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WHEELIE IRRITATING

12-06-2007

Sandwell resident Lynn Hawthorne went to Norfolk for a few days to get away from it all - only to find that there were the same kind of wheelie bin dilemmas that afflict her at home. Time, she says, for a national recycling strategy.

I’ve just been on holiday to Norfolk. Very flat, Norfolk. And very beautiful: traditional English villages straight out of Agatha Christie, with village greens, churches, pubs and local shops selling local produce; pretty flint-pebbled houses with orange-tiled rooves and chocolate box cottage gardens with roses round the door. Sublime.

Except that each of these desirable properties, worth in the region of £250,000 - £750,000, is suffering the blight of the modern age: the wheelie bin.

Sometimes one, frequently two and, on occasion, three plastic Daleks stuffed on pavements, against walls and in front of windows in the only places the owners can find for them. Ghastly.

Yes, I know I’m on my soapbox again on this issue, but it really annoys me. As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of recycling and keen to do my bit for the environment, but I just think that the government hasn’t thought this through and has instead dumped easy initiatives upon us without coming up with a workable, sustainable solution to the problem of waste.

The letter we had from the cottage rental company and the guidebook to the property when we arrived showed virtual paranoia about the recycling targets North Norfolk Council has (been forced to?) set.

The Council states that failure to follow their stringent guidelines leads to contamination of refuse and this, in turn, costs £100,000 per year. Or, to put it another way, around 2 1/2% on the average Council Tax bill.

Intrigued, I read their stringent guidelines and got totally confused. They accept tricky things like card, plastic bottles, empty aerosols and telephone books and Yellow Pages, which my local council, Sandwell, does not.

But they don’t accept shredded paper or textiles and glass. For the latter two items, you have to drive to the nearest recycling bank or Household Waste Recycling Centre.

The Council went on to say that if your refuse bin was contaminated, it would not be emptied at all. I got paranoid then about what could and couldn’t be put where!

I just don’t get it. Why are there so many regional and geographical variations about what can and cannot be accepted for recycling? Holidaymakers across the country will be confused and, ultimately, not bother because it’s too much hassle in your supposedly hassle-free week or fortnight. And that makes a real dent in council targets in areas dependent upon tourism.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face: what this country needs is a national recycling strategy where there is consistency and effectiveness. The burden should not be placed upon on regional councils but should be managed and funded by national government.

Initially, there would be costs involved, but in the long run, it would save duplication of expensive recycling plants and make each of the existing ones more cost effective.

There may be a few extra transportation miles, but if the rail and water networks were used more efficiently, the environmental impact would be lessened.

And perhaps, just perhaps, there could be different ways of collecting recycling materials than everyone having three dirty great big plastic monstrosities outside our houses.

They’re as much a blight on the landscape as satellite dishes, stone-cladding and landfill sites.

So. I’m urging you to take arms! Write to your MP and ask them to push the need for a national strategy. Open the debate, investigate the alternatives, seek the solutions.

So far, all of this has taken place without consulting us, the paying public. It’s about time we had our say and the government listened. Don’t you agree?

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