A Not So Rubbish Trip

Illustration from Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor (1851).

London dustman. Illustration from Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor (1851)


When Rosie Oliver says she’s going to take you on a rubbish trip, she means it literally. Rosie, a lawyer, lecturer and presenter specializing in environmental law and policy, created and leads a two-hour walk from Mudchute on the Isle of Dogs to Greenwich on the theme of rubbish and how it has influenced the landscape. Woven into her commentary are stories about the people who collected the rubbish and how the rubbish has been treated and transformed over the centuries.

One example is Mudchute Park, the site of the former mud chute that spurted silt dredged from Millwall Docks into “settling ponds”, a type of landfill for waste mud. Also, the Victorian homes we passed and structures like the railway viaduct were likely built using materials that included rubbish: the dust and ash from people’s fireplaces from burning coal and domestic rubbish, which was collected by dustmen and taken to brick factories in Kent where it was mixed with clay, fired and brought back to London to be used for building.

In the 21st century, the need to reuse, recycle and reduce the rubbish we generate is greater than ever, Rosie says.

The walk includes a visit to the Mudchute city farm, where we saw one of nature’s recyclers in action – a magnificent pig – and we finished on the banks of the Thames at Greenwich, a veritable treasure trove of historical rubbish.

Rosie’s company is called Dotmaker Tours, and she offers the rubbish walk to the public once a month, and at other times to private groups: http://dotmakertours.co.uk/page10.htm.

Recycling Events in Hounslow Libraries this June

Love food, hate waste

  • Where: Heston Library
  • When: Thursday 20th June 2013, 6:00 pm – 8:00pm
  • Admission: FREE

Pop along to hear all about some quick and easy things you could do to save up to £50 a month. Whether you choose to have perfect portions, be savvy with your storage, cook delicious meals with your lovely leftovers, save by planning or simply get to know use by dates, we’ve got something for you to try. There will also be drop in sessions at the following libraries:

  • Heston Tuesday 18th June 10.00am – 12 noon
  • Feltham Tuesday 18th June 3.00pm – 5.00pm
  • Chiswick Wednesday 19th June 10.00am – 12 noon

For more information and to book a place call the Waste Prevention Team on 020 8814 9801 or email info@westlondonwaste.gov.uk

Composting Vs Recycling

  • Where: Hounslow Library, Cafe area
  • When: Friday 21st June 2013, 11:00 am – 12:00pm
  • Admission: FREE

Come along and find out about what can be used as compost and what can be recycled. Learn what benefits it brings to your allotment and to the environment.
Be entered in a draw to win a compost bin.

Re-use: great stuff on a budget

  • Where: Hounslow Library, Cafe area
  • When: Friday 21st June 2013, 12:15 pm – 2:00pm
  • Admission: FREE

We’ll be offering tips and advice on how to extend the life of your household goods, what to do with your old appliances as well as finding out how to purchase good quality second-hand goods and save money.

We didn’t have this green thing back then

This, probably apocryphal, story has been making the rounds on the Internet. The author and origin are unknown.

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own shopping bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The cashier responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

The old woman replied: “You’re right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day. Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

“We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every shop and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

“Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right. We didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

“Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the county of Yorkshire . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right. We didn’t have the green thing back then.

“We drank water from a fountain or a tap when we were thirsty instead of demanding a plastic bottle flown in from another country. We accepted that a lot of food was seasonal and didn’t expect that to be bucked by flying it thousands of air miles around the world. We actually cooked food that didn’t come out of a packet, tin or plastic wrap and we could even wash our own vegetables and chop our own salad. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

“Back then, people took the tram or a bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mothers into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

“But isn’t it sad that the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?”

Love Christmas Hate Waste

West London Waste  are looking for individuals, couples and families to challenge themselves to Love Christmas and Hate Waste this festive season.

For 10 weeks, throughout the preparation, festivities and recovery WLWA will be with you every step of the way to help you to avoid waste of things, effort and money.  Each week you will be provided with ideas, tips and support to help you get the most from your time, money and the holidays with little or no increase in the amount of rubbish that goes in your bin. Continue reading