MY wheelie bin was full, which was odd because it had been empty when I went on holiday.

For my building we have individual wheelie bins, some of which are jealously guarded, and we are responsible for taking them out of the back garden to the roadside for emptying.

At some point in the year we moved to an eight-day rolling rota for bin collection but a week was skipped and no one was sure if this meant that the rota kept going or repeated a week.

By "no one", I don't only mean my neighbours but also the woman who answered the phone at the council when I rang up to ask. She insisted they were emptied on a Saturday, which hasn't been the case for some time.

So each week is a bit of refuse roulette. One person takes their bin out and then everyone else copies, hoping and praying that the initiator knew what they were about.

I had a sneaking suspicion as to who had filled my bin up (I'm no Poirot but there were envelopes on top with their address on) so I tried to put my bin bag in their bin. Foiled again: it was full to the brim with cardboard.

You can see the neighbourhood recycling point from our bin shed. It's literally 30 seconds walk away. What was going on? Abject laziness? Confusion? Who doesn't understand, by now, that cardboard can and should be recycled?

I fished it all out from their bin and mine, broke the boxes down flat and took it to the recycling. This is who I am now. Fun at parties? You betcha, yes, sir.

Online shopping cardboard made up the bulk but also food delivery boxes. Everyone everywhere seems to order these food delivery boxes now and, every seventh or fifth or eighth day when the bins go out, you can bet there's cardboard boxes sitting on top of and next to the normal bins.

HeraldScotland: Household waste that Glasgow residents place in their blue bins at Glasgow City Council Blochairn recycling facility   Picture: Jamie Simpson

What's the correct etiquette for dealing with this? Other than writing a newspaper column and hoping the recycling refuseniks read it.

In December, Sepa released its latest recycling figures for Scotland, which didn't make many headlines. According to the environmental agency's data, household recycling rates fell by three percentage points on the year before. Glasgow, despite the poor efforts from the folk around me, actually increased its recycling rates.

Don't be too excited though; the city is still the worst performing local authority on the Scottish mainland.

In Glasgow, we recycled just 29.6% of our rubbish. Over the border in East Renfrewshire that jumps to 56.6%, which is the second highest after Angus on a whopping 57.9%.

The council's communities convenor Mark Salmond attributed Angus's success to improvements in kerbside collection and a redesign of recycling centres. "Absolutely delighted," Mr Salmond said of his warm feelings towards residents' efforts.

Angus has invested a significant sum in recycling facilities and introduced a raft of measures, such as its Special Waste Action Team and Community Clean Up and Fly-tipping Prevention Fund.

I was reading of a council in England that sent officials to people's doors if they were seen to be putting the wrong rubbish in the wrong bin. It wasn't about enforcement, apparently, but just having a friendly chat and faintly shaming people into doing the right thing.

In a similar yet more gentle vein, Christchurch city council, in New Zealand, launched a scheme that saw officials stick large gold stars on the wheelie bins of successful recyclers and remove bins of those who fail to recycle properly.

Ideally we want reuse rates to trump recycling rates. My friend gave me my Christmas present wrapped in familiar paper. Familiar because I bought it. Last year. He's kept it a full 12 months and reused it this year. Genius. I'm doing the same thing but I've made a note of who gifted what so that no one's offended by it ending up back in their possession.

Surely, though, it's a compliment. I cared enough to buy such good quality wrapping paper that it endured a second use a year later. Ultimately, you're giving the gift of trying to save the future of humanity. You're saying, "I care enough about you to try to ensure a future for your children." And think of the money saved.

It's a lot of effort, though, reusing and recycling. Reusing, particularly horribly disposable items like wrapping paper and gift bags, should be the norm with no shame in re-gifting or re-wrapping, if it's possible, which is an excellent festive message to bear in mind for next year.

Recycling, though, is a right nuisance. Washing out milk cartons and cans, collapsing boxes, getting the last of the peanut butter from the bottom of the jar.

HeraldScotland: Bales of crushed aluminium drinks cans at Glasgow City Council's Blochairn recycling facility in Glasgow.

Photograph by Colin Mearns
13 September 2021

It's not an enjoyable chore, and everyone's busy, so the question is how to improve recycling rates. How to persuade people that peeling infinite labels from infinite bottles is worth that extra step.

One way, in Glasgow, would be making recycling points more accessible. Yes, mine is mere feet away and yet people within spitting distance still can't be bothered to use it. But I also frequently see people driving up to it. If you're having to drive to get to a recycling point then it's too inaccessible to be regularly, easily used.

On the other hand, having recycling bins right on the doorstep creates a danger of being too accessible: ideally people should be throwing less waste away overall, so if recycling is a little bit tricky then people are more inclined to reuse.

Glasgow is a patchwork of different recycling and refuse systems, which have been designed to deal with the variety of residences across the city, but which don't all work.

My friend lives in a tenement flat in Mount Florida where he and his neighbours received a rather chiding letter telling them that the food waste bins were being removed due to the residents' failure to prevent contamination in their bins.

Someone stole my food waste bin off my front step years ago so it's not something I think about but, now that it occurs to me, I can't remember seeing any of my neighbours putting out the little grey bins either.

They definitely still exist as I'm cat sitting in the west end of Glasgow at the moment and I've just moments ago put an apple core in a food waste bin. Unless its redundant here too and I've spent years leaving rotting food waste for the owners to find when they come home.

Glasgow City Council's Resource and Recycling Strategy 2020-30 reports that residents have a thirst for increased and clearer information on recycling, and the council makes a pledge in the same document to provide it. Yet it's also withdrawn food waste recycling.

Strong messaging to encourage behavioural change, ease of access and consistency - three vital elements to improving our dire recycling record and ensuring instead a gold star for the city entire.