When the researchers looking for contributors for the recycling challenge on A Land Worth Loving overheard Phoebe say,"my Mum throws everything away", they knew they'd found who they were looking for. " I did throw away everything and I'm ashamed to say I never even thought about recycling" says Phoebe's Mum, Rebecca Sheppard.
At first, Rebecca dreaded the challenge, having been coerced into participating by the enthusiastic Phoebe. However, her reluctance soon gave way to serious intent. The turning point for her came with a visit to a landfill site, accompanied by presenter Nick Knowles. "I was blown away by the fact that 50 wagon loads of waste arrives there seven days a week!" says Rebecca. Finding out how long different materials take to degrade also came as a "bit of a shock". After that, they began their recycling in earnest.
To help their efforts the BBC gave them a wormery and compost bin for organic waste. A black recycling box was used for paper, glass, tins, shoes, clothes etc. They took plastic waste to the local play scheme, used fewer plastic bags in the supermarket and re-used them for shopping. By the end of the challenge they'd successfully reduced their domestic rubbish by 90%. Her success came as a complete surprise to Rebecca as she admits, "it wasn't that difficult and didn't take too much effort!"
So what about recycling after the challenge? Have they kept up their 90% reduction of rubbish? "I wish I could say yes," says Rebecca. While their rubbish is still less than one bag a week, they've found it harder to recycle certain materials over a longer period than the challenge.
Plastics are the problem, since there's a limit to how much the play scheme will take, and making matters more difficult is the fact that the Council doesn't recycle plastic. But it's not heading for the landfill just yet. The empty plastic cartons are sitting in a cupboard, as Rebecca isn't quite sure what to do with them. Cardboard is also an issue, since it cannot be placed in their recycling box. Clearly there's some thinking to do to keep this out of the general rubbish.
The compost bin has been a bit 'hit and miss'. "It's often swarming with flies and the smell can make you gag on a bad day," concedes Rebecca. The solution to dealing with this, she feels, would be to make it a children's chore, but unfortunately the children are not quite tall enough to take on this household task. Yet looking inside recently, Rebecca is pleased to announce that the flies seem to have flown and what's inside seems actually to resemble compost. Encouraged with by this, she aims to keep with it.
Upon reflection, they've not done too badly since the challenge, especially as they confess they didn't recycle before. Their rubbish is now down by 50%, which was the aim of the original challenge. The other change Rebecca admits is that "I've stopped talking about recycling as much as I did, consequently my friends have started ringing me again!".
Take it further
Explore your own energy house
Discover more about A Land Worth Loving