I’ve heard the future whirring on the streets of Presteigne – and it comes with a low electronic hum.
For thirty years, the retired milk float that now picks up people’s rubbish and veggie peelings and packaging in quiet Radnorshire, once made its round in Glasgow – now it finds itself picking up the greenest of empties in the greenest of towns. Yes, they’ve even recycled the vehicle that does their recycling.
Presteigne’s a small town – if you’re metropolitan you’d look down the two main streets and think it a village: but as far as recycling’s concerned, it’s huge. They now recycle almost three quarters of all their waste – and by that, we mean everything. Imagine looking down your street on the day the binmen come round: then subtract three out of every four bin bags from what you see. That’s where the Welsh government have vowed to get the rest of Wales to by 2025 – it’s just that Presteigne hit the deadline fourteen years early.
And so it becomes a positive circle – the food waste that could have found itself in landfill gets chucked through a processor that turns it into compost, which then gets used on the community allotments, that means you grow veg locally – which cuts down the need for packaging from supermarket veg, and food miles.
For the past two years they’ve been discouraging shoppers from taking plastic bags – stay ten minutes on the street looking down towards their impressive clock tower, and you see all sorts of cotton and canvas carrier bags: the shock many people might find tomorrow, having to pay five pence for their disposable carrier isn’t likely to happen in Presteigne.
Then you can throw in ideas like the lift sharing, the dedicated lady from Cwm Harri recycling who spent Monday in the local supermarket encouraging people to recycle their food packaging, the map of the town’s fruit and nut trees that’s being compiled – the electric bike marathons; the fact that – rather like Cambridge – bikes are seen as a method of transport rather than a nice way to get fit – in a green valley, on the green border between Wales and England, Presteigne is the old market town which might just have the new greenprint for Wrexham and Merthyr Tydfil and Neath and any town across Wales to follow: get people involved with recycling, let them see how much waste they can save – and you start to draw a very virtuous circle………