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Talking (of) rubbish …

Ok, so we all want to recycle as responsibly as possible but, however hard you try, 21st century life generates a lot of rubbish. It isn’t easy to get rid of it. And it’s getting worse.

I have recently moved house. We ended up with about 70 flattened cardboard boxes and roomsful of screwed up packing paper courtesy of our removal company. My son took some to the tip in enlightened Cambridge  (although we now live in London) where he lives and can drop off free of charge. Elsewhere if you have a van, in most areas you are suspected of trading (what’s the problem if you are?) and charged fees. My borough’s green bin people will take extra cardboard – within reason – if you squash it up. So gradually we’ve shifted most of it.

But what about the polystyrene and wooden frameworks new electrical appliances come packed in – and we’ve bought several machines for the new house? What about the old rabbit hutches filled with the rubbish of decades left in the garden by our vendors along with various untidy planks, sacks of solidified concrete and more? What about the internal door we’ve removed? What about some small items of worn out furniture which will soon be redundant when the ordered replacement item arrives?

Well, some of it you can break up and sneak into the general bin but most you can’t. The Council – at a price – will collect electrical items and pieces of furniture but not miscellaneous rubble, planks or, for that matter, old rabbit hutches.

In the end we paid a stonking £250 to get the garden rubbish cleared by a private company. What happens if you’re strapped for cash and can’t pay that?  And I suppose we are going to have to load the car and take to the tip ourselves the stuff which has accrued since.

Said tip, however, is on the other side of the borough and will probably take an hour to drive to though heavy traffic. Hardly a green solution. There is one much nearer in the next borough but  – almost unbelievably to me – you need a special pass to access it if you don’t live in the parent borough.

Given all this, why is anyone surprised that fly tipping is such a problem?  How are you supposed to get rid of rubbish?

Here is the Elkin Rubbish Solution (ERS). It would cost but then so does fly-tipping. ERS proposes that rubbish disposal should be a free public service.

  1. Every borough and local authority should provide many more easily accessible tips – aka “recycling centres”. A rose by any other name.
  1. Tips should be FREE for everyone irrespective of where they live and what they do for a living. Why put obstacles in the way of people wanting to dispose of rubbish responsibly? We should be supporting tradesmen in their work not making their lives difficult.
  1. Councils should, by arrangement, pick up rubbish of all sorts from their council tax payers free of charge. What are car-less, elderly or infirm people meant to do otherwise?
  1. Once 1,2 and 3 are in place make fly-tipping a very serious offence indeed. Much higher, properly enforced fines and a custodial sentence for second and subsequent offences.

,Just wait until I’m Prime Minister …

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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