Saturday, April 24, 2010

Nine Bins of Expire

What happens to the stuff in your house after it has outlived its usefulness?  As reported in today’s Telegraph, the folks of one area of the United Kingdom must divide their expired items into a nine bin recycling system. 

The new bin system by Newcastle-under-Lyme Council, north Staffordshire, includes a silver slop bucket for food waste, which is then emptied into a larger, green outdoor bin.

There is a pink bag for plastic bottles, a blue box for glass, foil, tins and aerosols, a green bag for cardboard and blue bags for paper and magazines.

Clothing and textiles go in a white bag, garden waste in a wheelie bin with a brown lid and non-recyclable waste in a separate grey wheelie bin.
In addition to the incredible space this system requires, some of the townsfolk are complaining about managing the system.
Samantha Dudley, 34, added: “I’m used to organising things with two children but even I find juggling nine different recycling bags and bins difficult. I dread to think how elderly people get on.”

So why this onerous increase in recycling? 
Councils have been coming under increasing demands to reduce levels of domestic waste, with growing taxes on landfill space and the possibility of fines if they do not meet European Union targets from 2013.

But without a secondary market for recycled materials, sorting one’s trash is simply adding the value of your time and efforts to the trash. Even when the economy is strong, the market for recyclables, except metals, is pathetically weak. When the economy is weak, that already dismal market weakens as well. So if there is no real market for these materials, where exactly does the value-added trash go? The Telegraph article doesn’t address that, but based on my 15 year old inquiries, I would guess it gets landfilled somewhere, rendering this practice merely a costly exercise in forced behavior modification.  
Bin police are used across Britain to ensure recycling regulations are met, with the threat of £100 spot fines for those who overfill bins, leave extra rubbish bags out or put bins out on the wrong day.
So why are the complaints seemingly limited to management and space issues when their very individual rights are threatened, “Non-payment of the fines can result in the culprit being taken to court, where they could be given a £1,000 fine,” for non-compliance? Why are they not fighting this on principle?

Sure, the title of this post started with the absurdity of a nine bin mandated recycling program, but I couldn’t help but make a deeper connection between it and the inspiration for the title of Geraldine Brooks’ book, Nine Parts of Desire. In her book, Brooks quotes Ali ibn Abu Taleb, the historic leader of the Shiite movement, who justified covering women from head to toe thusly, ”Almighty God created sexual desire in ten parts; then he gave nine parts to women and one to men.”
The "success" of both systems rely on a population which has accepted an unearned guilt for living.


Fiddler said...

I honestly thought this nine bin system was a joke when I first read about it. There are worse injustices in the world, but I'm awfully glad we don't have bin police here in the U.S (yet).

Lynne said...

Absolutely, there are far worse injustices. I thought this was a decent example of the little burdens that people are willing to accept based on the false premise of saving the world. After all, is mandated recycling into two or three bins really any different? Just in degree, not in kind.

Doug Reich said...

I'm sure the current Republicans would not accept any more than 8 bins, on principle.

Fiddler said...

Is recycling into two or three bins mandated in your town? It's not in mine.

Lynne said...

Fiddler: I'm talking about our town-owned dump. You have a choice of four private trash contractors (from what I could find).

Since maybe 1990, all three towns I've lived in required recycling with associated fines. The enforcement has been completely lacking, but the threat remains.

From our local regulations:
H. The following items are prohibited from disposal into any refuse container:
(1) Any acceptable recyclable materials.

This is followed up with the threat of having your dump privileges (currently $390 a year) revoked.

When our recycle bins at the dump get full, we're told to just dump it in the general trash.

When I worked as a local environmental official 15 years ago, I chased down the fate of our separated trash streams (different department) and found it was going to the same dump. I've been meaning to find out the fate of our current value-added trash. This conversation may be my incentive - thanks.

Doug: Eight as calculated by the Tootsie Pop owl's method, no doubt. One, Two-hoo, three . . .