When kerbside recycling is rubbish

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From Professor Adrian Demaid.

THE UK is a wonderfully rich source of examples of how not to do things.

The most perfect example is the way that a cottage industry of householders is being trained as rubbish sorters in the name of recycling.

My 91-year-old mother has just received her training literature from Solihull Council, together with a complicated calculator and a confusing calendar. Solihull has introduced a five-bin system – the government’s ideal is a six-bin system, so they have some way to go yet.

In the green box she puts all of her paper and cardboard – except wallpaper, envelopes with windows, wrapping paper, corrugated cardboard, greetings cards and tetrapacks (what is a tetrapack?).

The black box is for food and drink cans, aluminium food trays (all to be washed), and the metal caps and lids that she has removed from her glass bottles and jars, which also go in the black box. What doesn’t go in is any other metal item, Pyrex ware, drinking glasses, vases, broken glass and light bulbs.

In the white sack she puts her plastic bottles (all washed and squashed), but not her plastic trays, food tubs, yogurt pots, plastic film, polystyrene and tetrapacks. Tetrapacks are clearly bad news.

In the green bin she puts all garden waste, except branches over 2.5-cm diameter.

The black bin is for anything left over at the end of her daily recycling shift.

These five bins, boxes or sacks are to be put out on the roadside before seven o’clock in the morning on the days of collection.

The green and black box are collected on alternate fortnights, the white sack and black bin weekly – for the moment, as half of England’s local authorities have abandoned weekly bin collections.

The next stage will be to ensure that the trainee workforce is doing the job properly – some ungrateful householders will call this policing.

All of this nonsense-on-stilts harms the planet, turns town streets ugly and, worst of all for those of us concerned about sustainability, it alienates people:

‘Mail on Sunday reported that 25,000 microchips have been removed by angry residents in Bournemouth.’

‘Residents blockade recycling lorry after row over five pebbles in garden waste.’

‘What a waste of time. After filling our white bag with cardboard and plastic for a fortnight, the binmen decided they wouldn’t empty it because we had contaminated it with a plastic tray.’

‘South Oxfordshire householders will demonstrate outside Henley-on-Thames town hall next month, arguing that the bins are an eyesore and unmanageable.’

The States deserve much credit for resisting the siren call of kerbside recycling, but its voice needs to be heard in this, to explain the costs – to the taxpayer, to the householder and to the planet – of these ridiculous schemes.

Otherwise, well, a Nightmare on Kerbside Recycling Street is currently showing in the UK.

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