OPINION: Pitfalls Of A Reckless Green Agenda
I write this in response to the Kipper Central article OPINION: Our Throwaway Society is Swamping Us by Janice North. Janice decried littering and fly-tipping and wrote inarguably about the benefits of re-using instead of discarding. Though I agree with what she wrote, I’d like to offer another perspective on the subject.
Bin emptying services are awful these days. I remember when binmen would carry your big, heavy metal bins from wherever they were kept to empty them. They would also take big bags of rubbish that wouldn’t fit into bins. Now, with wheelie bins and bin lorries that actually pick the bins up and empty them at the push of a button, it seems these services are too much to ask for. I don’t blame the binmen, they’re obeying their orders.
Bins are only emptied once a fortnight too. Sometimes, instead of emptying a bin, the binmen will place a sticker on it that says “TOO FULL.” This is an insane policy, as bins only get fuller if they’re not emptied. On several occasions, my block’s communal bin area has been filled because bins have not been emptied. Workers for the Council (or rather, under local Labour dominance, workers subcontracted through agencies for the Council at great expense) then have to attend and clear out the bin area.
The situation is also exacerbated by restrictions that have been decreed on entering dumps. And the fact that it is usually cheaper to replace an entire electrical appliance than a single malfunctioning component is ludicrous!
I have my own methods of reducing waste. For example, I give any unwanted paper such as old letters and newspapers to my young daughter for her to draw on. Everyone in my household has some second-hand clothes. My daughter has been given many old toys by friends whose children are older. Any unfinished meals in my household are usually finished by me and what I don’t want goes to our dog. Our dog also gets to lick trays from ready meals and the like in order to lessen, even if only by a tiny percentage, the amount of food thrown away.
Where I live, a relatively deprived location, people who acquire a new piece of furniture leave the item being replaced outside for anyone to take who wants it. Objects abandoned like this disappear quickly as there is always someone in need of an upgrade. This is true of the other flat I have lived in, as well as multiple locations where I’ve “sofa-surfed.”
I completely agree with Janice’s philosophy of “waste not, want not.” However, green initiatives need to be properly thought through before being commenced in order to avoid penalising the impoverished. The Government’s “war on plastic” is a misguided endeavour and has led to extra charges being conceived of. The Green Alliance believe that it may also do more harm than good to the environment and The Waste and Resources Action Programme agree.
I think plastic is a wonder material and should merely be regulated to be standardised and recyclable. It comes in different forms, from solid and hard to thin and floppy, so has many, many uses. It is glass that should be phased out. I’m not condoning littering, but plastic bottles do not smash.
Nobody thinks about people falling and cutting themselves on broken glass, or animals injuring their feet. When I walk my dog, I just have to steer him around the worst of it and hope he remains unscathed. When I was a kid, a family dog slashed her paw open right down to the bone – she had to have stitches in her muscle and skin.
People are attacked and seriously injured or killed with glasses and bottles. If they were plastic, they would do far less damage. Football clubs have already begun banning glass bottles on the terraces for this reason.
I despise, hate and detest the carrier bag tax. Before this law was imposed, I boycotted all shops that charged for bags and still refuse to buy from anywhere that has charged or does charge for them voluntarily. I wholeheartedly believe that you pay for your items, the means to carry those items home should be free on principle. I am not alone in this. Until quite recently, that was the way it was for as long as I can remember.
The Government claimed this extra cost was intended to reduce littering. Who in their right mind discards a perfectly good carrier? People re-use them as bin bags or for picking up dog faeces. As I was aware of this legislation before it was enacted, I managed to build up a stockpile of carriers, but it is shrinking fast. Once it is depleted, I will stop using bin bags, which I expect will lead to inevitable spillages of litter when (or if) the binmen come to do their job and I seriously doubt that they will pause to clear up the mess.
I believe that prohibiting free bags is more likely to increase the mess on our streets than decrease it. You also can’t spontaneously nip in a shop and buy something anymore unless you happen to have a bag on you.
Now the Government’s planning to tax plastic bottles with the excuse that we’re filling the sea with them. Except for in coastal areas, how can our bottles reach the sea? Some people re-use bottles filled with cheap pop from home when they’re going to be out all day, myself included. Plastic bottles also make good skittles for youngsters to play bowling, or good rattles if you insert some rice. Anyone re-using them will be penalised as they won’t be taking them to the recycling machine.
I don’t blindly defend all uses for plastic. Banning microbeads was a correct decision, as they reach the oceans through our drains, do much harm and benefit us very little, if at all. I want my food properly contained, but it is not always necessary to utilise plastic for it. If cannabis was legalised, the plant’s fibres could be used for excellent biodegradable packaging and carriers.
Another inconvenient annoyance is the inability to obtain cardboard boxes. Boxes are brilliant for storage and for when moving home. Citizens could previously walk into a supermarket and exit with as many boxes as they could carry. Now it’s against shops’ policies to allow anyone to take even 1 box, as they are coerced to recycle as much as possible and at all costs. This is at odds with the Government’s aim to lessen the amount of plastic used, as people buy storage crates constructed from the polymeric material.
As my family and I retain a thin sliver of hope that the Council will someday allocate us an appropriate domicile, we are forced to save any decent sized boxes we can get our hands on for the purpose of moving. We can ill afford this waste of storage space in our overcrowded flat, but we don’t see an alternative.
Additionally, children formerly flattened boxes and used the cardboard to sledge down grassy hills during summertime. And cardboard is useful for craft projects – I once made a novelty folder based on a design that was featured on Art Attack.
I want to reduce waste as much as anyone, but a reckless green agenda actually discourages people from finding uses for our waste and harms the most vulnerable by raising costs.
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