I WONDER if you’re as confused about recycling as I am?

I’m often to be seen holding a plastic container up to the light searching for the triangular symbol that says it’s recyclable. Why can’t it be larger and in a more obvious place? And what about those containers that appear to be an identical kind of plastic, but where there is no symbol? Some other products carry the instruction to recycle at “larger supermarkets”, or, even more confusingly, to “check locally”. I wonder if the new unitary authorities will issue consistent guidelines? And should bottle tops be left on or removed? And should loose papers be packed neatly into a cardboard box or left separate to blow around in the wind?

Now it may simply be that I have not tried sufficiently hard to familiarise myself with the various rules, but if so, I don’t think I am the only guilty one. Indeed it may be the more serious we are about the need to recycle, the harder we find it to follow the rules – after all, it is easier just to chuck everything in the bin and let somebody else sort it out (or not). Yet if you’ve ever used a boardwalk made from recycled plastic bottles, perhaps through a nature reserve or boggy area, it is very satisfying to think that your careful recycling may have contributed positively.

Human experiences have a habit of being recycled. “What goes around, comes around”, we sometimes say. In other words, the consequences of past actions have a way of returning to us, for good or for ill. The Greek storyteller Aesop explores the same idea, and sums up the situation: “If you wish for kindness, be kind; if you wish for truth, be true. What you give of yourself you find – your world’s a reflection of you”. This works in negative as well as positive ways of course. When Peter tries to defend Jesus against arrest by drawing his sword and striking one of the officials, Jesus counters with a warning: “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword”. But earlier he had spoken of a better way to live: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you”. Simple; yet incredibly difficult!

So I hope we will persevere in our efforts to get our recycling in order – our plastic, glass and cardboard – but even more especially the qualities of our life and character. Then others will be blessed by knowing us, and we will be blessed by knowing them. A perfect recycling arrangement!

Jim Hope