Recycling plastic in Amsterdam

Plastic heroes campaign

Plastic heroes campaign

Right now all around Amsterdam and Haarlem there is an ad campaign by Plastic Heroes about recycling plastic. I’m really stoked that there are so many posters and I hope it will create awareness and encourage people to recycle their plastic.

When I started systematically sorting out my plastic there were no large bins for it in my neighbourhood, so I had to ride 15mn by bike with my huge bulging plastic bag full of more plastic just to dispose of it. I did it gladly with the thought that at least it would be re-used and wouldn’t end up in a rubbish dump or in the sea.

I consciously try to buy products that have less packaging and I refuse bags but I actually find it really hard to reduce the plastic coming into my home. Even in my local Ekoplaza (organic supermarket) nearly every product is packaged in plastic.

My aim in the next months is to find places where I can buy things in bulk and un-packaged, and see how much I can reduce the plastic I use. My ultimate goal would be to have a zero waste home, and I believe it’s possible one step at a time.

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How to encourage recycling at work

Separating glass, paper and plastic

When I first arrived at the company where I work, I noticed that we were about 30 people having lunch daily, eating products ordered at Albert Heijn supermarket and we were throwing away a lot of packaging into one rubbish bin.  At home I automatically sort my paper, plastic, glass and food scraps, so I felt frustrated not to be able to do it at work.  After a few months I asked the office manager if we couldn’t set up recycling and her answer was that there was no use in sorting out our waste because the rubbish was all picked up together in one truck.  I was disappointed, but I felt there was not that much I could do.  Still every day it made me sad and frustrated to see all this rubbish all thrown into one bin.

One day on a lunch time walk I noticed that just on the opposite side of the street from the office, there was a rubbish point with separate bins for: Plastic, Glass and Paper.  So I decided to give recycling at the office another try. I didn’t wait for approval from the office manager because clearly there was no enthusiasm on her side. I set up 3 plastic boxes with a sign on each so people would know what to put in them.

Recycling ideas

Recycling ideas

Then I stuck a note on the fridge explaining how people could help me recycle, what products fit into what category and saying that I would take the responsibility to empty out the boxes daily. It took a while to catch on, but the boxes are now filling up regularly. I still fish out lots of plastic and cardboard from the main bin to sort it out (to the disgust of one of my colleagues who thinks I am crazy and has nicknamed me ‘Greenpeace’).  Ideally I wish we did not have all this packaging in the first place, but since it is here at least I feel better knowing that what I throw away will be recycled.

This experience reminded me that if I want something I shouldn’t wait for it to happen by magic. I need to take the responsibility and do what I can to make it happen because in the end I am the one who really cares about it. It doesn’t matter what other people think and actually they will most likely be happy to help.

Wormshop!

Last Sunday I went to a wormshop run by Cityplot to learn how to compost with worms. The introductory email warned that we would be “handling worms and powertools”, 2 thinsg that sounded like lots of fun to me:-) First we had a theory course on how to look after the worms and our worm bins and then we started the hands on part.

Making my worm hotel

Making my worm hotel

First we drilled holes in one plastic box that will serve initially as the cover.  Then we filled the other box which will serve as their home with soaked egg cartons to make the initial bottom bedding. The key for a healthy wormbin is balance, it needs to be moist, but not too wet.

Wet egg carton bedding

Wet egg carton bedding

The next step was to put a layer of cocopeat, and wet that too. Then we crushed some egg shells finely in order to make some grit, necessary for the worms to eat. These broken shells were sprinkled onto the cocopeat.

Crushing egg shells

Crushing egg shells with a rolling pin

The next step was to put in the worms. We each got a handful of thin red compost worms, otherwise known as Red Wrigglers. They don’t like light so we quickly covered them with another layer of bedding (wet cardboard) after having put in a piece of banana peel for them to start snacking on.

Bedding : wet cardboard

Bedding : wet cardboard

I’d love to show you a picture of my Red Wrigglers but they are very shy. They underwent quite a change of scenery and rode through the city on the back of my bike, so now I am letting them rest undisturbed until they adapt to their new ecosystem. I can’t wait to see how they progress and will write more about them here in the future as I get more experienced looking after them.

Travelling wormbin

Travelling wormbin