While out in the village today, it struck me how inefficient our waste disposal systems are. We have huge refuse lorries crawling around every neighbourhood each week collecting bin liners on a street-by-street basis. This rubbish is all thrown in together, much of it wasteful packaging and unnecessarily discarded items. We now have a separate bin for garden waste, but the main bin is not separated at all, and many things could be salvaged or recycled if not covered in last night's dinner.
A much better policy would be to have every householder bring their rubbish (yes, walk, carrying it) to a central collection point in each neighbourhood/village, rather like the refuse tips we currently have, only more of them, with separate skips for different types of rubbish:
If rubbish was separated out in this way, the majority of it would not be so unpleasant (=expensive) to deal with, and many things would end up being re-used. Some of it could be burned (to produce energy) if it was not contaminated by other rubbish.
Leave the lorries to just come by weekly and collect the entire skip instead of chugging round every street wasting diesel and pouring out fumes. Human foot-power is much more efficient and having people do this on a weekly basis would put them a bit more in touch with the reality of waste and what it means for their community; they'd surely think more and throw away less if they were directly responsible and had to carry it themselves. Of course, people might bring it in their cars if they were lazy or lived in remote places; this would still be better as long as they were en route to somewhere else, e.g., a supermarket. Indeed, supermarkets or retail parks would be the ideal place to site such tips, as they have largely become urban centres and are usually the source of most rubbish anyway. Many already have bottle banks, so this idea is just a natural extension of this concept, with the twist of removing the usual free refuse collection service.
Of course, people will never do anything unless they have to or there is money involved, so perhaps a scheme to get Council Tax deductions stamped weekly in a book would help motivate people (obviously raise the Tax first to compensate and fund the scheme). Some members of society (e.g., the elderly) may need someone to come and collect it for them - a fine use for those people doing Community Service. And paid-for collection services would no doubt spring up in any free market for those too busy to care about their environment and community (who would not receive Council Tax deductions).
I've been collecting dead batteries (as have other enlightened folk who know better than to throw such hazardous items away) and light bulbs for years now, patiently waiting for a safe way of disposing of them. It's time we stopped just putting all this stuff in the ground as if it was OK to do so. And please, can I give back my packaging materials to be reused?
UPDATE: This is now happening in forward-thinking Japan. Would it work in England? Of course, but not until the bigots have got over themselves and had their gross Victorian values surgically removed, or their property values decreased due to mass pollution, environmental collapse and rioting in the streets.
© copyright Malcolm Smith 2006-05-03 - last updated 2008-11-08