Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Litter.

I woke up today thinking about Litter. Not just any average, everyday litter, but the mountains of rubbish (garbage) left behind recently in some beauty spots and city centres. Adding to the blatant disregard of public safety by not social distancing, the thoughtless morons who participated in the sun-seeking events or football celebrations also thought themselves to be above clearing up their own litter.

After almost 500,000 ignorant visitors descended on Bournemouth beach, they left behind them some 70 metric tonnes of rubbish. This included a great deal of plastic which might have been washed into the sea, as well as numerous cans and glass bottles posing a hazard to people and wildlife.

Someone also took this short video of the spoiled beach, early the next morning.

Liverpool Football Club celebrated winning the Premier League championship for the first time in thirty years. Against the advice of the city authorities, and the club itself, tens of thousands of hysterical fans took to the streets of the city to celebrate. Not only did they show complete disregard for social distancing, they managed to start a fire in the iconic Liver Building by firing rockets at it. Then when they finally went home, this is what the ignorant horde left in their wake.

An impromptu Gay Pride event was staged on Clapham Common, in London. Attended by over 500 people, it was said to be peaceful and good-natured.
Until they went home, and it was discovered what they had left behind on this popular recreational green space.

I am just beyond anger at this disgraceful behaviour. I don’t want to even be of the same nationality as the inconsiderate pigs doing things like this.

SHAME ON YOU! SHAME ON ALL OF YOU!

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Rubbish.
(Or if you are from America, ‘Garbage’.)

No idea why I woke up thinking about this today, though it might have had something to do with the ridiculous amount of packaging used by Amazon, for sending small items in the post.
I have written about recycling before on this blog, as long ago as 2013. But even that has changed dramatically since this. https://beetleypete.com/2013/01/08/recycling-my-arse/

Do you remember when fresh food produce was loose? When grapes were in a bunch, not a plastic box? How about when fish and meat were wrapped in white paper, then carried home in a non-plastic shopping bag? If you can answer “Yes” to all those, then you may also be thinking about the huge amount of rubbish generated by the average household, in the so-called ‘developed countries’. Time was when all we had was a metal dustbin, with a lid that you lifted off. Everything went in there, and it was collected and emptied by the local authority once a week. As I recall, it was almost never full, except perhaps at Christmas.

More recently, we have seen the imposition of large plastic wheelie bins. They hold much more than the old dustbins, and we have three of them, not one. One is for ‘general’ rubbish, one for ‘recyclables’, and the other for ‘garden waste’. They are no longer collected once a week, as that has now extended to fortnightly collections. And they are always full, sometimes so full that we have to hold back some items until they are emptied, as the waste removal operatives (no longer ‘dustmen’) will not take them if the lid isn’t flush.

Why is that? There are only two of us; three if you count Ollie, but he leaves no rubbish behind. The answer is staring us in the face. Everything is in a plastic box, or some other kind of container. We no longer use loose tea, so the tea bags go in the bin too. You would think that we could recycle all those plastic containers, but no. Most of them are the ‘wrong type’ of plastic. This applies to cellophane, any black or dark-coloured containers like microwaveable boxes, and even things such as the plastic tops of some bottles, which cannot be recycled along with the bottles themselves.

Foil is recyclable, but only if it is clean. So forget that, unless you have enough free time to wash used foil. (Using hot water generated by electricity, thus increasing your carbon footprint) Paper is recyclable of course, we all know that. But is it? Certain kinds of paper and cardboard are not 100% recyclable, (shiny paper, for example) so that ends up in the main rubbish bin instead.

So we can be forgiven for being confused, surely? It even depends on what part of the country you live in, whether or not certain things can be placed in the recycling bin. Most of the population struggles with what can and can’t go in. In the effort to do the right thing, we plonk anything looking vaguely recyclable into the bin for that. Better than landfill, and it can be sorted by the waste removal people. They understand our confusion, they must do. But no, they don’t. They expect us to keep up to date with it all, and be aware of any changes or developments. We are supposed to read the tiny symbols on packaging, and to check online to see what has been added or removed from the ever-changing list.

Woe betide you make a mistake. The ‘Bin-checkers’ will be on you, and will leave a note. That note warns you that failure to recycle correctly could result in a fine. In extreme cases, they might even refuse to collect your wheelie bins at all.

