Friday, January 28, 2011

Size is everything and it may cost you too!

Waste rationing appears to be something that is on many councils' agendas and, while I think their hearts are in the right place, I'm not sure that this is actually going to impact on reducing the waste people throw each year.

80 bin bags a year seems a pretty reasonable feat actually. Even for us, a family of six, we are now managing easily with only 1 bin bag per week.

However, this is with a good-ish recycling service, guinea pigs who will eat broccoli stalks and some left over raw veg, a compost (and chooks in the future), and an educated family who truly believe there is a need to ration our waste, so make an effort.

We also have the benefit of a car - to get to the charity shop (we're also on a great bus route), access to the internet for freecycle and ebay etc etc.

My concern is the heavy handed approach to this. I am in full agreement that something needs to be done though.

We are slowly no longer living on the earth's crust, instead we're living on an artificial crust of plastic toys and polythene bags.

Limiting families to 80 bin bags, whilst hard hitting, isn't actually going to work for the families who need educating the most;
  • What about the families who can pay the fine easily and it means nothing to them?
  • What about the families who don't care about recycling or don't know how to, and will fly tip?
  •  How do you monitor families who live in flats and use communal bins?
    • How do you fairly differentiate between the family of 2.4 and the family of 8 who will, undoubtedly, produce a little more waste. Is it actually going to make the family of 2.4 produce way less than 80 whilst the family of 8 or more, struggle, or will they think they have far more room to play and still produce 80 bags!
    •  What about the rest who can and will, but actually their excess waste will end up on the local tip anyway, but privately driven rather than in a council truck?
    • And finally, what about rewarding those that do now and will continue to do even if they are a family of 2.4, 6, 8 or even 12?
      Is this method going to work for them?

      Do we even need bin bags at all? Just as an aside I noticed the other day that TKMaax (yes I am going to name and shame) has brought back in their "free bags". They are apparently donating money to a charity for planting new trees if you bring your own, but how is that actually limiting people's immediate habitual reach for them and helping them remember their reusable shoppers? I don't see that the consequences of paying 2p for a plastic bag are quite as congruous on people and the earth as not having somewhere to dump your 81st bin bag.

      What if the only bin bags that are sold in the UK have to be biodegradable - we got rid of the old bulbs this way...why not bin bags? Maybe for those people who don't use bin bags at all, the council could offer a bin washing service?

      What waste was weighed and assessed on family size and then you get a reduction in your council tax according to your annual waste?

      Rather than telling people they "can't" throw away or they'll be fined, make it more of a challenge with a financial incentive as a reward - the donkey and carrot effect rather than hitting the mule with a stick to get it to move forward.

      And why is the onus totally on the consumer? Reducing landfill and waste has to start with manufacturers packing stuff in less or ensuring the package is fully recycleable. The numbers of plastic that are still not, would push me to be thinking, were I a CEO, let's use a different type of plastic then, one that IS recyclable. I would hope we have a scheme in the UK whereupon large business were penalised for their innappropriate use of waste and packaging. Rome wasn't built in a day, not everyone will buy loose food, not everyone will take their own cloth bags to the supermarkets to pack their loose apples or carrots, so we have to appeal to the masses. Baby steps as they say...

      Maybe if many politicians didn't have two homes with two lots of waste and two lots of carbon footprinting and two lots of taxes to fiddle, we'd have more support for these cockheaded ideas (I know, new government, everything is different ... of course...let's watch this space eh?)

      Our bins were collected this morning and I am proud to say we did only have the one bin bag...I do feel silently proud of our attempts this week.

      1 comment:

      mrs green @ said...

      Great post and you know it's a subject close to my heart! You make some great points about families who can just afford to pay a fine without changing their behaviours and I personally favour rewards and incentives rather than punishment. Thought provoking stuff - thanks!