Keep on top of recycling with your new calendar


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Spring is almost here, and about time too!

Tuesday 20 March sees the Spring Equinox and the ‘official’ arrival of spring in the UK. Theoretically, after that we’ll start to enjoy warmer days, leaves on the trees and bluer skies. That said, Colchester famously once had snow in June, causing a county cricket match to be called off, so I’m not making any promises!

I can promise, however, that your new Recycling Calendars will be landing on your doorsteps this month. They’ll be delivered in the same envelope as your annual council tax statement, ready to be stuck on your fridge or corkboard for handy reference all year round.

Residents living in flats with communal rubbish collections should continue to follow the process specified by their landlord.

Last year’s calendars had a new look, featuring a useful quick guide to Green and Blue Weeks. This went down well, so the design team have kept the guide and revamped the look slightly so you can tell it apart from last year’s. You’ll be able to use it to check your collection dates, but also see which container different materials should go into.

Digital versions of the new 2018/19 calendar  will also available online from 1 April. You can download a PDF document or audio calendar by entering your postcode at

Last time I posted about new collection calendars, it was June 2017 and the new recycling system was just being introduced in Colchester. I’ve spoken to hundreds of people since then, answering all kinds of questions about recycling and waste, and I’m amazed at how much more of our rubbish we seem to be recycling.

I was thrilled when we reported that Colchester sent 33% less stuff to landfill in July-November 2017 than it did in the same period of 2016. That’s the weight of 22 blue whales!

That’s an amazing achievement in such a short time. Personally, I think it’s totally possible that one day our borough will recycle almost everything as technology develops and people become more and more aware of how important it is.

So, 2017/18 was a pretty good year. Here’s to an equally green 2018/19! While you’re waiting for your calendar, check out the rest of my blog for plenty of tips for environmentally-friendly (and wallet-friendly) living, or leave me a comment with your recycling and waste questions.

I’ve been shortlisted for an award!


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Last week was really full of ups and downs, but it all ended on a high!

The snow has all melted now, but it was a real pest for lots of people across Colchester. I’m lucky enough to travel to work by foot, so I made it in every day after a slow and careful walk, but travelling by road in the heavy snow showers was a little bit risky even with the County Council’s gritters out.

I’ve been answering lots of questions about the collection changes resulting from the severe weather and people have been really understanding – thank you all for your patience!

If you haven’t heard, collections had to be suspended from Wednesday 28 February to Friday 2 March. It just wasn’t safe for our residents or staff to send big trucks out onto the icy streets with staff pulling heavy bins around them.

The Council is prioritising the missed black (general waste) bins and bags because they’re the most urgent collection. If this week (beginning 5 March) is your Blue Week, there are no changes, but if it’s your Green Week, please put your black bin/bags out alongside your food waste, paper, plastic and textile recycling bags. Garden waste isn’t being collected this week because we’re concentrating on getting all the general waste first.

It’s a bit of a pain, but as one lady said to me – at least everyone is safe. If you have a question about the missed collection, there is more information and an FAQ on the Council’s website, or you are welcome to comment with your query and I’ll do my best to help.

After all the weather-based kerfuffle, the week ended with a little bit of very good news. This site has been shortlisted for ‘Best Blog’ in the Essex Digital Awards! I can’t believe it! I’m delighted that the judges think my blog is good enough to be listed. The winners will be announced on 3 May in a special ceremony, so fingers crossed!

Not to launch into an Oscars acceptance speech (it’s only a shortlisting, after all), but I would genuinely like to thank all of you for reading, asking questions and hopefully finding some of my tips and advice helpful.

To be an awards finalist is brilliant, but what I’d really like to do is make some difference to recycling in Colchester – to make it a bit easier for people to fit recycling into their lives and to have a positive effect on how we look after our beautiful environment.
So really, this post is a big thank you – to the Essex Digital Awards for shortlisting me and to all of you for your patience, effort and willingness to help cut down on how much we waste.


