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Garbage - by The Bitch! (not literally!) - Articles Surfing

Well Darlings,

There has been a hell of a lot of rubbish talked about our refuse collections lately. Under the pretext of it increasing the recycling of waste - a theory now being dismissed as having no substance - 140 authorities have already moved to alternate weekly collections where recyclables are collected one week and other waste the next. What long-term implications this will have on public health remain to be seen. Despite the stories of increased vermin, flies and maggots everywhere this system has been adopted, with such a lousy summer this year any major adverse affects are hardly likely to be noticed - but what of the years when we have a good summer? A long, hot, dry summer? Though we tend to easily forget them, summers with hot, dry spells are not so infrequent that they should be dismissed.

Local authorities using alternate week collections claim there is no clear evidence of any adverse public health effects, but the devil is in the detail of that claim. The difference between "evidence" and "clear evidence" can be as vast as the imagination. We can only have clear evidence after something has been tried, tested and proven, whereas evidence alone can be based on things we have already learned, perhaps in different situations.

By now most people will have seen the pictures of undulating carpets of maggots on pavements and on wheelie bins. They are simply the result of leaving waste around for too long. Whilst in this stage these creatures that seem to appear from nowhere are usually quite harmless, it must not be forgotten that every one of them is a potential fly of some sort - and they are not harmless. They are a danger to our health - and of that we do have clear evidence!

Whilst there is no clear evidence of harm to public health with this system so far, and only so far, it can be said just as equally that there is no clear evidence that a summer heatwave of any substantial length will not result in some epidemic, or even a plague. In hot countries like (say) India the bugs there pose very little threat to the locals, they have become immune to them over many centuries, however we do have evidence that when we visit that country we frequently go down with what is affectionately known as Delhi Belly, and that is simply because we are neither used to these bugs nor immune to them. Based on that evidence, we have to accept that any change to our hygiene standards here that might promote bugs we are not used to, such as keeping festering garbage within our communities for long periods so that flies and vermin proliferate, could be hazardous to our health. We can suspect this based on the evidence we already have, but if we want clear evidence then we might have to wait until people start becoming seriously ill, or dying. Should we have to do this? Common sense tells us: we should not live in a dirty, filthy, fly and rat infested environment.

This poses a very serious question: should our local authorities only work on clear evidence? It is an extremely risky policy for them if they do so, for often it will mean abandoning common sense - and that, in the event of something like a life-threatening epidemic, could easily leave those responsible liable to prosecution. Don't you find it somewhat strange that all those Health & Safety regulations which prohibit us doing so much these days, have not stopped our authorities from taking these risks? I mean, have they not carried out their risk assessments, like we all have to for everything now? Blow soap bubbles at a kid's party? No, you mustn't do that! It's no longer allowed in case someone should slip up. Venture into the unknown, with no clear proof it won't be a risk to our health? Oh, that's okay! Hmm . . .

It stands to reason, the good old common sense I love to talk about so much, that the quicker we dispose of our waste, the safer we shall be. We learned this as long ago as 1665 when fleas from the rats feeding off our rubbish decimated the population, wiping out whole communities in what became known as the Black Death - so why are we abandoning it now? Can you imagine our over-stretched health service trying to cope with something on that scale? It can't cope now - we could be decimated again!

During the summer months one only has to put their nose near to (say) an empty dog food can, or even a fast food container, just two days after it has been used to know that what unseen things there are living in it now aren't good news. The smell can be appalling, and bad smells are often nature's way of telling us: avoid! We're told councils being approached with these problems of infestations and smells are advising the public to wash out all their cans, disposable trays etc., and wash and disinfect their wheelie bins too. Really? Washing and disinfecting hasn't done much to prevent our hospitals from killing us with the bugs that proliferated since they changed their standards of hygiene, so is it really likely to work on our streets? The best way to stop an epidemic is not to give it a chance to start!

