Friday, 12 October 2012

Rubbish


Not wanting to get out of bed before dawn, I put my recycling detritus out on wednesday night for collection on thursday morning, then lay in bed listening to the bottles being kicked down the street by the cream of Bath's intelligentsia, down from the university for a night on the town.

The week before, I happened to be leaning out of the window in time to see all the plastic bottles, glass bottles, aluminium and paper which I had carefully graded and separated, scooped up by one of the many private crusher lorries, and taken away for land-fill with the rest of the un-recycleable stuff.

At about 2.15 p.m. every weekday, a long and slow diesel train passes through Bath carrying most of the un-recycled rubbish of Central London, on it's way to (I think) either some sort of land-fill in Wales which I believe will be yet another golf-course when full, or to be loaded onto boats and dumped out to sea. I think we actually pay other countries to take away some of it as well.

A couple of years ago, Bath City Council launched a campaign called 'Re-think Rubbish'. I wouldn't have thought it necessary to remind all us citizens of the calibre of thinking that goes into decision-making in our town hall, but this slogan has been plastered over the sides of the handful of refuse lorries that remain operated by public funding, as well as some of the private ones who - I presume - have taken yet more revenue from the council to use their trucks as advertising hoardings.

At the launch of this campaign, our council proudly (and ambitiously) declared that they were going to be instigating a 'zero waste' policy which will be enforced within a few years. This means that they will - effectively - make non-recyclable rubbish illegal. Shortly after this announcement, they gave the go-ahead to the John Lewis Partnership to pretty much double the size of the Waitrose supermarket by evicting all the charming little businesses to make way for the increased aisle space, and now - close to the end of this expansion - it is possible to get lost inside the shop when popping out for your groceries. It took me 5 minutes to find my way out last night, and the week before, an old lady had to use her mobile phone to call for help after wandering down a dark corridor in search of a loaf of bread.

I would say that 99% of all the rubbish that comes out of our compact but adorable city apartment was bought in Waitrose. Waitrose flies it all in from outside and inside the country - including all the plastic packaging etc. and when it has all been assembled (tin-foil cups containing mince-pies or whatever, in plastic trays, wrapped in cardboard and sometimes coated in cellophane) it is taken to a distribution centre in Bracknell, Berkshire, and from this vast site it is redistributed in 40-ton trucks around the entire country, then offered to arthritic and bewildered old ladies as puzzles - 'see if you can find out how to get into this to find your mince pie!'

Anything - including foodstuffs - becomes toxic if concentrated in too small an area. In the days of open rubbish dumps, a sort of balance was maintained by seagulls feeding on the tons of rubbish piled up in rural, municipal areas, thereby greatly decreasing the levels of methane generated when it was eventually buried. In medieval times, the dumps were closer to the city walls and the same function was performed by Red Kites, albeit on a smaller scale.

Because open tipping has been outlawed for some years now, all the gulls are in town and feeding off the discarded pizzas and kebabs which have been dropped by the cream of Bath's intelligentsia on their 7 night-a-week nights out. Accidental methane generation has become a big problem, even though we are spending billions deliberately searching for natural sources of it to use for power and heating, at the same time as trying to find ways of trapping the same stuff beneath the sea and fining companies who produce it (or similar carbon-based gasses) as a by-product of their industry.

The leaflet outlining the council's proposed policies regarding the disposal and generation of rubbish, contained a rather accurate and almost philosophical - not to say cosmological - statement of fact.

The gist of it was that it was impossible to 'throw away' rubbish. All you do is move it from one place to another. Just so long as it isn't in my back yard...

14 comments:

  1. Back in the 1960's, the town of Worthing built a 'state of the art' rubbish processing plant. They fed the old-style non-sorted rubbish in at one end, and it came out the other end all sorted and ready to be sold on. I believe the plant paid for itself. I wonder what happened?

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    1. Only a guess, but I would say that it worked too well.

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  2. Toronto proudly sent their garbage via truck to Detroit for several years (a 7 hour return trip) but not, even Detroit doesn't want it. We have three types of waste pickup including compost-able food. The row houses in Toronto have 2 massive bins in front all week long....looks awful.

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    1. I sent taxi drivers over to Detroit to get my cigarettes when in Grand Bend. Probably still makes financial sense.

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  3. It IS now impossible to throw away rubbish. Anything taken to the tip has to pass the Spanish Inquisition before it can be cast into the skip.

    Enjoy the facilities offered by Waitrose in Bath. Even before expansion, it made anything south of Exeter look like Waitrose the corner shop. Regularly their website throws one of its wobblies and teases me with every product line listed by Bracknell, about 5% of which I can actually order!

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    1. I can send you Red Cross parcels, Rusty.

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  4. This sounds a like a post straight from your heart Tom - but there is so much truth in it. For Waitrose read Tesco as far as I am concerned. Yes, it is convenient to buy everything under one roof, but there is so much unnecessary packaging, all of which (once you have found out how to remove it (is there a university degree in the subject yet?) goes straight into rubbish. Having seen the recent programmes from India, I fear we are rapidly on our way to the same situation.

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    1. Except that India still has a thriving population of Red Kites.

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  5. Here (in France) shopping baskets are still used by EVERYONE.

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    1. So they still walk down the street wearing a black beret, stripy top and with an unwrapped baguette under their arm?

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  6. Hi Tom, I've been living in a tent for the last week and so haven't been able to send you my condolences re your sister Toni. I hope you are all okay. X

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    1. Thanks Sarah. I had another exhausting 2 hour phone call with her (niece) last night, so she is still taking it very hard. Living in a tent, eh? Sounds either very romantic or very uncomfortable.

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  7. Both.
    Quite lovely, really.

    The exhausting stuff is well, exhausting ...
    but bless those Whanae, (Maori Family.)

    Noongar, (our south coast people) say 'Kya!' as a greeting. It means 'Hello!' and 'Yes!' in the same language.
    I don't know what means goodbye.

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    1. 'Aiwa!' means all sorts of stuff in Arabic, from 'yes' to 'let's party!'. Success to the Noongar.

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