This article first appeared in Birdwatching Magazine August 2017
The ‘Rubbish Party’ won a council seat somewhere in Scotland in the last council elections. If you think this appellation is an unprecedented admission of political ineptitude, let me disabuse you; their main policy is cleaning up local litter.
Litter, as I have ranted before is an issue of utmost concern directly or indirectly responsible for the death of millions of animals world-wide from plastic bags swallowed by cetaceans to grebes strangled by fishing line.
Ironically our massive trash heaps are one reason why gulls became familiar to the most inland of sites. We still send half a billion pounds’ worth of food to landfill, so gulls, corvids and rats have plenty to recycle. The best of us create very little waste and compost our peelings or send food scraps to the bio-digester. But most of us buy it, forget it, then dump it in the bin fooled into thinking ‘sell by’ means ‘die if you eat after this date’. Indeed, many of us ‘err on the side of safety’ and scrap anything even approaching the meaningless ‘best by date’. This viscous cycle of silly sell-by dates, consumer paranoia and supermarket stupidity in selling overlarge packs with ‘bogof’ offers keeps the heaps piling up and the farmer’s prices tumbling. The latter faced with the ‘need’ to offer uniformity for packaging not only add to the ever-growing pile of what is grown but not eaten, but they use more chemicals, maximising yield by minimising loss to wild creatures great and small.
So, gulls dine out on doughnuts and peck at old pizzas risking life and limb from sharp cans and entangling plastic. Learning, of course, that such bounty is available via the shortcut of tearing open black sacks and scattering our household waste down the street before the bin-men can collect it.
As bin collections become less frequent and certain items banned we seem to be replacing the family visit to old friends with an outing to the re-cycling centre. There we unload the garden grass cuttings, bung the technologically surpassed telly and cart our cardboard to the giant paper bin.
If we have indulged in DIY, or have an old freezer we hire a trailer which we have to leave outside the centre and drag stuff in by hand. Why? To stop the commercial exploitation of this domestic service. Apparently, white van men by the million would sneak in their old sofas and builder’s rubble and do what? Recycle them without paying for the privilege! Can someone please explain to me the logic of this municipal madness!
Two miles from my ‘household’ recycling centre is another ‘commercial’ one where companies and lone traders are charged to get rid of the guts of a refurbed house, or the unsaleable leftovers of a house clearance.
Has any local authority ever compared the revenue generated against the cost of fly-tipping? The ‘black economy’ is peopled by those who pay no tax, drive un-insured, un-roadworthy vehicles – do the local authorities really believe that they will develop a conscience and pay to dump trash? The ONLY reason people fly-tip is to avoid paying.
You may wonder what sparked this diatribe apart from righteous indignation about the despoliation of what passes for wilderness in our over-urbanised land. Well, for years I’ve used a lay-by on a country lane as a raptor watchpoint… I can sit in the car out of the elements and scan the skies over wetland and shoreline. Or I could until the farmer decided to fill it with huge containers, to stop the idiots who regularly heap detritus there!
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