Saturday, 15 September 2007

Recycling a Fish Tank

I’ve had a four foot fish tank lurking in my kitchen for a couple of years now. There must be a lot of energy involved in making a fish tank, from the manufacture of the glass and the glue to the transport involved in getting it all from source to manufacturer to retailer to my flat, so I didn’t want to just throw it away without first applying “The Four Rs” as best I could.

The Four Rs are principles to put into practice as often as possible to avoid creating unnecessary waste, and they stand (depending on who you ask) for Reduce, Repair, Reuse and Recycle. Applying these principles to a large fish tank is proving pretty difficult, especially as I try to organise its final transport to fish tank heaven in a responsible way.

The tank was first given to me when I moved house a few years ago, and had been hanging around in the garden of someone else with an obsessive reluctance to throw away this kind of junk. It was already leaky when it came into my possession, but such a great new home for my goldfish was well worth the price of some tank glue and a couple of hours work learning to seal it. Its first year or so spent with me involved three of the “Rs”; reducing the need for a new one, repairing it and re-using it, and it was just the job both for housing the fish and for impressing friends and visitors with the “fixed it myself” factor.

And then…

At 3am one day my downstairs neighbour woke me up to alert me to several gallons of water coming through his ceiling from my flat above. My sealing job had lasted about a year and a half, but one corner had eventually given out and created a huge lake where my living room had been. Not about to either fix it at 3am or risk it flooding my very-nice-about-it neighbours a second time, I gave up and bought a brand new replacement as soon as the pet shop opened in the morning.

Once empty the old tank looked remarkably unbroken, so I promptly filled it with chives, basil, coriander and a few tender garden casualties to make a nice warm greenhouse in my kitchen, ingeniously re-using it to pamper tender plants for years to come. The plants hated it.

I spoke to someone at a hydroponics shop who concluded that a lack of light – despite the aquarium bulb I’d fitted – was probably causing the problems. Running more lighting would have been a complete waste of energy given the huge amount of natural light elsewhere in my flat, and the tank also grew mould all over the place because of the lack of airflow. The use I had found for my redundant tank appeared to be far better served by something I had already, i.e. a windowsill which came free of charge with the flat.

After a few more ideas failed to make it off the drawing board (Outdoor greenhouse – would crack with frost. Storage potential limited by shape and fragility. Model of Orac from Blake’s 7 – too long, etc.) I advertised it on Freecycle, a website where people give away unwanted things to other people who do want them. The first time no-one wanted it at all, and the second time although someone did reply, they then changed their mind about making it into a mini-greenhouse, possibly having foreseen some of the problems I’d had and probably also already in possession of their own windowsill.

Stockpiling onions, potatoes, jam and dried herbs this autumn I’m clearing space to put up shelves in the kitchen and have at last decided to try applying the final “R”. I dragged the tank down the stairs into the front garden by means impossible to describe without the aid of a cartoon sketch or two, and although by some miracle it didn’t slide down the staircase and shatter, it did get a very nasty crack through one side and now looks all dejected and out of place on the lawn.

Glass can of course be recycled, and the nearest bottle bank is all of a three minute walk downhill from here. It may take me a little longer than three minutes though, given that the tank is too heavy to lift and I can only drag it along a foot or so at a time. In Holland they probably just phone the council and ask them to take it for recycling from their doorstep, but since Leeds hasn’t quite caught up on this front yet my best plan so far is to take a hammer to it in the garden and break it up into pieces small enough to fit through the opening of the bottle bank.

I assume that the recycling process will remove the blood.

COMMENTS

22 comments:

Elaine said...

Hi Alice, I came to your blog from the link in the comment you made on mine (is this a bit incestuous?) Love your article on the fish tank, made me laugh. btw, whose blood? your's? or that of whoever empties the recycling bin? ;-)

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

It seems this fish tank has been an important part of your life in some strange, yet unfathomable way.

Will you miss it?

Alice said...

Elaine - yeah, this whole thing seems to be pretty incestuous, but maybe in a good way. I was anticipating that the loss of quite a lot of my own blood would probably be involved in smashing the whole fish tank into little pieces :-(

Crushed - it's been an important part of my life mostly by causing a whole lot of hassle and annoyance. Since I stopped using it for the fish I've also stopped having nightmares about it breaking in the middle of the night, so smashing it up will be a kind of exorcism, I think.

Kartikeya Rai said...

awesome blog..i aappreciate it

Lord Higham- Murray said...

Brilliant post. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Alice said...

Last three comments were people like "OnlinePharmacy" telling me how much they liked the blog. Why has this post suddenly attracted three at a time? SPAM is still a complete mystery to me...

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MPeasant said...

i will take the tank if you still have it

Alice said...

MPeasant - this post is dated 15th September 2007, sorry I don't still have the fish tank.

I took a hammer to it in the garden and broke it up into pieces small enough to fit through the opening of the bottle bank.