MP last summer I decided that I needed to take my own, small personal lead. It is (slightly) inconvenient. It does mean rubbish hanging around in the kitchen for a little longer than I would like (my wife, Michele, will tell you that I am an infuriatingly tidy person!). But if we don’t all take a lead now and then how many more landfill sites will have to be dug in the countryside and how many more industrial incinerators will we need in this country in the decades ahead?
At home we have got into the habit (and I have found that it does have to be a habit) of separating paper and glass in our household rubbish because maybe more than most I have seen the size of the problem from the local council’s side.
However good local authorities are at exhorting the public and the businesses to recycle remember it is the individual who is so important in the battle.