Monday, 7 June 2010

Talking Rubbish

It was good to hear that Eric Pickles has officially scrapped Labour's preposterous bin tax. I'm all for recycling, but using tagged, chipped, electronically tracked bins as an excuse effectively to spy on and surcharge people on their already astronomical local taxes severely damaged the integrity of a what is, at least on the surface, a decent cause. An incentive scheme is a far more sensible idea if we really must go down this road.

Personally, I think recycling is a bit of a scam as it is has been permitted to develop as an the industry thanks largely to the previous administration's cavalier approach to all things concerning private companies earning public money, civic duty and civil liberties. Currently, huge private firms hoover up council contracts and then make a heck of a lot more money out of waste management via exploitation of what should be, as I said, a good cause, namely recycling. Consequence? Hardly anything is actually recycled in this country as a proportion of the total and yet we are already paying far more for the privilege of having our household waste taken away. Pickles' idea therefore seems to be the best of a bad set of options. If people are to be forced to pay more for refuse collection, and forced to sort out their own rubbish, then yes, some kind of payback incentive is a reasonable idea. Maybe it should go further and become a full rebate for getting your recycling 100% right. That would be a real incentive and prove the sincerity of any council's recycling motive.

Predictably on the Today programme this morning, John Humphreys seemed quite keen to attack even this popular and modest Tory government policy by trying to argue the toss with a pretty no-nonsense Norfolk councillor who had only briefly looked at the Windsor and Maidenhead pilot scheme on which the new government policy is apparently based and was having none of Humphrey's puffed-up, scornful nonsense. Humphreys eventually seemed to realise he was talking rubbish and marginally altered his inappropriately confrontational tone towards the end. In fact, I'd say he was pretty comprehensively 'owned' by whoever that interviewee was, actually, and it was a very pleasant experience for this listener. I've never really heard anyone who likes the sound of his own voice more than Humphreys, apart from, possibly, David Dimbleby. Oh, and Paxman. Not forgetting Marr who's shaping up as another fine lefty BBC windbag as well. But that's another story, I suppose.

Whatever anyone thinks about the abolition of the bin tax proposals, this to me is another example of the Tories trying to right Labour's wrongs. It's therefore worth praising just on those grounds, even if it is merely a shuffle in the right direction when it comes to this country's sorry record on recycling, value for money for local services and councils' continuing erosion of privacy and individual rights (including the rights guarding against trespass by council officials), and local government 'snooping'. In the end, that's perhaps what was at the heart of this issue, not recycling. In that sense, what Pickles has done is to begin the process of tackling the surveillance mentality of far too many local authorities and to reframe the authoritarian zeitgeist that prevailed under Labour in a small state philosophy that should help to bring about a shift towards a freer society. I have no doubt that this is his aim, and it's laudable in its libertarianism.

Whether he achieves any more than making sure our bins continue to be dumb trash cans rather than being permitted to evolve into spying robots working for the state remains to be seen. But it's a start.


  1. Don't big up Norfolk TOO much! Where I live (western half of Norfolk) recycling barely exists and what you can recycle is ridiculously limited. You can't even put bottles or any plastic other than fizzy pop bottles or milk containers. All sorts of paper or card products aren't accepted either. Utterly ridiculously, you can't recycle the fizzy pop bottle cap - despite the fact that the plastic ring it used to be attached to (i.e the same coloured plastic as the cap) is still stuck round the neck of the bottle, so without cap you can't squish the bottles flat and expect them to stay squished by preventing them from 're-inflating' by screwing the cap back on, otherwise the council reject the whole darn batch of recycling. Oh, and bill you for it as well. So loads of unsquished bottles reduce capacity in the bin for other stuff, and practically nothing is accepted. Norfolk's recycling man might have sounded sensible, but his actual practical policies leave a lot to be desired!

  2. Well, he took down Humphreys so that was worth noting. As to the recycling situation: I can only speak from experience and where I am, quite frankly it's a scam at the council tax payer's expense. In the end, people can take only so much authoritarianism and profit-taking masquerading as environmental concern - and misrule. I think Pickles gets that and I think this was a purely political decision. That it might also work as a recycling policy makes it one of those rare politically motivated decisions that has the benefit of being potentially effective too: it might actually encourage a bit of recycling, even if it is the general population that's forced to sift their trash, and not the companies that are supposed to specialise in that kind of thing. But, hey, at least we'll have preserved a little bit of freedom, right?

    We shall see...


Any thoughts?