Cleaning a wheelie bin is not the easiest of tasks even for the able-bodied, so how are some of our pensioners and disabled people expected to cope? Some grannies are not much taller than these monsters - I can picture one of them falling inside never to reappear! But something perhaps far more important than a disaster such as that is: with every household now expected to wash out their refuse bins, microwave-meal disposable trays, sauce bottles, cans, and many, many other items of waste in an attempt to keep smells, maggots, flies and vermin at bay, aren't we going to be wasting an awful lot of that what we are told will, in the not too distant future, become one of the planet's most valuable items? Water.

With all the torrential rain and flooding we have suffered this year, it may be hard to believe water is that precious - but it really is. Where gold was, and oil currently is, fresh water will one day become the world currency. People will die for it. At the rate our climate is changing worldwide, with deserts being rained on and once green pasture lands now suffering year after year of drought, who knows how soon that day might come? Nobody talks of a hundred years any longer. Having so inaccurately predicted the melting rate of the ice caps, few scientists will now put a date on any eventuality.

One adverse affect of the bi-weekly collections already being experienced is that they have produced yet another brigade of little Hitlers - as if we needed more of them! Not a week passes by now without us reading about someone, often many people, whose bin was not emptied because it was "contaminated" by a small piece of something that should have been put into a different bin. The refuse collectors now rummage through our garbage feverishly looking for contaminating items, but ridiculously (because of Health & Safety, so we're told!) they are not allowed to simply remove them and then empty the bin. Instead of anything that easy, they slap a ticket on the bin - and unless its owner pays around '12.00 for a "special" collection it won't be emptied until the following fortnight.

Now, not everyone can afford to pay for a special collection - to some people '12.00 is a lot of money - and there will be others who won't even bother or care about the bin not being emptied, so that means the offending bin will now hang around stinking for a whole month, perhaps even longer if the "contamination" hasn't been removed correctly by the time of the next collection. These bins are not completely air-tight, so every fly, bluebottle, rat and unwanted beast for miles around will be attracted to the bin, and that's nice for the neighbourhood, isn't it?

A system made for money grabbing? Another stealth tax? Of course it is! If the real reason for this system being adopted was truly an attempt to save the planet, then it makes no sense whatsoever to not empty a bin, only to then have to use up more of our vital resources in providing a special collection. As carbon footprints go, this one is large and utterly indefensible!

Like so many ideas rushed into lately, and eagerly taken on board by those who are genuinely concerned for our planet, bi-weekly refuse collection is an ill thought through scheme, but one that was quickly seized upon by local authorities because they could see it was an easy way of making money. However it is slowly being realised it is likely to do far more harm than good to the planet, and the consequences of it could prove unimaginable. Frightened now by some of those possible consequences, and despite all the revenue that they might have squeezed out of us, some authorities are already having a change of mind and rapidly making plans to revert to the weekly collections. That is at least some good news.

Recycling our waste makes sense. We must all do it. But how we do it needs to make sense too!

Before I go, I must just mention another ill-conceived idea: Britain's first desalination plant. This has got the go-ahead and will be built in the Thames Gateway at a cost of some '200 million. In return for the meagre supply of fresh water the plant will provide - a mere 140 million litres of drinking water a day - it will pump into the atmosphere a massive 250,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year - and that's every year.

Every single day in London 915 million litres of drinking water are lost through the old underground pipes leaking. A one-off purge to replace all the decrepit water pipes (like we replaced our gas pipes in the seventies) would supply London with more than six times the water this new plant will produce and, once the work was completed, without any extra greenhouse gases being emitted whatsoever - and that's every year too!

If you were in charge of the nation, and you really wanted to save the planet, what would you be doing?

"The Bitch!" 21/07/07.

Submitted by:

Michael Knell

Michael Knell

"The Bitch!", a weekly UK News Review column, is hosted by the author and columnist Michael Knell. These articles appear on the Blackpool Gay Directory website, but are not specifically gay in content. More information on the author: http://www.michaelknell.com and on the directory: http://www.astabgay.com.



Copyright © 1995 - Photius Coutsoukis (All Rights Reserved).


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