With apologies to Donovan whose album that was, way, way back when the concept of recycling was being first formulated in the days of flower power, that super alliterative title paints a picture of The Great Bin Controversy and its implications.
What’s Bin Did
Or, more appropriately, which might be did. To weigh or not to weigh, that is the question; to track or not to track is another, all on the same post-Shakespearian big brother theme. Intrusion into a family’s waste habits is nothing to do with journalists trying to find incriminating letters in the dustbins of the famous. In the UK it is about local authorities embedding microchips in wheelie bins, and installing weighing machines on waste collection trucks. So, every household’s weekly fortnightly waste collection was to be weighed and recorded on a database. The concept was that families should pay for wasted deposal according to the weight they dispose of. There is some merit in the idea, but of course it is never that simple.
Now, that is not half as bad as in Germany, where family waste has to be sorted into several categories. Germany leads the world in household waste recycling/composting with its 64% in 2007 being achieved (and only 1% going into landfill). Households there have at least 3 waste containers under the sink.
The problem is that in Germany, neighbours will report each other for using the wrong waste container. Then there is a visit by a local official and a fine is levied (if the case is proven). What a job that must be! If you have ever used a household German WC, then you will be aware of a certain scatological interest. Still, it is reported that 50% of German household waste gets misclassified and the German ‘garbage police’ have plenty to do.
What’s Bin Hid
One problem predicted by the anti waste-weigh brigade is that people (as always) would try to get round the rules – whether ‘adjusting a tax return’, moonlighting, or disposing of household waste. And when it comes to waste, it was predicted that some families would cheat. Sneaking waste into other neighbours’ bins would be a likely outcome. Now, it’s not in the nature of the British to ‘tell on the neighbours’ – as is the case in Germany and Switzerland, but a family transferring some of their household waste tax liability to a neighbour by a secret midnight dumping mission would be a realistic possibility. The idea of padlocks on wheelie bins might not have been that far removed from reality.
British newspapers became very excited about the whole issue, and with a change of government, the new waste disposal plans were – yes, disposed of. Or more accurately – ‘hid’ – for return, they will as sure as eggs.
The volume of waste packaging that the average household generates is quite staggering, but that particular problem has to be solved at the manufacturer’s end. Proper attention to that issue would considerably reduce the need for recycling, solving the problem at source. Even if the UK achieved a 50% recycling target for household waste, the country would still have a very big problem. The ‘low hanging fruit’ would be picked first, as is being done with paper, cans and glass.
The other half would be the more challenging, but Local Authority household recycling rules do not help and sometimes make no sense at all. ‘Wash food containers before recycling’. How much water does that take? ‘No food containers to be recycled’: so the plastic tray that my chicken drumsticks came in has to go to landfill? Madness.
However, I do love the local household goods recycling depot. That has been a great development, and cut down on household fly-tipping – ‘What’s Bin Hid’. The latest treasure was two dining chairs which are an exact match for the others we have. Now that’s what I call recycling – not ‘hid’ at all, but retrieved (for a small fee) and used. I just need to find record player there and I can listen to ‘What’s Bin Did and What’s Bin Hid’ again.