Not only would this mean people dumping their rubbish locally, it also means that those of us who are unsure what counts as ‘good’ recycling no longer take any chances. If in doubt, it goes in a black plastic bin liner, and into the ‘general rubbish’ wheelie. That ‘good recycling’ changes like the weather, so I find myself unwilling to risk it more and more lately. The next time you are putting those carefully-washed yoghurt pots into your recyclables, be careful. Ask yourself, “Is this the right type of yoghurt pot?”

The answer lies with the supermarkets and manufacturers. Just stop. Stop putting grapes in boxes, asparagus into black plastic trays covered in cling-film. Stop putting potatoes into small plastic bags. Stop giving small plastic bags for us to put our produce in for weighing, and replace them with paper ones. Stop wrapping reams of bubble wrap around things that won’t break in the post, or stuffing out huge cartons with fifty feet of paper, just to send me something one-eighth of the size of the box it comes in.

And local authorities, you are picking on the wrong targets. Instead of threatening me over the inclusion of a plastic tray of the ‘wrong plastic’, get down to any of the four huge supermarkets in the town, and fine them for selling £1.30 worth of purple sprouting broccoli in a black plastic tray covered in a double-wrap of film.

Because if all this doesn’t stop, everyone knows how it will end.

Black Rubbish

Unless you don’t have a computer or a TV, or perhaps you are a hermit living in a cave, then you will know that tomorrow is ‘Black Friday’. I was also told today that it is ‘Grey Thursday’, and we all know that next Monday is going to be referred to as ‘Cyber Monday’.

So what is all of this nonsense about? It is another unwanted and unnecessary import from the USA, driven by online retail companies, and later picked up by shops and stores all over the country. Lauded as the days of the best possible discount shopping all year, we are seeing advertised bargains stated to be as much as 75% less than the price of the same item yesterday.

But please don’t be fooled. Many of these ‘must-have items’ are in fact different models to the ones you may well have been thinking about buying. Last year’s model, outdated and superseded. Old stock from warehouses, goods unsold on shop floors, and unpopular items bought in to take advantage of the buying frenzy. Even most of the genuine items are not actually cheaper. Which Magazine, the consumer’s friend, has revealed that over 60% of advertised ‘Black Friday Deals’ were actually cheaper in the weeks leading up to the promotion.

People who have perfectly serviceable goods, working televisions, and recent model washing machines, will be tempted to buy new ones, based on these apparently fantastic bargains. That will leave tens of thousands of unwanted items destined for scrap or landfill, adding to the mountains of non-recyclable rubbish this country is already sinking under.

Please, please, don’t fall for it. Just keep your cards in their wallets or purses, and resist the urge to click ‘Add to basket’ online. It’s a hype, a con, a marketing ploy, and it just isn’t true. All it will succeed in doing is getting those who can least afford it into more debt, and adding a huge pile of garbage to the existing mountains of the stuff.

Remember, Black Friday = Black Rubbish. Be strong, and refuse to be fooled.

Recycling? My arse

This is the first in a series of re-posts of older articles and blog posts. I have gone back over three years, to a time when many of my current readers and followers did not know about me. I understand that few want to trawl through archives to look at old stuff, so I thought that I would re-visit some of the posts that I enjoyed writing some years ago. I apologise in advance to all of you who have seen them and commented before. And I also apologise for what some might consider to be unsuitable language at times.

OK, time to get on my soap box about this emotive subject. Not the sort where a neighbour gives you an old wardrobe, or someone drops off some cartons to help you with moving house. No, the big story, Council Recycling, on an industrial scale. We all know it’s rubbish don’t we? And the pun is intended. Never before have I ever witnessed a con trick and smokescreen played out on such an unimaginable scale. Brainwashing, conscience-salving, complete and utter nonsense. Before all the Greens and planet-savers head off to Beetley to lynch me from my protected oak, consider this.

