A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Hooptedoodle #168 - Donkey Award - World of Bins

Whatever the question was, this new chart is almost certainly the
answer - I promise to post a photo of our proud new row of bins
when the grey one arrives; we may cut down a few trees to make room
We live in a house built on a farm in a very rural area. In our kitchen there are three waste receptacles - to conform with the local council regulations. We have a plastic tub into which goes all recyclable waste paper, another to take recyclable plastic, metal and glass, and a bog-standard (large) flip-top bin to take everything else. That is the indoor bit of this industry; outside we have corresponding wheelie-type bins - a green bin for general waste, one with a red top for the plastics etc, and one with a blue top for the paper. Existing regime is that the green one is emptied every Thursday, and the other two are emptied (by a different truck) every second Thursday (I hope you're taking notes here).

A new development is that we have now been supplied with another bin (a brown one) to take all garden waste - prunings, dead leaves, grass cuttings and similar. The brown bin collections will start in April, we were told, so - as you can imagine - we have been waiting in a state of some excitement to see how this will work.

Well, it gets more complicated. It seems we will also be supplied with yet another bin (a grey one) which is for food waste, which will henceforth be banned from the green bin. This is a serious business, too - I expect to see officials with armbands checking the contents of our bins for compliance - they may even be required to taste the food waste, just to be sure. I hope so.

Since it would be unreasonable to expect householders to wander down the garden to the new grey bin every time they have a used tea-bag, we will also be supplied with a matching indoor (grey) food waste container so we don't run any risk of contaminating the household rubbish. We are lucky to have a decent-sized kitchen and a large garden, to house all this splendour, and our domestic arrangements allow us a bit of time to devote to the complexities of the new arrangements. For new arrangements is what we shall have. Our local authority - whom I have avoided naming, not that it matters - have decided that our bin collections will now all be fortnightly, and staggered in such a way that there is no easy way to remember what the blazes we are supposed to be leaving out in any particular week. Like me, you may have doubts about the overall improvement in our quality of life, despite the hefty municipal investment in PVC and our proud new row of bins.

At the top of this post is the new master schedule, which we shall have to keep in a prominent place, since I do not fancy our chances of ever memorizing it. Our lives will be pretty much driven by our waste management activities in future, which is probably how it should be. I shall say nothing at all about the double-whammy of ratepayers being saddled with both extra cost and extra hassle; my lips are sealed on the subject of just how much benefit to the environment and the state of the planet is likely - I need more information on the carbon footprint of the manufacture of plastic dustbins; it would be overly carping to observe here that as far as I can see the stuff that goes to the local landfill site still looks pretty much as it did some years ago, so I shall swerve that one as well.

I'm sure that armies of jobsworths all over the UK are already running such regimes - it is simply that we have joined this enlightened group rather late in the day. I'm also sure that someone will be delighted to tell me that it is all the fault of the Eurocrats in Brussels. If so, I have a message for you...



  1. Well that cheered me up, I chuckled to myself the whole way through!!
    It really does astound me and I'd like to punch whoever thought this crap up! We've only got three delightful bins down in sunny Kent. 1 giant green monstrosity for paper waste, 1 big bin for food and another smelly bastard bin to leave in your kitchen stinking the place out and making you gag everytime you put another teabag in it (who knew T-bags were food waste?)
    Then if you've any other rubbish that not allowed into the others bins guess where you put it????
    You place it into a new invention.... called a black sack?? What a novel idea???

    1. The black sack is a novel slant! Maybe if only inert stuff is put in a black sack it will not be disastrous, but I recall that in the 1980s Edinburgh Council had us put ALL domestic rubbish in plastic sacks, and since there was food in there all the foxes in the region moved into town, and spent many a happy night ripping open the sacks and throwing rubbish all over the streets - apart from the medieval appearance of the result, plus the health risks, there was a step change in the environment, since the foxes became town dwellers (and one of them nearly killed my cat, which is another story).

      If I really believed that councils were sincerely trying to do sensible, cost-efficient recycling, or doing anything at all beyond paying lip-service, and trying to cut down their payrolls by getting the citizens to do more of the work, I would be less grumpy about it.

      Once again, I am bewildered by all the local authority moaning about their hands being tied by Euroregs - in my experience, a trip to Holland or Germany will not reveal the same degree of stupidity.

      Any residents of Liverpool may be prepared to testify how much money was spent in deciding on a colour for the city's bins which would not offend by its footballing, religious or sectarian associations - if I recall correctly, they went for purple, but it took a lot of time and money to make this choice...

  2. I have to say (not too smugly I hope) that here in this leafy London Borough it's all a damn sight easier. 4 bins, all collected on the same day, every week (yeah I know it's easier in town).

    And thanks to the foresight of the sensible Mrs Nundanket, we have a suitable space under the sink to store stuff before it gets decanted into the outside bins (which live the other 6 days in a small 'bin shed', again her idea).

    I am in clover!

    So, thanks Tony for making me realise that there IS one thing in my world that does work as it should.

    1. Thanks Chris - the comparison is useful, and an interesting sanity check. In town, it makes sense that there are enough people to justify more trucks, more operating staff - on the other hand, the town in question is probably as large as my county, which makes it clear that cost per resident is the big difference. I respect that our local authority have good people who have good intentions, and are attempting to make things better - what frightens me about the implementation is the inevitability of the drive for complexity - our county's waste collection operation makes Napoleon's invasion of Russia look like a stroll in the park. And it's not just the big stuff, it's the fiddly details - fortnightly collections, plus the small print about cleanliness, are likely to see a big increase in the number of private individuals who heat water to wash the yogurt pots, and then travel by car to the local dump to get rid of them. The Award Donkey himself (Okey Donkey? - a legend invented by the spellchecker on my wife's phone recently) can see that the overall effect of such a trend is likely to be a negative impact on the environment, but it will be the residents, not the authority, who are wasting energy and producing extra CO2. It wusnae us, mister.

