These days, recycling is everybody’s business

My wife has been on a recycling course at work. She’s now looking at things to recycle at home. I’m wondering whether I should pack a bag – just in case.

Turns out that recycled toilet paper is actually a thing. I don’t know how they do it and, quite frankly, I’m not sure I want to find out. Suffice to say that I opened the front door today to a truck driver who had me sign for a huge box with the words ‘Who gives a crap’ in large letters across the front. 

‘Are you sure you’ve got the right address?’ I ask, hoping that he hasn’t.

He looks back at his flip-chart and quotes my correct address back at me.

‘Yep, that’s the one,’ I sigh as I drag the box into the hallway where it is now sitting for anyone who calls round to snigger at.

‘What’s this?’ asks Nat as she comes downstairs and is forced to carefully step around the box.

‘Who gives a crap,’ I answer.

She looks at me and then at the box. ‘Ooh! It’s arrived.’ She claps her hands with delight before ripping open the lid to show me forty-eight individually and colourfully wrapped toilet rolls. She takes one out and holds it up like she’s just made an archaeological discovery. ‘Recycled toilet paper,’ she proclaims. ‘We’re saving the planet.’

I look forlornly at the box that is taking up the majority of our hallway. ‘I guess this is what our nuclear winter will look like,’ I say.

* * * * * * * *

And so, it begins. I guess this is the current human dilemma: to consume or not to consume. This, according to David Attenborough, is very much the question. The answer, it seems, is to carry on consuming but to flavour it with empty gestures – like second-hand toilet paper – that go some way towards alleviating the guilt. 

‘That was quite a large truck that delivered your “green” product,’ I say.

‘But it’s forty-eight rolls,’ she repeats. ‘We won’t need another delivery for quite a while.’

I could pick holes in her double standards but to do so would be to also pick holes in my own. We both have every intention of getting back on a plane as soon as lockdown allows; we both continue to drive our cars in order to go for a walk, simply because plodding the streets around here isn’t aesthetically pleasing enough. Perhaps this is how humans operate, waving the flag of empty gesture in order to sidestep our culpabilities. 

From today, I will be the guy who drives a two litre, dual-exhaust-pipe sports car but who then goes home to wipe his ass with his conscience, as though this rebalances everything. In Swahili, this is referred to as mzunguko wa maisha – ‘the circle of life’. But as I’m not sure how to pronounce that, I settle for, ‘hakuna matata,’ and a dramatic tut as I leave the room, abandoning my wife to finding a better place to store her new global rescue package. 

* * * * * * * *

The next time I’m sat on the loo, I find myself staring at the toilet roll holder. ‘Recycled,’ I say to myself, totally unconvinced that this is a good thing. ‘That’s like “second-hand”.’ I look suspiciously at the roll. ‘That’s what some recycling companies would describe as “pre-loved”.’ 

‘That’s it,’ I say to myself as I pull up my trousers, ‘I’m never going to the toilet again.’