When Julie had a house in Hertfordshire, before we sold up and moved here, her local council had a very progressive policy on recycling. They issued a small wheelie bin, for food and garden rubbish only. Alongside this, were three large plastic boxes, all with lids. One was for paper only, another for plastic items and bottles, and the last one for cans and glass. They were very strict. If you put stuff in the wrong box, it was not emptied; get it wrong often enough, and you got an advice letter. One day, we happened to be around when the truck came. It was a specially converted flatbed van, with a high cage all round. It made its way around the square, finally reaching Julie’s house. The men came over, and collected the three boxes, making sure to pick up each one separately. Returning to the van, they just threw the contents of each box in together, adding to the jumbled pile of stuff already collected from the other houses. It was a miracle that they were able to stifle their hoots of laughter, as they drove away.

Richmond Council, West London. They were enforcing a strict policy on waste paper collection, as well as other recycling issues. A reporter from the TV news travelled to China. Hundreds of miles from Beijing, near the south coast of that country, he found a huge pile of ‘recycled’ paper rubbish from the UK. Picking up a sheet of paper from the top, he discovered a bank statement from a house in Richmond. He took it back to the house in that area, where the owner confirmed that it was his, and that he had put it into a waste paper recycling bag, some weeks earlier. So, to make the planet greener, Richmond Council send the waste paper by boat along the Thames to the coast, where it is put into a container, then loaded onto a large ship, to make the journey of 5,800 miles by sea to China. There, it is put onto a truck, and driven a hundred more miles to a remote industrial area, that probably used to be farmland, so it can be burnt, out in the open, by Chinese workers on a starvation wage. It would have been greener to just set fire to the bin outside the house in London.

China again. The story of a plastic bottle, discarded in East London. Once more, followed along a river route to the sea, into a container, thousands of miles on a larger ship, then delivered to former agricultural workers in a remote part of China. Their job is to melt the plastic by hand, using blow-lamps and small fires. They pour the melting substance into small moulds, each about the size of a bar of chocolate. They do this squatting on the ground, for up to sixteen hours a day, for less than $1US per day. When the plastic has cooled, the moulds are knocked out, and the plastic bars stacked into boxes. Then – yes you’ve guessed it – these bars of melted goo are re-exported back to Europe, so that they can be used in the manufacture of more plastic bottles, which are later discarded everywhere, to allow the process to begin all over again.

This is not recycling, it is simple economics, and the use of cheap, near slave labour. What happened to paper bags, and returnable, strong glass bottles? They worked well for hundreds of years, but the truth is, that it is just cheaper to ‘recycle’. Don’t always believe what you are told; they will piss in your face, and tell you it is raining. Eventually, you will just say ‘thanks for letting me know’.

Make sure you look out for my forthcoming post on ‘energy saving’ light bulbs, and light pollution. It’s a cracker!

The first day of the holidays

Today was the first day of the school holidays, at least in this area. Excited children, looking forward to the next six weeks with no routine. No getting up early, and being able to play out in the fresh air albeit supervised, (at least the young ones) by parents or grandparents.

By the time I got out with Ollie today, the skies were darkening, and the forecast was for showers later in the afternoon. Once again, I exchanged my stick for an umbrella, taking no chances. I was pleased to see so many youngsters out and about. They were playing on the park equipment, enjoying the swings, and the small slide. Older children were using the football court, and some had set up a cricket match on the large open area. It was all looking pristine, as the grass was only cut last Monday, and they had even used strimmers, to clear around and under all the benches and play areas.

I wandered off with Ollie, down towards the river. I hadn’t got far when the first large raindrops began to land on me. By the time I reached the bend, the rain was evident on the water, and coin-sized splashes could be noticed on the dry areas of the path. I completed a circuit, which took me back towards the park once more. By now, my umbrella was up, and the shower had turned into constant rain. I felt sorry for the families who had been enjoying the facilities, as they rushed to put on coats, retrieve their belongings, and make a rush for nearby houses, or the shelter of cars parked near the entrance. Their efforts to enjoy the open space in the fresh air of Beetley had yet again been foiled by our unpredictable weather, and the seemingly endless rain.

