Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Rubbish Policies - Tactical Dumping

This posting follows on from my one of a couple of months ago, 'Rubbish Policies - the Stench and the Greed' which touched on something which is facing many British people: the move to easier recycling which is a good thing, but combined with a reduction in refuse collection services which is a bad thing. With the UK weather having finally moved from constant rain to some actual sunshine, the refuse problem is getting worse. Rubbish not collected for 2 weeks as is increasingly the case in the UK smells far less when damped and washed down by days and days of rain. With temperatures now reaching the high 20s celsius it is a different issue and even a suburban street can now smell like a shanty town.

The reason why I am posting on this issue again is not solely about the problem being more obvious now the weather has been getting warmer, but because I have faced a side-effect of the increasingly constrained rules around refuse. In the old days and in most towns I have lived in, you had refuse bags. If you had to throw out more than usual, because you were just moving house or had had a party or it had been a child's birthday or Christmas and there were lots of packaging, well you simply filled up more bin bags. These days with more wheelie bins (for non-UK readers these are upright black plastic dustbins reaching about chest height on an adult, with wheels and a flip-top lid) you are not allowed to put more in than permits the lid of the bin to close. There is no consideration for the time of the year or particular circumstances you have encountered in the preceding week (as the students moving out of houses along my street in the last month have found). If the lid cannot close they do not empty the bin at all so leaving you with more than ever to dispose of the next week. To make matters worse, in my town, to encourage you to recycle more they have changed the standard sized bin over to recycling stuff and given you one half the size for refuse. In addition for blocks of flats (apartments) they give far fewer than there are flats on some assumption that flat dwellers generate less rubbish than house dwellers.

So what do you do if you have more rubbish than will fit in your dustbin? Well, I had warned the council that the answer would happen and they dismissed my concerns and now I have suffered it myself. One solution is that people dump it in green areas and woodlands, something that even happened in Milton Keynes where they took away more rubbish than in my current town. The second solution is that people cruise around dumping it in bins outside people's houses. The road I live on leads in to one with many restaurants and bars and workers from one of them came along when my bin was out the night before collection the next morning and they dumped a large bag of rotten yoghurt, beer cans (which should have gone in recycling anyway) and large empty containers that had held things like cooking oil. Of course that extra bag meant our rubbish bin could not be closed and so would not be emptied by the dustbin collectors. It meant I had to drive to the municipal dump (and you can tell how tense things are getting as you have to prove you come from this borough not a neighbouring one as people close to the border prefer to come to this one nearer to their houses than their own one which is at the far end of their borough), so using up more fuel just because of some selfish person picking on my bin.

I cannot really envisage a lockable bin system that would work; dustbin collectors would have have some pass key to access them. Simpler would be for the council to actually properly judge what people need to throw away each year and recognise that people have peak periods for refuse and in this town where so many rent, are likely to have to move 1-2 times per year as we have had to do. They also need to give one bin per flat as well. You do not stop people generating rubbish by taking away their ability to dispose of it properly. On that mentality medieval cities would have been immaculate places. We keep being told there is no hygeine hazard from all this rubbish lying around for fortnights or strewn around some of the nicer areas of town. To some extent the hygeine is a secondary issue, for me the stench or decaying refuse wafting through my window whenever I open it is the more immediate one, one that councils seem to prefer to exacerbate than ameliorate.

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