Sunday, 25 April 2010

Save The What?

The whole recycling issue really leaves me cold. My wife loves it. We have a large plastic box in our under stairs cupboard where all cardboard, cans, junk-mail, boxes etc. are placed. All recyclable items MUST be placed in this box. There have been the rare occasions when I’ve forgotten the rules and tossed a can into the regular rubbish bin. On those occasions it has been a minor miracle that I’ve actually escaped without the skin being flayed from my back. If I make that mistake now it’s purely due to an absent mind and not any streak of rebellion. Cans go in the box. It doesn’t matter if the box hasn’t been emptied for a couple of days and the recyclable pile is the size of a mountain and as unstable as a Third-World dictator while the regular bin is empty. CANS GO IN THE BOX. Through pain, I have learnt.

The fun doesn’t end there. The box is then taken out for it’s contents to be transferred to the external bin. We have three bins now, large rectangular receptacles on small, neat wheels that stand in a line like soldiers of fortune keeping an ecological watch on my personal chunk of the planet. There’s a brown bin that’s designed for garden rubbish - grass clippings and hedge cuttings and the like. A green one that is designed to receive regular rubbish (although these days I don’t think anyone really knows what the hell regular rubbish actually is). And then, there’s the blue bin. Otherwise known as the recycling bin. We have a recycling box in the house, and it’s contents are transferred to the recycling bin outside. Easy, huh? Just lift the lid, throw the contents inside and-

NO! Of course it’s not that easy. Because paper goes into another box inside that bin while plastic and cardboard go into the main area. We’ve already done the separating, yet now we separate those piles into yet more piles. It’s roughly around this point I consider taking one of the rusty cans I’m in the process of chucking and slashing it across my wrists.

When I was a kid we had one bin. ONE FUCKING BIN. Imagine that! It was metal and round and sat proudly next to the shed and we threw everything into it. Why did that change? Why is it that I receive a schedule of recycling from my local authority every year that not only tells me how to recycle, but even hints with vague threats that if I don’t do it my rubbish won’t be taken away. Because we MUST think about the planet. It’s dying, don’t you realise? There are no trees left in Nebraska. A polar bear is now living on 4 foot by 4 foot chunk of ice because you’re to damn lazy to sort your Guardian from your bean cans. If we don’t make an effort, the ozone layer will burn and our seas will boil. We. Will. Die.

But here’s the thing. When I was at home the other Thursday I watched the huge, diesel-burning, atmosphere polluting garbage truck pull up our street. I watched the group of lads jumping out and emptying the blue bins. And not once, not once did they separate anything. Everything went into the back of the truck. Everything. Alright you say, maybe they were just storing it all in the back of the vehicle so they could sort it all out back at the depot? The fuck they did. The drove back, emptied that truck into the landfill hole and went for a cuppa. I’m sure it’s not their fault and that they do their best - they probably haven’t got enough man power or enough hours to do the job. However, I paid £112 a month last year in council charges and for that sort of money I don’t see why the council can’t keep up their part of the bargain if they’re demanding I do the same. I don’t see them spending my hard-earned on anything else. The roads are knackered (and of course we pay other taxes for that), I rarely set my house on fire, have a heart attack or get arrested, so I have no requirement of the emergency services. All my council appears to do with my money is take my recycling bins and mix them back up again. For £112 a month. Sounds like a bargain.

But the real issue of recycling is one of guilt. Yes, the planet is suffocating and choking on our fumes, beautiful species are becoming extinct at an alarming rate and the polar ice-caps are melting. It’s all true. But if I wash out my Ragu jars and put them in the right box they won’t. And it makes us all feel good, because we’re doing our bit and making the effort. We won’t feel guilty about all the other pollution we cause in the week - light pollution and high energy pollution and exhaust pollution and all that traffic that gets us to our hated jobs where we continue to make, build and design things that people don’t really need for a world that can barely sustain what we already have. It’s like going to Church for two hours on a Sunday morning and then spending the rest of the week sinning. You can get away with because you’ve done your bit.

I can’t give you numbers, but I’ll bet we could do some real recycling if for one week none of us drove anywhere. If our electricity and gas supplies were turned off at 6.00pm. If our power stations closed down during the hours of darkness. We could make a real, serious change. What’s that? You need to drive to the office because there are odd people on the bus. It gets cold at night and you don’t like wearing any of your sweaters. You really like slamming a pizza in the oven and having it ready just before the latest episode of Lost comes on the tube. Shit! Me too. I love my pepperoni special while Jack and Sawyer tramp across the island for the hundredth time…

The best thing to do is just keep separating those tins. Everything will be fine.