Ollie and I were soon alone, left to continue our watery promenade in the now deserted space. Turning back to walk in front of the football court and playground, I was dismayed to see the rubbish discarded by those who had just departed. Much of the boundary of the enclosed court was littered with refuse casually flung away by those same children as they left for home. Plastic water bottles, metal drink cans, sweet wrappers, crisp bags, and even large plastic fruit containers, were strewn around the whole area. And these children were being supervised by adults, some of whom had been inside the fenced area with their offspring. They must have seen the things being thrown on the ground, and said nothing. It isn’t as if the area is short of rubbish bins. There is one right by the gate of the football court, and that had an empty can placed on top of it, almost a gesture of complete defiance.

I found a carrier bag blowing around the field, and went into the court. In a few moments, I filled the bag to capacity with all the rubbish, and put it into one of the bins nearby. I am no saint, and I do not sit in judgement of everyone who has ever carelessly thrown something away. But in this area, where vandalism and graffiti is almost unknown, and the local authority tries hard to provide facilities for the residents, and to keep them clean, tidy, and well-maintained, I have to say that I thought this was a little depressing.

Once the weather improves, and there are ten times as many people around, I dread to think what a state the place will be in. Roll on back to school, in the first week of September.

Things I don’t miss about London

Having previously posted about the things I do miss about living in London, I thought I would redress the balance with a few recollections of things that I really do not miss.

Rubbish

This is everywhere, especially paper. It blows about, in winds fanned by the high buildings, and narrow streets. There are a few free newspapers handed out, mainly to commuters at rush hour, as well as countless leaflets; for cheap meals, computer deals, and the sale of golfing goods. This discarded forest of unwanted paper lies everywhere in view, and when it is raining, forms clumps of undesirable paper-mache, that cling to your shoes. At the end of the evening, the many restaurants and fast-food establishments, pile the detritus of their day’s trading onto the pavement, awaiting a late collection by refuse trucks. Food scraps, bottles, cardboard, all urinated on by drunks, kicked around, disturbed by seagulls (yes, there are lots of seagulls in Central London), rats, and vagrants, all this litters the narrow pavements.

Loud music systems

Whether in cars, next to you on the train or bus, or just wandering around, the users of these personal music systems seem unable to enjoy anything, except at full volume. Regardless of annoying anyone nearby, or more likely deliberately to do so, the monotonous beats bang out, day and night, the theme tune to the mindless.

Helicopters

News channels and the Police, the Ambulance Service, and rich people, all love to use helicopters. A news report is not complete, without an aerial shot of a moving prison van, or a cordoned-off crime scene. Ambulance helicopters love to descend into the midst of a busy shopping area, closing off all the streets, and surrounding walkways. Police helicopters patrol ‘sensitive locations’, day and night, as well as chase cars, along the faster roads in the city. Having worked in the emergency services, I remain firmly convinced that helicopters are unnecessary in Central London. They are an expensive vanity, with little practical application in the metropolis. What they do succeed in doing, is to disturb you with noise, wake you up at all hours of the night, and shine lights as bright as the surface of the sun into your flat, when least wanted. I was pleased to say ‘farewell’ to them.

Light pollution

London must rate as one of the most brightly-lit cities anywhere. Street lights, lights on housing estates, security lights, office lights left on all night, floodlit buildings, and stations glowing like alien spacecraft. It has it all. When I lived in Camden, I could get out of bed at any time in the night, wander around the flat, use the bathroom, make a coffee, in fact anything I wanted to do. This is not unusual, unless you consider that I did not need to put on any lights inside my home. The intrusive ambient light was strong enough to do the job. This made it difficult to sleep, and easy to be disturbed. It was also wasteful, though that didn’t seem to concern anyone, except when it came to forcing me to buy low-energy bulbs, useless for reading.

Sirens

I used sirens in emergency vehicles for over 20 years. I know that they can be useful for getting through heavy traffic, and alerting road-users to your presence. However, in London, there is a culture of siren use that extends throughout the full 24-hour period, even when it is patently not necessary. Live near a Fire Station, or a busy road junction, and you may as well kiss goodbye to sleep, and peace and quiet. The emergency vehicles will crawl along in traffic, sirens wailing, or have them on at 3am, driving through deserted roads, just for the sake of it. I know, I was there…By contrast, in Norfolk, sirens are used sparingly, on fast roads, with difficult visibility, and people take them all the more seriously for that.

So, just the five things for now. I am sure that there will be lots more, but for now let’s just call it my ‘top five’.