Up to December of 2008 we had a private rubbish collection where I live. Large communal receptacles were provided for rubbish, paper and glass recycling rather than individual wheelie bins. It was a very simple system. When the kitchen bin was full it was taken down to the rubbish area and when the little tray for bottles and paper spilled over the same thing happened. All rubbish was removed regularly and as necessary so there was never any real build up.

All that changed last month when we moved over to the city council scheme. Individual wheelie bins are now the norm for each householder. I have entered a whole new world of rubbish disposal where Monday nights are dominated with which colour bin to put out on the pavement and making sure the relevant tag is secured. While I was always careful to recycle paper, cardboard and glass I have now moved into the more sophisticated world of tetra packs, tin and plastics. I have been surprised over the last month to find myself washing and rinsing more rubbish than actual delph.

Our in-house collection system has also had to be modified. I have allocated space for the paper, cardboard, plastic, tetra and tin; the only rule being that it has to be clean and dry before being put there.

So here’s the thing. The actual kitchen bin isn’t filling up as quickly any more which is good and indicates that we are recycling more than ever before. However my recycling area, which although clean, neat and tidy now builds up alarmingly quickly and because we have an individual green wheelie bin I am more careful about squashing and squeezing the contents to maximize the space, therefore actually handling the recycling and taking more notice of it. However this ‘taking more notice of it’ is causing a problem.

As I organised the recycling the other day I squashed several large boxes that had once contained trays of shortbread cookies and other sweets. There were several large tins, once the proud holders of Heroes, Roses, fancy biscuits and crackers. There were also many hard cardboard tubes that housed crisps and other savoury snacks; solo plastic trays and other cardboard coverings from other food products such as chocolate mallows and the like. Then there was the bottle section which was spilling over even though I had told everyone “we didn’t drink that much over Christmas”. As I squashed box and tin after box and tin for the wheelie bin I began to wonder where the contents had gone! As I packed up the bottles for the bottle bank I became alarmed. If the vessels, containers and boxes that I was looking at were empty then where was all the actual food? Slowly and sadly I realise that I must be wearing it or at least half of it as there are only two of us living there.

The real tragedy was that this Christmas we did all the visiting and going. No one actually came to us so I can’t even blame the visitors. In fact I would have said that we didn’t really spend that much time at our actual home over the holidays. I now know that the little time we did spend there was spent on epicurean delights. I glanced back over December and thought of all the food consumed both at home and at other locations that didn’t leave the telltale signs of a recyclable package! What about all that stuff? We think it’s gone but there is the possibility it is still with us, lurking around on my tummy and bottom!

It is safe to say I ate my way through the season and now I am what I ate. In retrospect gluttony reigned and self-delusion was King. I think I believed that if I said “well, it is Christmas” out loud as I reached for another Milk Tray or biscuit or crisp that it made the calories disappear. I really should have been saying “well, it’s only another inch on my arse.” Maybe that would have made me retreat once or twice before actually indulging!

Instead I stupidly ignored all the rules and put my own in place as follows: a) If it comes with gravy, pour it on. That’s the whole point of gravy, it is not a stand-alone type of food. b) Under no circumstance exercise between December 24th and January 1st. These are days for long lazy naps. c) If you come across a nice box of chocolates/biscuits/or other fancy edibles, position yourself as closely as possible and eat one after the other until they are all gone. Half empty boxes only take up space in cupboards. d) At any Christmas gathering if there is a choice of deserts sample all of them and always have seconds. Well, it is Christmas!

The upshot of all this is that I didn’t even attempt to wear something fitted on my first day back to work after Christmas, I just went straight for the maternity wear. I feel bad enough about it all, so who needs the physical evidence of a waistband biting into your flesh. While I may be self-deprecating, even self-loathing; self harm is not on the agenda.

Fortunately, gluttony is not a secret vice. It is difficult to hide and, where I am concerned, the effects show up swift and fast. Maybe I should be thankful for that. I will never be able to use the excuse that “I didn’t realise I was piling on the pounds”. At the moment it is with me everywhere I go and because of the bloody recycling I can tell you exactly what caused each additional ounce.

In order to look at this all as positively as possible I realise that I now have something new that will keep me in line or at least alert me to my nasty habits and it’s not Weight Watchers but Waterford City Council! Who’d have thought that the local authority will, in a funny sort of way, be responsible for keeping my diet in check because I now know that with this recycling business every three weeks or so the physical evidence of what I have consumed will stare back at me as I prepare to send it off for another life. And most chocolate or biscuit food is packaged in some form of recyclable paper, cardboard or plastic. It is a sobering thought. On the other hand it is also the source of a fantastic business idea; edible packaging for all the nice stuff! I’ll have a think about it while I’m at the dreaded gym.