Thank God all our household waste gets recycled.

It does get recycled, doesn’t it? Or is recycling a scam? Are we wasting our time separating things into coloured boxes? Does it just end up in landfill?

Let’s cut the flimflam. Separating rubbish into different boxes is not recycling; it is just putting stuff in boxes. Recycling, by definition, involves reusing waste.

If you wrap a birthday present in a lovingly selected page of the Press you are reusing it. When your waste paper is scrunched into cardboard, toilet paper or moulded pulp packaging it is being recycled.

Some materials, such as aluminium, paper, glass and tin cans, recycle as easily as old jokes. Recycling paper, for example, saves millions of trees, and uses less water and energy than producing paper from wood pulp. EU statistics show that in 2014 the paper recycling rate across Europe was 71.7 per cent. Not bad.

Plastics are a different story. They’re sneaky and they’re everywhere: toothpaste, packaging, clothes, that ugly snow globe your niece gave you, furniture, carpets, window frames ...

Last year every UK household excreted 40kg of plastic waste, according to DEFRA. When you consider how light plastic packaging is that’s a lot of plastic. Across York’s 83,000 households, we’re talking around 3,300 tonnes of plastic waste a year. And I’m not including the thousands of microplastic fibres escaping into rivers every time we use our washing machines. Each year 12 million tonnes of plastic waste floats into the world’s oceans, killing millions of sea creatures and even winding up on our plates as lunch.

How can we recycle more plastic? Sustainability experts talk about a circular economy, by which they mean: the place that produces the waste must reuse it. York could, for example, copy Lancashire County Council and lay plastic kerbstones instead of concrete ones. A 500mm plastic kerbstone weighs 13.5kg. The council could recycle 1,000 tonnes by laying plastic kerbstones along 11 miles of the city’s roads.

Sorry all you cynics, plastic kerbstones are stronger than concrete ones. They don’t crack when heavy lorries drive over them. They don’t shatter when dropped. And they don’t give road maintenance teams back injuries because they weigh a fraction of their concrete equivalents. By buying and installing plastic kerbs the council would create a market for recycled plastic, and create genuine recycling jobs. It isn’t even fancy high tech. Making bricks from old plastic milk bottles (HDPE) is so easy you can do it in your microwave.

Before we blame the council for everything (it’s too easy and, by the way, our plastic waste doesn’t go to landfill; the stuff that isn’t recycled gets burned to generate electricity) who dumps 15 million single-use plastic bottles across the UK every day? We do. Every day we stagger out of shops bloated with plastic packaging, lug it home, and hurl it into the recycling box. To be someone else’s problem.

If we want to hold our heads high we must all dramatically reduce the amount of plastic we dump. There are solutions. What if the UN passed a law declaring that all waste in the world must be deposited upstream? Think about it. Would we really throw waste into the Ouse north of York so it all floated straight back into the city? I doubt it.

Anyway, here are four actions we can take.

1: use less plastic. If your fruit and veg come in plastic packaging, prise the plastic off after you’ve paid and leave it in the shop. They’ll get the message.

2: stop buying plastic bottles and tubes. Solid shampoo bars wash your hair just as well. Many foods come in glass jars or tubes. Choose glass.

2: use the refilling stations that are popping up like mushrooms; refill your old plastic bottles with fresh washing up liquid, fabric softener, hair conditioner, etc.

4: request the council installs drinking fountains in the city centre so everyone can refill their water bottles for nothing.

When we’ve done all that, the remaining plastic we have had to bring home, in spite of everything, goes into our green boxes. Oh, and email the council to invest in recycled plastic kerbstones.

THIS is the first in a new monthly column in which Christian Vassie, chair of the city council’s climate change scrutiny committee, gives his personal view on how York can do its bit in tackling the climate crisis