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A load of rubbish

Keith Parkins | 12.12.2006 17:02 | Analysis | Ecology | Social Struggles

We are drowning in our own waste.

'One of the distinctly unhealthy economic trends over the last half-century has been the emergence of a throwaway economy. First conceived following World War II as a way of providing consumers with products, it soon came to be seen also as a vehicle for creating jobs and sustaining economic growth. The more goods produced and discarded, the reasoning went, the more jobs there would be.' -- Lester R Brown

'I am gravely concerned that local councils across the country are being bullied by the Government into axing weekly rubbish collections, despite public opinion. Are Labour hoping that by introducing these changes in the winter, people won't be as sensitive to the unpleasant odour of their bin bags hanging around?' -- Eric Pickles, Tory local government spokesman

'A common concern raised by residents is that alternate weekly collections will lead to bad smells and problems with vermin linked to refuse and/or food waster being stored for a longer period of time. It is advisable to roll out the scheme in autumn, winter or early spring such that by the time warmer weather arrives, residents are used to the scheme and initial resistance has faded.' -- official guidance circulated to councils

'The timing of local elections may affect your thinking on when best to introduce the concept to members and to the public, and the proposed rollout schedule for the AWC. The guidance document added: As an AWC is such a high profile change in service provision, a party in opposition can use the change for political gain. This can cause unnecessary public opposition either in advance of, or following the introduction of, an AWC scheme. This risk should be identified at the outset and action taken to address it if necessary as soon as possible.' -- official guidance circulated to councils

There are three major crisis facing mankind and the world: war and terrorism, waste and resource use, climate change and global warming.

All three are inextricably linked, one effects the other.

We go to war for what is more than our fair share of resources, our wasteful consumer lifestyles consume the planet's resources, our wasteful use of resources destabilize the climate.

Cut down a little bit of a rainforest for a small garden, and it soon recovers when we move on, cut down whole swathes of a rainforest and it does not recover.

As Man spread like a plague over the surface of the planet, his appearance is marked by the rise and fall of great civilisations.

The Middle East saw the birth of great civilisations, the domestication of wheat, the beginning of writing. Now nothing but desert.

Having despoiled one area, Man was able to move on, find another part of the earth's surface to destroy.

But that option is no longer possible. We have despoiled every part of the planet. There are no longer virgin pastures to move to. Our consumer lifestyles would need several planets to accommodate our ecological jackboots, only problem is we have only got one planet, and it is not big enough to accommodate our life style.

Mankind's activities used to be a minor part of Nature's cycles, but now our perverse economic cycles are the driving force behind Nature's cycles.

We see this with global warming and climate change, where the situation has become critical, and may already be beyond the point of recovery.

Like Nero fiddling whilst Rome burnt, our world leaders recently met for two weeks to discuss climate change, and agreed to do all of nothing.

In Nature there is not a linear flow of materials, there is no such concept as waste, that is we do not see waste accumulate in time or space. All we see is a cyclical flow of materials.

It is only Man who has created a linear flow of materials.

Across the world, mankind has woken to the fact we have a waste problem. We are drowning in the shit of our own societies. We can no longer cope with the waste we produce, be it effluent into rivers, garbage into landfill, pollution into the atmosphere.

We have hit the limits, and in most cases exceeded the limits.

Our landfills are rapidly filling up, our rivers dying, if not already drying up, the air we breathe used as an inverted dustbin, the sea an open sewer.

How we handle this waste crisis varies. At one end of the spectrum we have a Zero Waste Strategy as first envisioned in New Zealand, at the other end of the spectrum the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor which grasps at recycling as the opportunity to reduces services to local communities.

Something like a third of local authorities in England have introduced fortnightly bin collections (they call it alternate week collections) in attempt to cut down waste.

The Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, as it is known locally for its piss-poor services, is one such local authority.

Not yet introduced, Rushmoor is wishing to introduce fortnightly bin collection in the New Year, it is called a 'trial'.

Faced with fines for its abysmal recycling rates, rapidly vanishing landfill sites, Rushmoor decided it had two options: halve the capacity of the existing wheelie bins (which would involve the cost of new bins), or cut the weekly collection service in half to once every two weeks (which has the same effect of halving the capacity of collected waste).

This at a stroke is supposed to cut waste, and improve recycling rates, currently at 23%, with a target of 40% by 2010. To put these figures in context, other countries are easily managing 60%, but then they have had long-term strategies to cut waste.

David Quirk, Rushmoor head of environment and genius behind this cut in service, takes great exception to his policies being described as 'crass' or his current level of recycling and the target for 2010 being described as 'pathetic' and 'abysmal', even though that is what they are. He also takes great exception to criticism, and arrogantly refuses to enter into dialogue with anyone who dares to criticise what he is trying to push through against strong public opposition.

Anyone who wishes to try, these are his contact details:
01252 398160

It is always easy to see when someone has lost the argument, they resort to bluster and bully-boy tactics. This is what we are now seeing with Rushmoor head of the environment David Quirk.