    2. I'll be honest and say that despite the fact we only have two bins - emptied on the same day fortnightly in opposite weeks - the only way I can remember "which day it is", is to have a surreptitious nose out of the window to see what everyone else has put out.....

      Since arrival of new grandson we are doing our level best to fill the nearest landfill with disposable nappies (the one this morning was toxic by the by) but when I asked the council for a bigger bin they wanted to charge me for it, so now at the end of the forthnight I shove everything in a large black bin bag and drop it off at the local convenience tip - no sorting, much easier!

    3. Disposable nappies are sinister chaps - apart from the obvious repulsion factor, I think they never break down into anything particularly friendly. Keeping an eye on the neighbours is handy if you can see that far. I'm working on a cunning algorithm which will be along the lines of "bring in the brown bin and stick it to the right of the blue and red ones", in the hopes that if we can get the bins in order it becomes clearer which is next in sequence. Problem comes when we have no garden waste one fortnight - then the sequence goes to pot - we'll have to have special standing instruction about what to do if a particular bin doesn't have to be put out. Tell you what - I'll just read the schedule card! Pavlov would be pleased with me.

    4. Shame on you for rubbishing (pardon the pun) the local authority's attempts to foster community spirit in your area.

      I can honestly say that, since our local council forgot to renew the household waste collection calendars when the old ones expired at the end of last year, I have had more conversations with my neighbours than I ever had before.
      Nowadays, there is a regular meeting in the street every Sunday evening as we congregate to discuss which bin to bring out. Sometimes, it gets so jolly that we say 'stuff the bins' and go to the pub instead.
      It's the Big Society in action.

    5. Chris - funniest comment I've had for a long time - thanks very much for brightening my morning!

  3. Crikey Poms, you sure do have a knack for complicating things. Here in the Penal Colony we thought things were getting over the top when we got three bins. There's a small one for general rubbish, emptied weekly, and two big ones. One for recycling (that's all recycling, they sort it at the depot) and one for green waste (anything they can mulch and put on the municipal flower beds), collected on alternate weeks. Once a year one may phone the council to send round a truck with some hefty lads to take away any hard rubbish (whatever won't fit in the bins except concrete and asbestos). New rules require the "hard rubbish" to be neatly stacked on one's own property rather than on the grass beside the kerb, putting paid to a fine old tradition of scavenging useless crap from other people's hard rubbish, which would then be saved for one's own pile next year. We still get the colour coded fridge magnet schedule thingy, but like Steve-the-Wargamer I rely instead on someone getting theirs out before me. So do most folk. As a result if the first mover is hung over the whole street gets cocked up!

    1. We can request a "special uplift" if we have to get rid of an old sofa or a freezer or something - the Council will provide free collection (as long as it's a genuine domestic waste matter, not a contractor trying to get round the dump tariff). Problem is the lead time can be 5 or 6 weeks.

      Your system sounds less hassle than ours, but the key phrase is "they sort it at the depot" - in my county, at least, there's no-one left to do the sorting - actual staff are hard to find - there are plenty of managers left, but not so many staff. Where it gets really silly here is that they put in so many regs that they actually encourage illegal fly-tipping, which is potentially a major issue in a farming area. There was a celebrated case some years ago of a farmer near Glasgow, who had a lot of problems with people from the city dumping fridges and washing machines on his land - theory was that word had got around among the white goods retailers that there was a quiet spot for dumping customers' old gear. Farmer complained to the council and the police, got no help at all, shrugged it off and used his JCB digger to dig big pits and bury the stuff, and then he was in real trouble. The environmental people were relaxed about him having other people's rubbish dumped on his land, but as soon as he started burying refrigeration equipment without special procedures he was breaking the law. When the local paper pitched in on his side, the council (guess what?) pleaded Euro regulations as their excuse.

    2. Bloody hell Mr Foy, your "system" needs a tune up! My local council actually has people whose job it is to respond to reports of illegally dumped rubbish. They forensically examine it in search of evidence of the dumper and prosecute them. Of course our problem is bags of household trash left on the grass verges (wee call them "nature strips" which is hilarious), so these poor blighters actually open bin liners and pick through the foetid mass within in search of utility bills and the like. It's glamorous and exciting work, as you can imagine.

    3. Steve - you are absolutely correct. Apparently there is not enough money to pay for a complete system here, though why the incomplete system has to be such a dog's breakfast is unknown to me.

  4. I'm staggered by your bin routine. I thought a kid had been doodling on the calendar - which is probably nearer the mark than you think! 😜
    We only have four bins to contend with and a pretty easy cycle to get the hang of. However, the 'all the other crap' bin is half the size of the others and fills in record time. The answer is that it becomes garden & food waste and lost under a layer of rotting 'stuff'. Nobody checks that and so, as far as the Council is concerned, the system works perfectly and that's really all they care about.
    BTW, if you have any trouble, email the head of service, the lead member for the relevant committee and your local councillor. It's amazing how fast things get sorted when you ruffle their feathers.

    1. It's an effective tactic Gary. Not surprising as council elections usually have such poor turnouts that a handful of voters can swing it in any given ward.

      Something I learned in my NIMBY days ;-)