Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Generally I pride myself on seeing all sides of an issue. I like to think I’m not blinded by pre-conceived notions or illusions created by my relative status and well offness. Yet I got caught out last week.

Its this row about rubbish collection. Many boroughs, including the one I live in, do alternate week collections. One week recycling is picked up, the next rubbish. In our borough the council provided two wheely bins. There is the cutely coloured green one for recycling material. We don’t even have to sort, just dump it all in. The council invested some absurd amount to build an automated sorting facility (which it now makes a tidy profit from selling on the services to other local boroughs). The second bin is black. For the few local tower blocks, there are equivalently coloured big bins, or smaller bins for the narrow streets of town houses.

For us it works brilliantly. We’ve got a big enough garden to have a large compost heap, and all the kitchen waste goes out there. The two piles get given a year to moulder down, then get spread on the veg and flower beds. Given our last child is out of nappies we generally only part fill the black bin every two weeks. Though a small bit of meat waste goes in there, its primarily food packaging that can’t recycle. Even if it did start to smell (which frankly we’ve never noticed), its well away from the house..

So, I knew in my mind that the compost thing is a relative privilege. Odd world that we live in, that having a mouldering pile of waste is an advantage. Yet most people we know, when such things are discussed, tell us we’re lucky. They’d probably not say the same if they had to join me in the bi-annual turning of the pile. My second least favourite garden chore (the first being putting up the fruit cage, which is a right pain in the ass). Yet, no one in our area complains about the rubbish collection. Generally it causes scratched heads. Ours works well, and the provision of the wheely bins has gone down with barely a murmur. Because of the bins, the mess is generally under control. There’s now a trial on to collect kitchen compost material to centrally compost. Last report was that its going well and is likely to be rolled out within a year.

So, my preconception. That everyone on an every second week pickup had the same efficient service. I’m lucky in that I live in a very well run borough (despite central government raking off twice the business rates and taxes in the borough that it returns). Despite being Conservative run (OK, or perhaps because of it), it looks to provide the best service.

What caught me out was a report on the situation. It showed a narrow street in Oxford piled high with black bags of rubbish. Of course if you live in a town house with no garden, you put the rubbish out on the street. What choice do you have? Any if you can’t compost, and all your kitchen waste goes in, likely its going to smell and breed bugs. If you don't have a bin, you just put the bags on the street. What a nonsense! You probably need it picked up twice a week, not once every two weeks. If I was in the same situation I’d probably be running for the council myself to get the idiots in control turfed out.


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