The local community has made it very clear they do not want to see their weekly rubbish collection service reduced to fortnightly. The response of Quirk has been to resort to crude threats and intimidation and say their rubbish will not be collected, if they refuse to cooperate and bow down to his edicts.

Unbeknown to Quirk it seems, the council has a statutory obligation to collect domestic refuse.

Quirk obviously forgets that he is a mere public servant, paid out of the public purse, and if he does not like criticism, he can always resign and find employment elsewhere.

His polices deserve closer scrutiny, although it would be unfair to actually credit him with any original thinking, as he is merely regurgitating second-hand policies handed down to him from a government quango.

Pressure to cut rubbish collections is coming from the Audit Commission, the Government body that inspects councils. The Commission has told councils that they should "explore the potential for reducing costs, such as alternate weekly collections." Failure to cut services, the Commission has warned, will mean reduced quality ratings for councils which in turn mean less money from Government and more interference by Whitehall.

The trial is to start in the middle of winter, in the hope local residents will not notice the smell of rotting garbage.

He falsely claims, fortnightly collection has no associated problems!

Here are just a few of them:

- smells, flies and maggots
- rubbish burning in back gardens
- rats

Quirk claims to be unaware of any of these problems. In part he is helped in this assertion, in that it is only this autumn that Defra has decided to to carry out research into the health implications of fortnightly rubbish collection.

Quirk does not though have to look far. Rushmoor covers Aldershot and Farnborough. Nearby Alton has fortnightly refuse collection. Already there has been problems with flies, maggots, smells and people burning rubbish including plastic, in their back gardens.

Quirk heads an environment department, with responsibilities for pest control, but he is not aware, or so he would have us believe, of pest control officers warning that we are creating a generation of super-rats gorging themselves silly on an abundance of rubbish.

This, remember, is all being done under the guise of waste reduction and increasing the rate of recycling.

Recycling on the doorstep means putting the right rubbish in the right bin, it is not an excuse for cutting services.

In France, they collect refuse daily, but manage to well exceed average UK recycling rates.

Rushmoor has yet to introduce fortnightly bin collection, in areas where it has been introduced, local residents are experiencing far more problems than infrequent bin collection. Enter stage right, the dreaded bin police.

In the UK we have to be the most watched society in the world. Wherever we go, numerous CCTV cameras track our every movements, soon to be equipped with high powered microphones to hear what we say too, loyalty cards track what we buy. All we need next, compulsory ID cards to complete the picture.

Welcome to Prison Camp UK.

Recycling is not only being used as an excuse to cut down services, it is also being used as an excuse to spy on us, with Draconian on-the-spot fines for non-compliance.

Bin men are rifling through people's bins to see who puts what rubbish in what bin. Yet another reason for shredding your paperwork, only then you have a problem. You can't put shredded paper in the paper bin, but neither can you put shredded paper in the residual waste bin.

The best use of shredded paper is as animal bedding, then onto the compost heap.

The reason bin men are rifling through the rubbish, is to identify who the rubbish belongs to to impose an on-the-spot fine.

If you put the wrong rubbish in the wrong bin, wrong bin out on the wrong day, leave the lid open, you face an on-the-spot fine of £100. Challenge the 'offence' in court, and you could be facing a £1000 fine, plus costs. One hundred people a day across the country are being fined.

Take the rubbish to the local tip, more CCTV cameras, number plates are noted, and more fines.

There is one bit of good news in the fortnightly bin saga. People are saying no, and several councils have been forced to backtrack and reinstate weekly bin collections. In the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, local residents are trying to stop the reduction in service before it is introduced.

The Neanderthal thinking typified by Rushmoor is one end of the spectrum, at the other end we have Zero Waste Strategy.

Zero Waste Strategy is as the name implies, a strategy for minimising waste.

It is more an aspiration, than an immediate goal, something to aim for.

New Zealand aims to have zero waste by 2020. New Zealand has found that a Zero Waste Strategy is not only good for the environment, it is good for jobs, good for business and has the potential to be a major export earner.

In the UK, Doncaster, Bath and Swindon are taking the lead in adapting a zero waste strategy.

Zero waste is a whole system approach. Not as we are seeing in the UK, an excuse for punishing householders.

Zero waste tackles every part of the product cycle, not the householder who is at the end of the line.

Zero waste aims to close the loops.

Underlying all of this is consumerism and the throwaway society. All financed by a growing mountain of personal debt.

We go to the shopping mall for our throwaway products, carry them home in our throwaway plastic carrier bags.

Everything is disposable, even the food we eat is junk, carried home in the same throwaway disposable packaging.

The throwaway society externalises its costs, only suddenly we are faced with picking up the tab and we don't like it.

We are running out of cheap oil that fuels and lubricates our throwaway society, running out of landfill and rivers into which to dump the outputs of our throwaway society.

The challenge is to replace our present society with its disposable products, disposable people, toxic waste with a reduce-reuse-recycle society, a society where both people and the environment, not profit, are seen as important.

