New Refuse Arrangements

Steve asks

I’m a supporter of the existing refuse collection arrangements and, having a compost bin, have very little in my greentop bin every week. As of next week, we will now have to buy a black plastic sack for those items currently now collected from my bin. How green is that? Extra black sacks to buy and dispose of!

I have just had a baby and don’t want to contribute tons of nappies to landfill. I asked a Council person at Charlton House just before Xmas why they didn’t have an incentive scheme like other Councils, to encourage people to buy washable nappies. I was told that they had no evidence that incentive schemes work. Altho’ I have bought washables anyway, the Council will be happy to give me 52 plastic sacks and come and collect those from my door. Crazy.

I think that there will be poor compliance with the new measures which will undermine the whole scheme.

The Phantom replies:

I confess I’m a fan of the new arrangements. A system for collecting organic refuse as well as dry recyclables is a fantastic idea, IMHO. I went to one of the periodic tours around the MRF recycling plant (you can do so too – email ) which, frankly, converted me. I am not a massive council supporter, but the guy who runs the MRF plant has his head screwed on and a very pragmatic approach to recycling. His no-nonsense and frank answers to the increasing problem of massive fines if they don’t stop using landfill was refreshing to see, and in theory the new system is fantastic.

The ratio of black bin bags to the amount of organic waste saved from landfill would seem to be bearable, since there’s very little that won’t fit into one of the two bins – basically just polystyrene and waxed juice cartons. The trouble is, that virtually no one knows this, as nobody’s been properly told.

Much as I hope against hope, I am not convinced it’s going to work. I just don’t think we’ve had enough information about it for it to work smoothly. Due to my visit, I’m pretty clued-up on how it should work but I just can’t see that the organic waste green-top-bins are going to remain uncontaminated by wrappers, plastic bags and people-who-can’t-be-arsed-to-sort-their-garbage’s waste, and the amount of time they’ll spend picking out that contamination (now there’s a job I’m not volunteering for) will make the whole thing unviable.

We need a MASSIVE publicity campaign to get something like this to work smoothly. People need to be explained-to the way that I was how it’s going to work – and why it’s important. It shouldn’t be down to me to talk about giant vacuum-sealed (to keep-in the pong) compost bins at Thamesmead that rot-down the food waste, so that the methane gas and compost created can be sold to subsidise the system. It shouldn’t be down to me to tell people that if you wrap stuff in newspaper or a paper bag it won’t make your bin honk to high heaven. And it shouldn’t be down to me to mention that the alternative is even higher council tax.

The other major point is that while we are carefully sorting out our chicken bones and tea bags at home, small and medium-sized businesses are not compelled to recycle even one newspaper. Until this anomaly is fixed, recycling is a mere token effort.

Having said that, I embrace the new system with open arms. I am delighted to give it a go. I just hope the council can make everyone understand how the thing works.

On the subject of nappies, there is, of course, an argument that the water, heat and detergent used to wash nappies can create as much environmental damage as cutting down trees to make disposables. I’m not getting into that one as I’ve never really done any thinking at all about baby-shit. Frankly, as a parent, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. In the meanwhile, the council will, at least, be providing a separate collection service. Congratulations on your new arrival.

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