The strange things that get into bins



During my time as a Zone Warden at Colchester Borough Council, I’ve been asked some unusual and intriguing questions – from “Can I still recycle paper if it’s crumpled into a ball?” (yes) to “I found a dead bird, can I put it in my food waste bin?” (no).

There’s nothing wrong with a curveball question – it keeps me sharp! It’s a bit different, though, when strange things start cropping up in recycling and rubbish containers.

At lunch on Wednesday, I was chatting to some of my colleagues in the collection crews. They told me about some rather peculiar items found in people’s sacks, bags and bins.

  • A whole paving slab
  • Live gun ammunition
  • A bag containing four party balloons, still blown up
  • Various knives
  • A 4.5ltr bottle full of whisky

So there you have it – we collect waste and recycling from Zones 1 to 6, plus the Twilight Zone!

Obviously, some of these examples shouldn’t have been anywhere near the rubbish. The paving slab should have been taken to a local Recycling Centre, where clean building materials can be recycled as hardcore.

Live ammunition must be surrendered at a police station or to a registered firearms dealer.

Balloons aren’t usually recyclable, but are best deflated before being put in the black bag or bin – apart from anything else, you won’t have the shock of a sudden bang from your rubbish when they pop! Knives should be wrapped in newspaper and placed in your general waste, while unwanted liquid should be poured out of bottles before they are recycled.

As well as things that don’t belong in the collection, there are some surprising items that are recyclable.

  • Bones and shells – Food waste
  • Clean kitchen and toilet roll – Paper
  • Cigarette packets (with foil removed) – Paper
  • Aerosol cans – Green box
  • Biscuit and baby milk tins – Green box
  • Worn-out white garden sacks – Clear bag for plastics
  • Plastic cereal liners – Clear bag for plastics
  • Bedding from non-meat-eating animals – Garden waste

The Council’s website has a  list of recyclable materials. If you have something unusual and aren’t sure whether it could be recycled or reused, check out Recycle This – it’s one of my favourite websites and is full of ingenious ideas!

If you’re still not sure where your unwanted item should go (or you’d like to test me!), leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help.

Plastic gives the whole planet the blues


Did you watch Blue Planet II over the winter? I knew it was on, but I was so caught up with work and Christmas that I never watched it.

It wasn’t until the final episode that I started to see it all over my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

People who never usually post much about the environment were suddenly talking about the amazing creatures that live in the oceans, the clever techniques used to film them and, most of all, the enormous damage that humans are wreaking on them through our rubbish, especially plastic.

Well, obviously that caught my attention and last weekend, I finally got a chance to watch the last episode. It’s very powerful – you can see a clip about the impact of plastic on albatrosses on the BBC website.

In some parts of the ocean, there are over half a million pieces of plastic for every square kilometre!

Something that Sir David Attenborough said at the end of the Blue Planet II series struck home for me: “We are at a unique stage in our history – never before have we had such an awareness of what we are doing to the planet and never before have we had the power to do something about it.”

That perfectly sums up something I’m always telling people. So often I hear people saying “There’s so much waste, the stuff I recycle is just a drop in the ocean” – but actually, what we do as individuals is tremendously important to our planet. The more plastic we each recycle, the less needs to be made. When you recycle plastics at the kerbside in Colchester, they’re processed in the UK or Europe (none goes to China) and turned into new products, helping to protect our environment.

The average UK household produces an entire tonne of waste each year. You have the power to make a big difference!

Sounds like a massive responsibility… but actually, cutting down on plastic is really easy! Because of my relentless nagging, we’ve always recycled a lot in my house, but since hearing about the plastic problems in the ocean we’ve made some more little changes. Now we use (and waste) less than ever!


If everyone reading this uses less plastic, all our little drops in the ocean could add up to a sea of change!  Tell your friends and family and help Colchester to do better.

