Friday, 18 February 2011

The UK recycling capital?

I notice my local council has been namechecked as one of the areas with most recycling bins and bags. Making the BBC site and local news here. The Beeb even explain what they are all for.

Just for once, and I promise it's a rare occurence, I can't really criticize the council too much. Whether their scheme is effective and well designed or completely over the top they are only doing, in their way, what the EU, and by default our own goverment, have told them to do, and they are attempting in the process to save us council tax payers some EU landfill tax. Also to the council's credit they have asked for co-operation rather than used coercion, and their collections have been reliable, (ours even during the December weather), so credit where due. But week one waste and garden wheelie bins, week two paper, cans, bottles, cardboard with food bins very week means you need the (supplied) calendar to remember which week is which! And a day away for whatever reason means a month's worth of whatever component you missed.

But having lived with this system for a while, and having broad agreement with the concept of recycling rather than making waste, the problems are very clear.

The obvious problem is where do you put this stuff? Having spent some weeks cluttered up with bags and boxes in the kitchen we eventually bought an outdoor plastic storage chest, the sort sold for storing patio cushions and the like with a lift up lid, and put it just outside the back door. That at least holds the blowaway and untidy bags and boxes.  Otherwise a decent windy day will have the bags all round the garden, and they look a mess in any case.  That's fine as we have space, many people don't. After all a waste wheelie, garden wheelie, blue box, green bag, blue bag, red bag, clothes bag and slop buckets take some space. It's no use the council saying the bags fold up if not used, of course, but how does that help if you are filling them over a fortnight? Our houses and gardens are designed as homes, not as storage locations for recycling  materials in transit.

The next problem is how do you get them to the roadside?. I am getting older and the driveway is on a hill, and the tins and bottles box  especially is cumbersome and often heavy, it has no wheels or handles to provide a safe lift. The paper bag can be heavy and is frustratingly slippery, it slides off if piled up and the paper falls out if it's not kept upright. So it's three trips up and down to the road or do as I did and buy a small 'porter' type trolley. But then it too has to be kept somewhere handy.

Then of course there is the problem of pavements full of unsightly, and possibly dangerous piles of bags and boxes one day every fortnight. Travelling through the village is like a tour of a wierd rubbish dump that contains houses and I'm sure if I left my own items where they forced pushchairs into the traffic lanes to get past or caused a blind person to trip I would be prosecuted. In fact the uglification theme is constant as many houses in the area are terraced and consequently store the bins full time outside at the front even if off the actual pavement.

Unfortunately none of the irritations and annoyances above come close to identifying the real serious problem, you know the big grey animal with a trunk in the corner, and which is missing from the BBC stories? That is the question of why we have allowed an unwanted, unelected set of European bureaucrats to pocket a payment from our hard earned money every time we decide that we want to put some of our own non-toxic waste into one of our own holes in our own ground in our own country? Solve that and all sorts of other problems will miraculously evaporate fom our lives.

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