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Now that I've bin told, nothing will be the same again

PUBLISHED: 20:25 18 August 2009 | UPDATED: 16:22 07 September 2010

My daughter came to visit at the weekend and things have changed. All it took was one look in the kitchen bin and a shriek that would have raised the dead. Father, what on earth is going on here? she lamented, once she d regained her composure. Haven

My daughter came to visit at the weekend and things have changed. All it took was one look in the kitchen bin and a shriek that would have raised the dead.

'Father, what on earth is going on here?'' she lamented, once she'd regained her composure. 'Haven't you ever heard of recycling''.

She then proceeded to don the rubber gloves and plunge her hands into the murky depths of the gleamingly new 50 litre Brabantia bin and divide its contents into a number of distinctive piles, each of which must in future be disposed of in a particular manner.

Not only this, but bottles would have to be thoroughly washed beforehand, tops would have to be removed and food cartons inspected and dismembered so that the relevant parts could be saved from the landfill site and given a new life.

As for food leftovers, my behaviour in consigning them to the wastebin, as many generations of Martins have done unchallenged until now, was bordering on the criminal. In future it would have to be put to good use, perhaps on a compost heap, to eventually become soil which in turn would bring forth new life of its own.

This was all something of a revelation, not because I've never heard of domestic recycling, but because of the earnestness with which my dear daughter approached the subject. The look of admonition as she rescued recyclable item upon recyclable item from the binliner was enough to make a grown man cringe, and I did. I even got a ticking off for using bin liners.

Later while driving towards Hampstead Heath she informed me that the rubbish I had asked her to tidy up in the back of the car was not in fact rubbish at all, but 'recyclable material' which should be treated with the same respect as the melange she had earlier rescued from the kitchen.

What makes this all strange is that Catherine, on the cusp of turning 21, still lives in my home town of Ballymena in Country Antrim, a place I have often regarded as something of a backwater - especially when it comes to new age thinking.

Yet it seems that practically everyone there painstakingly divvies up their rubbish and disposes of it in the ecologically correct manner. From Tetra packs to tea bags, from mouldy old dough to milk bottles, everything is given a chance to live again, like some sustainable version of Hinduism's doctrine of reincarnation.

This is done with a passion which makes our recycling efforts appear spurious by comparison. In fact, it's become extremely socially unacceptable in those places not to recycle one's waste in an extremely methodical manner. It's certainly not the done thing to dump all your rubbish in the same designer bin, no matter how shiny it is, and leave it for someone else to sort out... if anyone ever does.

Geoff Martin


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