New Zealand is giving the problem serious thought, whereas others, like the Neanderthals in the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, have yet to comprehend the concept.


Paul Brown, Councils face burning issue of rubbish, The Guardian, 15 April 2002

Lester R Brown, Plan B 2.0, Norton, 2006

Lester R. Brown, Throwaway economy in trouble, Earth Policy Institute, 30 November 2006

James Chapman, Householders could be charged for rubbish by weight, Daily Mail, 9 August 2006

Councils to 'snoop' through rubbish to discover who recycling offenders are, Daily Mail, 27 November 2006

Alex Crawford, If the weekly bin collection system ain't broke don't fix it, letters, Farnborough News, 1 December 2006

Martin Delgado, Dawn of the Super Rat... and blame the end of weekly rubbish collections, Daily Mail, 16 September 2006

Steve Doughty, Homeowners face a tax on their bins, Daily Mail, 5 October 2006

Steve Doughty, Councils move to fortnightly bin collection by stealth, Daily Mail, 6 October 2006

Steve Doughty, 100 a day fined by bin police, Daily Mail, 11 November 2006

Steve Doughty, Now councils install spy cameras at rubbish tips, Daily Mail, 26 November 2006

Kate Evans, Funny Weather, Myriad Editions, 2006

Everything instore half price today!!!, Indymedia UK, 28 November 2006

H M Foster, How will council decide whether bins trial is a success?, letters, Farnborough News, 1 December 2006

Ian Gallagher, Meet Britain's first recycling martyr... the man with a criminal record for using the wrong bin, Mail on Sunday, 22 October 2006

Getting there!: The Road to Zero Waste, Zero Waste New Zealand Trust/ Envision New Zealand, August 2003

Beth Hale, Mother prosecuted for the wrong type of rubbish, Daily Mail, 18 May 2006

Kiss of Debt, SchNEWS, 24 November 2006

Jason Lewis, Now there are spy cameras at rubbish tips: CCTV system will record your car's number plate and what you are throwing out, Mail on Sunday, 26th November 2006

Marcus Mabberley, New officers on streets to tackle antisocial behaviour, Farnborough Mail, 5 December 2006

Andrew Milford, Alternate bins plan gets a trial run, Farnborough News, 10 November 2006

Andrew Milford, Opposition mounting to alternate bin collections, Aldershot News, 17 November 2006

Andrew Milford, Bin plan backlash gathers supporters, Aldershot Mail, 28 November 006

Cliff Mogg, Bins trial rebels: 'Take part or else' warning over boycott threat, Surrey-Hants Star, 7 December 2006

Oxford Shoppers Left Bemused By Consumer Cult, 27 November 2006

Our overall vision: Zero Waste, Bath and North East Somerset, 2004

Keith Parkins, Natural Capitalism, October 2000

Keith Parkins, A sense of the masses - a manifesto for the new revolution, October 2003

Keith Parkins, Curitiba – Designing a sustainable city, April 2006

Keith Parkins, Alternate Bin Collections, Indymedia UK, 13 November 2006

Keith Parkins, It's just rubbish, letters, Surrey-Hants Star, 16 November 2006

Keith Parkins, Rushmoor fortnightly bin collection, Indymedia UK, 17 November 2006

Keith Parkins, Shredded paper not recyclable, Indymedia UK, 21 November 2006

Keith Parkins, Fortnightly collection of bins has nothing to do with recycling, letters, Farnborough News, 1 December 2006

Mark Peters, Bins collection experiment will be a disaster, letters, Farnborough News, 24 November 2006

R P Porter, Maggots and flies are bound to be a problem, letters, Farnborough News, 24 November 2006

Recycling in New Zealand: A $100 Million + Export Industry, Zero Waste New Zealand Trust, August 2001

Luke Salkeld, Man fined £200 for putting paper in wrong recycling bin, Daily Mail, 18th October 2006

Luke Salkeld, Councils slap recycling ban ... on shredded paper, Daily Mail, 20 November 2006

South Australia’s Waste Strategy 2005–2010, Government of South Australia / Zero Waste SA, undated

Stop the Waste, FoE, 2006

Survey of Recycling Businesses in the Auckland Region, Waste Not Ltd, October 1998

The Case for Zero Waste, Zero Waste Alliance, undated

The End of Waste: Zero Waste by 2020, Zero Waste New Zealand Trust, undated

Michael Westlake, How will fortnightly collections reduce the volumes of waste?, letters, Farnborough News, 1 December 2006

Mike Williams, Authorities should tackle excess waste at source of problem, letters, Farnborough News, 1 December 2006

Zero Waste, Dove: Defenders of the Ouse Valley and Estuary, undated

Zero waste strategy, Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, 15 June 2006


Keith Parkins
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Hide the following comment

Straight to the point

12.12.2006 21:40

If I leave the dustmen their Christmas Box in the wrong-coloured envelope, will they refuse to take it?

Mike Whitehorn

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