Shining a spotlight on what works

Karen Cannard with Radio 4 presenters Paddy O'Connell and Carolyn Quinn.
Karen Cannard with Radio 4 presenters Paddy O'Connell and Carolyn Quinn.
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We’re only a few weeks into the new year and already waste and recycling have been hitting national headlines.

If you’re a regular Radio 4 listener, you may have even caught yours truly on the PM programme.

When I first got a call from Xavier, from the BBC’s planning department, he told me that he had a fun idea to run past me.

“We’re going to be doing something on packaging for Radio 4’s PM programme and wondered if you’d be up for a delve in our presenter’s bin.”

As regular readers know, give me a bin, no matter who it belongs to, and I am as happy as kid in a candy shop discovering what lies within.

And when I heard it was Paddy O’Connell, who last year chewed over the issue of food waste with Love Food Hate Waste’s Emma Marsh, I couldn’t wait to see what was in his bin bags.

If you’re quick, you can hear the snippets of our bin rummage and shopping trip on BBC iPlayer’s Radio app. They were broadcast as part of a week-long series.

As well as addressing the problems with packaging, the series covered some of the innovations and also took a glimpse at the awesome 68 per cent recycling rate over in Ceredigion, Wales.

Tuesday’s bin audit revealed that Paddy’s attempts at recycling weren’t as perfect as he’d hoped, but having taken him through the postcode locator at www.recyclenow.com, his bins are most definitely in better shape.

I was really encouraged by the constructive approach taken by the programme.

While not shying away from the scale of the problems we face in waste, PM shone a spotlight on what works, rather than just bashing what doesn’t.

Throughout the week, PM’s listeners provided great comments, tips and questions, some of which we addressed during Friday’s panel debate.

Inevitably, there wasn’t enough time to cover all the questions, or, indeed, all the issues and opportunities.

If we’d had longer, it would have been great to have covered the rise of stores, such as SESI in Oxford and Unpackaged in Muswell Hill, London, that sell unpackaged goods.

How great it would be to have a whole shop of refillables locally.

If you’re an entrepreneur who’s thinking of going down this route, it’s worth visiting the stores and consulting with their respective owners.

And I would have looked supermarkets in the eye (well, as much as you can down the mic of a radio studio) to ask that they do more to reduce packaging and take responsibility for helping people recycle packaging where local systems don’t.

They need to retain their in-store plastic bag collection points and be more pro-active in advertising that clean stretchy wrappers can be included, too.

All programmes are currently available at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qskw/episodes/player.

The schedule is as follows:

l Monday, January 9: Shopping with Paddy (24 minutes in).

l Tuesday, January 10: Paddy’s bins (36 minutes in).

l Wednesday, January 11: recycling in Wales (45 minutes in).

l Thursday, January 12: Innovations in packaging (20 minutes in).

l Friday, January 13: Q&A panel (45 minutes in).