A regular column on Treading Lightly Upon The Earth

Recycling is a serious fact of life when you live in the country. Detach yourself from the use-it-and-chuck-it mentality of so many city dwellers and then every empty bottle, used envelope, and apple core moves with you into that secondary universe inhabited by the committed recycler. There is something hugely satisfying about reducing household waste to the absolute minimum, a feeling of doing one’s bit for the planet.

The alternative is a bin full of rubbish that takes up valuable space in the yard. They stink in hot weather, encourage vermin and make you feel guilty when the garbage truck arrives.

We, therefore, become experts at thinking up ways of re-using just about everything. It’s a sign of failure when something has to be consigned to the bin. Jam jars last forever and it’s interesting to identify some of the lids and realise that they’ve been used regularly for homemade jam for more years than we care to remember.

Other things are not so straightforward. Bottle corks, for instance. Some wine shops are part of a scheme that recycles the plastic ones, but the genuine article is more of a problem.

By all means slice them to stick behind the lower corners of pictures before you hang them, put them in the base of flower tubs and pots to assist drainage, and stick them on garden canes so that you don’t poke your eye out when weeding. You can certainly hang them off strings around your hat to keep the flies away but there must be a limit to how many hats, pictures, and plant canes you are likely to own. Any more ideas?

With some communities supporting a wide range of recycling facilities, the job is made slightly easier than if you live many miles from a town. Thank goodness our generation does not dig holes in remote corners of the landscape to bury old washing machines and refrigerators, but their disposal still presents difficulties.

Computers, too, are a problem. It’s a sad fact that the minute we get connected to the latest all-singing, all-dancing piece of equipment, it is on the slippery slope towards obsolescence, so it is important to find out where to take it when it’s outlived its usefulness to you.

Keep your eyes open for some great schemes for re-using all manner of everyday things. Outgrown children’s shoes are despatched to Dominica on returning empty banana boats because education can often depend on children having shoes to wear. People living in developing countries are grateful recipients of redundant spectacles that can often be left at the optician’s shop for the first stage of the journey.

Make a friend of your compost heap too. The garden will benefit in the long run, but first of all feed the heap or bin on vegetable peelings and fruit scraps, tea bags and coffee grounds, grass cuttings, leaves, shredded young hedge clippings, and much more.