How to reduce your food waste


I had so many views on my post about what happens to your food waste, I thought it would be a good idea to look at ways of reducing your food waste, before it even gets to the recycling caddy. Here are my 5 top tips! 

Know how to keep your food fresher for longer 

Did you know that the way we store our food can make a big difference to how long it stays fresh? My first top tip is to keep your fruit and vegetables in the fridge, they really will last longer! However, bread will go hard in the fridge, so best to keep that in a bread bin. 


Know the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’

The dates on packaging can get confusing, so I hope these explanations help the next time you look at something and think about throwing it into your caddy 

  • A ‘use by’ date is found on perishable foods that could make us ill if we eat them after this date.  
  • A ‘best before’ date refers to the quality, rather than food safety. Eating food after this date is unlikely to be harmful. Eggs are the only exception, which should be consumed before their ‘best before’ date. 

Only cook what you need 

How often do you find you’ve cooked way too much pasta? I know it used to happen to me all the time! But it’s easier than you think to get it right. These are the guides that I found helped:  

  • A mug of rice will feed three people, watch this great 30-second video 
  • A portion of uncooked pasta should be the size of your clenched fist, this may look small but it doubles in weight when cooked 
  • A serving of meat should be the size of the palm of your hand (but not including your fingers) 
  • A serving of fish, such as haddock or Pollock, is the size of your hand, including your fingers 

Lovely leftovers 

It’s amazing how many meals you can make from one chicken. My favourites are curry, fajitas and risotto – be inspired by these recipes.  If you have cooked too much for your dinner, put some in a tub or bag and pop it in the freezer. Then if you’re going to be home late one night it’s a great ‘ready meal’ for one! 

Planning your meals

As I mentioned in my post last week, this is my best top tip for saving money on your food bills and wasting less. Before you go shopping, check your fridge, freezer and cupboard and think about what you need for the week and write a list. That way you won’t shop for things you already have. 


But don’t forget to use your food waste caddy for all those little bits that can’t be re-used like tea bags, egg shells, banana skins and more! All our household food waste is collected weekly. If you don’t have a food caddy, pick a free one up from your local pick up point (sorry this is not available in flats at the moment unless directed by your landlord). 

So get ready, steady, cook!  

A simple checklist for easy spring cleaning



Every year, my wife and I make grand plans for spring.  

Keeping a weekend clear, we list all the things we want to achieve around the house, from re-grouting the bathroom tiles to clearing out what we call the Everything Else Cupboard (the one we open very carefully, in case all the junk falls out).  

When the Spring Clean Weekend arrives, we’re full of motivation, imagining the beautiful, clean, well-organised home we’ll be relaxing in by Sunday evening. 

Of course, it never happens. The grouting takes longer than expected, the cupboard turns out to be full of souvenirs that need to be reminisced over for at least two hours, the guinea pig suddenly needs the vet and we never get as much done as we planned.  

This year is going to be different. 

Speaking to friends and family, it seems everyone has this problem, so I’ve come up with a new four-step spring cleaning ‘system’ that means you can get all your jobs done – and have time to relax: 

1) List all the rooms in your house on a piece of paper. 

2) Note up to three things you want to achieve in each room. 

3) Each weekend from now onwards, complete your tasks for one room. 

That’s only three jobs per weekend. Easy, right? Even if you have a big house, you should be able to get everything done during the spring using the ‘Reece Method’.  

There’s one more step, which is hugely important to keep our environment clean too: 

4) You’re bound to find all sorts of junk you no longer want. Put it all in a corner, and once your jobs are finished for the weekend, recycle it! 

Much of what you throw out may still be useful to someone else. If your family and friends don’t want it, consider donating it to a charity shop. Clean clothes, furniture, toys, ornaments, books and media are all welcomed – a quick Google search will show up your nearest charity shops and the types of donations they take. 

