Friday, May 25, 2007

Oh, what a waste of...?

I was an odd youngster. Where others were wearing their hair long and their politics left, I was usually considered a touch on the Tory side. Which annoyed me a lot, and actually such labels still do bug me for their all-encompassing nature, as it seldom adequately described where I was coming from, which was trying to assemble personal best from the policies that all sides were espousing.

But one thing was sure, when it came out, I really didn't see the problem with Poll Tax. While a few others most certainly did. Riotously so. Maggie outingly so. I can't recall exactly when it was now, but it may have had something to do with me owning my first flat and sharing it with a mate, and our paying on where it was and not what we used had something to do with it.

Hence I find myself with odd, and conflicted feelings about all that surrounds the newly-announced Waste Strategy and all the media surrounding it, a small sample of which (noting how the leanings of some are evidenced by the spin they put on the same facts) can be surveyed here:

Telegraph - England's rubbish crisis -
Telegraph - Cash carrot to curb the family's rubbish -
Telegraph - Miliband offers recycling carrot -
Telegraph - Households to face £30 recycling fines -
Times - Waste Not, Want Not -
Times - Pay-as-you-throw scheme for waste ‘penalises householders’ - 'Recycling volumes will rise most quickly if the Government smooths the path of those who make a living from reuse and reclamation. There is no place yet for fining or taxing those individuals yet to appreciate the benefits of an afterlife for their rubbish.'
Times - Councils ‘need money to meet costly targets’ -
Mail - Now you'll have to pay to take your rubbish to the tip - But if they try to avoid these charges by driving their domestic refuse to the tip, they will have to pay anyway.
Express - DUSTBINS: NOW WE FACE FINES AND TAXES - Lower-income households receiving council tax benefit - often families with young children - could also be exempt, despite generating relatively large quantities of waste with nappies and other trash - er, excuse me...?
Indy - Cash rewards to reduce rubbish disposal - Every household in the country could have at least five bins in the future to allow separate collections for glass, paper, cans, plastics and food waste, though not garden refuse - tell that to Elsie in her flat opposite!
Indy - Legislation to tackle excess packaging - I still await how 'excess' is defined any better than 'necessary' without also clamping down on every other aspect of consumer culture, from advertising to fashion.
BBC - Bin charges 'to boost recycling'

By any measure, I should be up there waving from the rooftops. It seems to be exactly what the young me was in favour of, and how the old me lives. But...

There is an odd unease in the land of Martin at the logic behind it, the competence of those who would put it into effect, and the actual enviROI that is going to be derived vs. the social divisions, public rejection and possible 'targets rather than tangibles' measures to be imposed.

I choose to be optimistic, as there is a lot of talk of reward and incentive, but this has to be complemented by the mechanisms to do the right thing easily and conveniently. People are starting to wake up to the fact that much of what is out there is a big fine waiting if you do not work for free for councils who you pay, and who pay contractors big money already. I don't mind doing my bit, but certainly want it appreciated and acknowledged. I do not like being forced to act in support of overpaid and inefficient systems, especially under threat. On a personal level, but also as a matter of logic, if segregated recyclable materials are a resource, why would I be penalised for bringing them to a collection centre? Should I quickly throw out all I have collected over the last few years into one massive, mixed black plastic bin liner and simply drop it outside. How on earth does that serve the environment????!

There is also the not so small matter of what is actually being done, and what is seen to be done. A few too many of the proposed initiatives smack of populist window dressing, tackling high-profile but irrelevant targets at the expense of real ones. There still seems a typical, massive, and hugely wasteful focus on trying to deal with the end point problem by using those who have little control over it all as scapegoats, when so much more could, and should be done (and a heck of lot more transparently in a financial sense) as things go into the consumer system before they become disposable.

For my kids' futures, I expect substance, and not window dressing, and if they can't find a way to sell it to the public with their existing methods, maybe they need to change. Or be changed.

Here it is: DEFRA

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