02 July, 2006


Is this your used bus ticket, sir?

There are now, apparently, four London boroughs which have introduced, or are committed to introducing, penalties for failing to segregate recyclable rubbish. This is all very commendable, no doubt, but just how are they going to enforce it? How do they propose to identify the delinquents?

The actual crime, misdemeanour, antisocial act, offence against the common good -- whatever you propose to call it -- is to put recyclable material in with the residual non-recyclable rubbish which is destined for the landfill or incinerator. To demonstrate that someone is doing that you have to open up their nasty smelly binbag and rummage for paper, tincans, glass bottles and anything else which has been designated for recycling. What They will of course be doing in practice is following the less unpleasant course of peering into the householder's gaggle of council-provided brown, green and sky-blue-pink recycling crates. An empty crate will be taken as prima facie evidence of non-compliance, as indeed will the presence of any non-qualifying general rubbish helpfully added to the crate by one of the local herberts.

I look forward then to receiving my first non-compliance notice when my Borough decides to join the "Tough on rubbish, tough on the causes of rubbish" tendency. I have been assigned the full complement of council-provided recycling containers, but I ignore them, preferring to drop off recyclables at the bank of public bins next to the railway station. This is partly out of habit -- the public recycling point has been there for years -- and partly because, if I were to set out all of these crates and bins and use them, my poor little token patch of South London front garden would be more or less covered in the damned things.

OK, so the station is only 200m away and, being fortunate enough to be in full-time employment, I visit it most days of the week. But suppose I did start to use my recycling crates. You can't assume that I will generate every category of recyclable. For example, although I am notoriously unaverse to alcohol, I generally do my drinking down the pub, and they are kind enough to dispose of the resulting empties. The only empty glass containers emanating from my house in reliably steady quantities are those in which freeze-dried coffee is sold. Were I to suddenly develop an exclusive preference for tea, would I find myself having conversations with the local council's enforcement officer along the lines of, "Come on now, sir, you're not seriously expecting us to believe you don't use glass bottles and jars, are you?"

Perhaps there's a marketing opportunity here, selling packets of washed, pre-sorted rubbish to householders who are worried about not being seen to meet their recycling quotas. (Actually, now I think of it, something perversely comparable did feature in an episode of the Goon Show, where they were collecting dustbins' full of rubbish from the well-off and giving it to people in the East End (viz Henry Crun and Minnie Bannister) who were too poor to generate their own rubbish.)

"Next case. What's the charge?"
"Failed to meet his recycling target, yer honour."
"Fiend! Seven years. Take the blighter down!"

I await developments with interest.

[UPDATE 2006-07-12] Round One to common sense.

Ive wondered too.

We do put out some paper.


We store up cardboard and take that direct to the recycling place.

Aluminium cans I have collected and sold for scrap for years, now I take them to Tesco where they earn me clubcard points. Thats where glass, plastic and other non aluminium tins go too, no points for them though.
All the biodegradeable stuff goes in our compost.

All the garden waste, grass etc plus some unprinted card go in a huge hole in my mum's large garden, our own private landfill, its going to take years to fill up.

So our recycling containers are hardly used.

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