Yes, Rubbish, Trash, Refuse, Waste, call it what you like.
I actually really look forward to the bin men coming along, every week, to take it all away. I get quite distressed when they can’t make it into our little cul-de-sac with their great big heroic truck, which is usually because someone has parked their car opposite the entrance to the Grove or they daren’t risk it because the weather is too icy.

Too Much Rubbish!

We get so much rubbish nowadays . .

Three big wheelie bins. One grey one for “general waste”, collected once a fortnight, one blue one, for “Recyclable waste”, plastic, metal and cardboard. Or at least I think it is for cardboard. Apparently, cardboard was disintegrating in the blue bins because of liquids, so I’m not sure if it is to be included. Brown bins, for garden waste. Used to include food waste as well. Used to be that the brown bins were for cardboard as it breaks down and helps form compost. But, turns out, that cardboard is full of chemicals. So that wasn’t such a good idea.
The council tried offering everyone an actual composter, before the brown bins idea. So, we had this huge open-bottom black plastic bin in the back garden, for a few years, about ten years ago. We used to put all the grass cuttings and food waste, tea bags, coffee grounds etc, in it. Well, it filled up. Then we realised (why didn’t we think of it before?) that we didn’t actually need any compost. Ah. So, we had a quarter tonne of nice organic soil that we didn’t want or need. Another thing was that the rats loved it. They would nibble around the base of the open-bottomed “composter” bin in order to get in and eat the food waste. Incidentally, don’t ever put waste meat in a composter. you will certainly get a plague of rats if you do that.

Every house, in every street, in every town, in every country, in the developed world . . . has several wheelie bins.

What was it like 50 Years Ago?

My mum, back in the 1960’s, used to go to the local shop with a standard shopping bag. There were no plastic bags back then, you had to take your own bag along. All the vegetables were weighed out by the green-grocer and they were just tipped straight in mum’s bag. No packaging. Nowadays there is even individual packaging around many fruits. Probably just as well as I have seen some real monkeys filling shelves in supermarkets, just throwing the fruit and vegetables around. Not the slightest bit aware or concerned that in a few hours those bananas will start to form black patches and that those apples will have brown bruises under the skin etc.
I recall, back in Redruth, Cornwall, my mum used to buy potatoes by the “gallon”. I particularly remember that, because when we moved to Plymouth, when I was seven, and my mum again asked for a gallon of potatoes, in a local shop, she was laughed at. So how does a gallon of potatoes work? Well, it is a capacity measure. So, for the older larger potatoes, you got more weight. For the small, new potatoes, you got less weight. Later, when potatoes came to the shops cleaned and packaged, the new potatoes were more expensive. When potatoes came to the shops still encrusted in mud, the large ones were more desirable as they took less labour to prepare. Meat came wrapped in grease-proof paper and brown paper bags. Bread came in brown paper bags. Butter just had grease-proof paper on. Unless you used a lot of canned products, most of your household waste really was minimal. So, that was fifty years ago.

Maybe not quite that long ago.

What do we do with all this Plastic?

This week (mid-December 2017) I read in the papers, two things. First, we ship millions of tonnes of waste plastic to China, to be “recycled” and that the world dumps 44 million tonnes of electronic items annually.
How did this come about? Well, in the case of the plastic waste, from what I have said above, you can see the ridiculous increase in the amount of packaging from when I was a kid, in the mid-1960’s to the multiple-bin times of today. To be fair, we all seem to be so busy nowadays that we want convenience foods, stuff that is pre-prepared. We don’t want to peel potatoes, that’s for sure. So, what’s the answer? Tricky to say the least. Multiple plastic packaging items can really only be re-used, recycled, to make bin-bags (don’t get me started) or for poor-quality bulk items such as fence posts, fence panels, farm gates, “decking” etc. Don’t get me wrong. It makes superb examples of all these products. But there are only so many fence posts etc that can be used. So, again, what is the answer? Well, it has to be to make the processing and recycling of plastic waste better. And the only way to do that is for plastic packaging to be recycled to come back as plastic packaging. Two things here:- First, unlike glass bottles, you can’t re-use plastic packaging, it gets too contaminated, it has to be washed, melted down, and re-formed. Secondly, you can’t very easily reform the packaging into new packaging when it comes from multiple sources, when it is of such a diverse nature. So, you can see where I am going with this. Packaging ought to be standardised. Producers aren’t going to like that, they want to keep their individuality. I agree with that as well, we live in a free-market economy. But, I think that we can restrict the size and composition of the boxes. Let the producers have a paper wrapper for the plastic boxes. They can go wild with the printing and design of the paper wrapper. but the box ought to be universal across all packaging producers. That way, we can have minimum selection of different types of packaging and then when a robot sorter of the resultant waste will stand a fighting-chance of sorting it into, say, twenty different types: Black, clear etc. There would need to be legislation to bring this about, to make packaging manufacturers produce a standard product. I can’t even imagine the numbers of people who would need to be involved in the decision-making on that one. Nevertheless, this has to come about.

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