Another option is to use community Facebook pages to give things away or sell them for a small charge. We got rid of an old coffee table through our local Facebook selling page last year – it was picked up within three hours! To get as much interest as possible, include a photo of the item in your post. 

Your trash is someone else’s treasure – unless it’s broken, of course. Even then, it might contain important materials that can be recycled to save our planet’s resources. Small electrical items like radios, toasters and calculators can be taken to the pink bin at your local library to be recycled, even if they don’t work any more 

Other waste can be taken to your nearest Essex County Council Recycling Centre – wherever you can, separate out any parts that are recyclable. It all helps! 

If you have anything really bulky and can’t take it to the tip yourself, the Council does offer a special collection for larger items at a small charge. You can book this via the Colchester Borough Council website. 

Lastly, if you’re anything like us, your house is full of the guilty evidence of empty Christmas selection tins. Don’t throw them away – they’re brilliant for tidying away smaller items like photos, receipts, screws, nail polishes, baubles… just label them so you know what’s what next time you have a spring clean!


Recycling collections make way for Santa


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Can you believe it’s nearly Christmas? It certainly feels like it, with all the snow we had last week. Only days now until Father Christmas flies through the sky on his sleigh pulled by reindeer, bringing presents for the children of Colchester.

My son was concerned that Santa might not be able to get in as we don’t have a chimney, but we’ve fixed that by making him a special decorated ‘Santa key’ from cardboard and wrapping paper scraps. Hanging it on the outside of the door means the merry gift-bringer will definitely be able to enter on Christmas Eve, and I’ve assured my son that there’s ample parking for his sleigh at the roadside.

Of course, to accommodate Santa’s arrival and the bank holidays, other magical vehicles will be adjusting the day of their visits during Christmas week. 

I’m talking, of course, about the recycling and rubbish trucks that will come to take away all the wrapping paper, toy packaging, food waste and general evidence of our celebrations once Christmas Day and Boxing Day have passed. Lots of people have been asking me whether their schedules are changing over Christmas and the answer is yes, but only for one week.

Between 25 and 30 December, all our recycling and rubbish collections are going to be one day later than usual. For example, if your normal collection day is Tuesday, your containers will be picked up on a Wednesday instead. New Year’s Day Bank Holiday won’t affect collections, so all you need to remember is to put your rubbish out a day later than usual between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve.

The order of your Green and Blue weeks will stay the same, and collections will go back to your usual day the following week. If you live in a flat with a communal collection point, your collections will return to normal from Wednesday 27 December.

OK, our collection vehicles might not be magical, strictly speaking, but they are part of a process that turns your household rubbish into amazing, useful things. Most of the extra rubbish we generate over Christmas can be recycled:

  • Wrapping paper and cracker parts can go into your clear paper recycling sack, unless it’s covered in glitter or metallic foil, in which case it should go in the black general waste.
  • Turkey bones and other food scraps should go in the food bin. Many leftovers can be frozen or reused – find a feast of recipes at
  • Christmas trees can be sawn up and placed in your garden waste or given to St Helena Hospice with a donation – sign up for the charity’s Treecycle scheme at
  • Tinfoil from turkey and roast potatoes can be rinsed and then put into your glass and cans box.
  • Plastic trays from party food are fully recyclable and can be put into your clear plastic recycling bag.
  • Plastic nets used to store nuts, oranges and other produce can also go into the plastics recycling.
  • Unwanted presents might not be recyclable, but can be given to charity shops… or even re-gifted (don’t worry, I won’t tell)!

Every time you recycle something this Christmas, you’re giving a gift to our planet. Did you know that recycling just one wine bottle saves enough energy to power a home stereo for 24 hours? I think that’s pretty magical.

This is my last blog before Christmas – me and the other Recycling Zone Wardens will be out and about over the next week, though, so feel free to ask us your recycling-related questions, or leave me a comment! I wish you all a very merry Christmas, however you’re spending it, and a happy New Year.

See you in 2018!