Thursday, January 12, 2006

How Green is Green?

So many things, so few words.

Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council have gone green. They’ve grasped the eco-bull by its recyclable horns in a rather big way and it’s a right pain in the rear.

Most councils have had a recycling policy for some time now. I’d been recycling stuff with Bexley Council for years before I moved here in 2002. They and the neighbouring local council of Dartford had an innovative policy in which they sent all their rubbish over to Essex. Neat. They used to give us a small green crate for paper and another one for glass and they used to collect them every two weeks or so. The rest we used to take to the tip when we were passing or to the bottle banks at the supermarket. For most people though, the crates were enough and on the strength of it, Bexley became a “Beacon Council”

That works fine for the simple reason that you can combine your recycling trips with your other jobs so your energy use is minimised. Now, those cautioning against recycling on the basis of it not being cost effective aren’t exactly getting the idea behind the philosophy. There’s an inexhaustible supply of money but it takes oil to make coke bottles and phenomenal amounts of energy to melt sand into tv screens, so anything that stops us recycling bottles, cans paper etc is a very good thing. So why have I got the hump with the council?

Until three years ago we had one dustbin. For most people this was the repository for all their waste and that was a bad thing. Then we were issued with green bins so we could put our waste paper in and this would be collected every month. Later we were issued with brown bins so all the garden waste could be collected. Just before Christmas we were told that we would now be getting a white bin as well for glass and other recyclables.

It’s all very laudable and I don’t want to poop on their party but their plans are somewhat stymied by one of the other previous governmental initiatives: that of cramming as many people into as small a space as possible. And in our case that means we live in a box barely bigger than the combined volume of these four bins. Now these aren’t crates that we can keep out in the garden and carry through as and when, they are half and three-quarter sized wheelie bins and they have to be kept somewhere. We live in a terrace and we don’t have rear access and I’m not going to wheel bins through the house at any time of the year. There’s nowhere to put them in front of the house because of a slope, or even a hedge to hide them behind because boundary demarcation in the form of hedges and fences is now discouraged. We can’t even put up fences to keep dogs from crapping on our front garden. And of course, empty bins left outside your property are an ASBO magnet.

The council has enough trouble collecting the existing three bins let alone complicating the matter with a fourth. Christmas was a disaster as not only had they recently altered the collection day for the second time in two months, they forgot to notify everyone when the seasonal collections would be made, hence come last Monday there was three weeks’ worth of rubbish laying around the estate. Imagine that kind of chaos four times over, especially when most of my neighbours can’t remember when to put the existing three bins out.

The worst thing is, the normal waste collection is going to be changed to every other week and we generate more than the usual amount of waste as Sharon has a lot of essential medical supplies that all have packaging. The unrecyclable waste from her regime is equivalent to a large waste paper bin every day with around two dozen large cardboard boxes thrown in for good measure every month. As a result, I actively try and encourage recycling so as we can fit it all the normal stuff in the bin and I take the cardboard to the council recycling depot every week. Believe it or not, the council won’t collect additional bags unless you notify them in advance and use one of their marked black bags and even that you have to collect in person from the depot. Now there’s energy efficient for you.

One thing that would help discourage our throwaway culture would be to re-instate the deposit system on bottles. It works everywhere else and in supermarkets in Denmark you can’t move on a Saturday morning because the family “return” is underway (it’s all automated – has been for years and you get a discount or cash back). And it’s on plastic bottles as well.

The whole thing lacks cohesion and foresight. They’ve tried but because there are too many parties involved (waste contractor, borough council and county council) there’s an awful disorganisation and disinterest about it. More roadside collecting points like they’ve got in France would be good and more facilities on the estates so we didn’t have to keep the stuff on our own property for weeks on end. Encourage home composting ( a sore point because I went for a job as the council composting supremo in 2002 and didn’t get it) and get the wastrel youths involved. They’re always complaining they’ve got nothing to do – give them some social responsibility and a position whereby they can earn the respect of their elders. Let them profit from it, too. They wouldn't be glorified dustmen, they'd be allowed to compost on the unused allotment areas and sell the stuff on, even growing cheap organic fruit and veg to be used in the borough's schools and facilities. Now that would be a proper use of council tax money, help to green our local environment and promote civic pride into the bargain.

There are so many initiatives we could make at grass roots level, not only to reduce our waste but to make our environment a much more pleasant one to be in. Crewe try hard at the civic pride thing with lots of pretty floral displays in the summer that liven up what has to be said is an uncommonly drab and featureless town centre. But there are so many other ways it can be done as well and giving those of us who feel somewhat disenfranchised a stake in our surroundings could be good for everyone.

1 Vegetable peelings:

Blogger Tennessee Jed said...

You are an excellent writer!

I once lived in a town that had one full sized bin for recycling the sorting was done at the transfer station for us. The company sold the glass and aluminium to keep afloat. I think they had a grant to study the possibility of this type of service was feasable.

10:47 am  

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