Getting Away From It All (Well, Almost!)

Dan-CookeDan Cooke, director of external affairs at Viridor and an RWM ambassador, highlights the changes in recycling systems that we can face when on holiday, and how easy it can be to let “holiday bad habits” take hold… but we must make it easier for holidaymakers to do the right thing

hammockIt’s that time of the year again, when millions of us in the UK head for the coast or the hills, or to cities and cultural destinations, or to wherever takes our fancy to take a well-earned break and rest. Whether staying at home or getting away, most of us are looking to spend some quality time with our families, friends, or just to kick back and get away from our everyday pressures and routines. It’s important to recharge the batteries after what seems like a sustained period of change, challenge and uncertainty.

Our holiday habits, trends and choices this year have undoubtedly been affected by some worrying events – whether terrorism and attacks on democracy and decency, by political upheaval in countries such as Turkey or by the post-Brexit decision fall in the value of the pound. This has made many of us change our destinations, either to relatively more stable destinations such as the western end of the Med, or to staycations around our own fabulous coastline, towns, cities and countryside.

Wherever we go, our consumption, recycling and waste management habits, choices and behaviour often change too. Either subtly or dramatically, we buy and consume different stuff and are often faced with unfamiliar systems to recycle. A confusing array of bins, bags and boxes often face us in hotels, cottages, campsites and apartments (if evident at all), along with vague or non-existent information on collection times. All this makes putting the ‘right stuff in the right bin’ difficult, if not impossible.

A straw poll of friends and sector colleagues indicates that while many find this frustrating, they will persevere to do the right thing regardless. Many others simply abandon their recycling habits and with a shrug of the shoulders throw everything in whatever looks like a bin and assume that the hosts will sort it all out for them. Some even confess this relapse into old-school disposal habits is a guilty pleasure of going on holiday – let it all hang out and hang the consequences…

Tapping Into The Goodwill

There is hope. Lots of campsites and cottage companies/owners make a positive selling point of good, clear recycling systems and signage. Helping guests to keep those wine bottles, fizzy drinks cans and suntan lotion bottles separate, clean, dry and loose for recycling is a feel-good differentiator. There are more and better beach bin options and recycling-on-the-go campaigns to nudge us in the right direction. Our sector is getting much better at devising, delivering and refining services and solutions to make this happen, and to tap into the latent goodwill of holidaying recyclers.

When we stay in UK accommodation that’s included in the local household collection rounds, wouldn’t it be so much easier if the bin/box colours and combinations were the same as when we’re at home? Thousands of tonnes of materials could be far more efficiently managed if this was the case, surely.

Photo from Dan Roberts, from Croatia, as used in the CIWM Journal August 2015

So, there’s still a long way to go. And when we go a long way, how many of us (avid recyclers and waste geeks!) take holiday snaps of the local bins, wagons and recycling and treatment infrastructure? I’ll bet there’s a competition being run right now in a trade press mag or website near you [there is a wonderful spread in the next Journal, Dan!]. But this is great, because we often learn or get to think how we could do it differently and better in our day jobs.

When we get home, back to work and the summer memories and tans begin to fade, or when the crowds have departed for colleagues working in the tourist destinations, we might reflect and share the best or the worst of our holiday recycling experiences. We can make recycling easier and more convenient for the punters. We can work out better ways of cleansing, collecting and managing resources to keep the holiday destinations pristine, to attract them all again next year.

The important point here is that our sector, as ever, takes seasonality and whatever people throw at us, in our stride – and indeed we’re making strides to improve the services still further. Hats off to colleagues that will be delivering vital recycling and cleansing services as the rest of us take a break. We can reflect on the big picture challenges and opportunities when we get back to work, and at the RWM in September, when we’re back with batteries hopefully recharged.

In the meantime, enjoy your summer holidays, wherever you take them.


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