As I mentioned earlier this year, I’ve been reading How Bad are Bananas? (the answer, in case you’re wondering, is that bananas are fine, but this doesn’t stop them from smelling revolting) and making a few lifestyle changes as a result, which are still going strong, thank you for asking.
It’s also given me a new hobby – or at least, a new element to my regular cycle rides. One of the facts the book underlined was just how important it is in carbon terms to recycle aluminium. This was one of those things I vaguely knew about, but hadn’t quite realised the scale of the effect – in fact, for every kilogram of aluminium recycled, 8kg of CO2 emissions are avoided. Obviously, we already recycle all our cans and other aluminium foil and have done for ages – but recently I’ve been noticing just how many cans (along with other litter) there are on the side of the road as I cycle in and out of Bigtown. So I decided that this year I’m going to pick up a couple every time I cycle anywhere, take them home and put them in the recycling. It only adds a few seconds onto any journey – less time than I’d spend taking a photo – and a few grams to my load (an average of 15 grams per can, actually, and yes, I did weigh them).
Pretty much as soon as I made this decision and started implementing it, I’ve been questioning whether it was the right one, but I’ve been plugging on regardless. It would undoubtedly have been more effective just to go out one day with a big bag and pick them all up – but then I’d probably still be vaguely planning to do this. I’m also feeling slightly guilty at all the other litter I’m not picking up – what about plastic bottles that can also be recycled and will end up in the sea? What about just joining the regular litter picking groups in the area? But – as a guy I once worked with often used to say – ‘better a bad decision than no decision’ and in the time I would have spent debating the perfect tactic, I have already picked up around 40 cans which have gone to the recycling* and will ultimately prevent the emission of 4.8kg of CO2. If I keep this up (and it’s already become a habit) then over the course of the year I expect I’ll pick up 4-500 cans (assuming there’s an endless supply, which there would appear to be so far) and save up to 60kg of carbon emissions. It’s also giving me an interesting insight into local beverage choices, at least among the subsection of the population who just chuck their litter out of the car window (and if anyone could explain how a zero-calorie energy drink is supposed to work I would be grateful).
This is, obviously, a drop in the ocean, especially when I learned yesterday that new cars registered in Scotland are getting less efficient, not more, on average. But I don’t know what more I can do so I’ll keep on picking up my cans and hope that other people elsewhere are making similar efforts (I know a few people locally who do) that might just add up to something that makes a difference. Because the alternative is simply to despair, and – despite everything – I’m not quite ready to do that yet.
*In the car, but it was going anyway.