Where The GOS lives we have a recycling scheme. Mid-Suffolk District Council very kindly lend us a black wheelie bin for our ordinary rubbish and a green one for our recyclable rubbish. Then they come round once a week and empty each one in turn. This means that the black one has to sit and smell for a fortnight at a time (a month once, when they forgot to come) but luckily we have a large garden.
It's quite a lot of work, of course, recycling. We have to carefully wash up all our baked-bean tins, and our plastic milk-bottles, and those foil containers the chicken biriani came in. But I suppose it's the least we can do, if it's going to save the whales/stop global warming/end poverty in Africa etc.
But our warm touchy-feely glow dimmed slightly a couple of days before Christmas, when we received a letter from Mrs.Twinbin at the District Council. In it she explained that there were certain things we shouldn't be putting in the recycling bin. Things like black plastic bags. They can't be recycled, apparently, so could we please do something else with them? And carrier bags from the supermarket - they blow around the waste site and make it look messy, so could we not include those either?
This stirred our interest, so we investigated a bit further. We found Mrs.Twinbin's website, which lists even more things that can't be recycled. Actually, this list is a well-guarded secret. It isn't easily accessible from the main Mid-Suffolk website, and it took us some fairly fancy Google searching to locate it. And when you find it, it doesn't correspond with the list they put through our doors at all. It's probably a plot, so that Mrs.Twinbin can keep a little surprise up her sleeve if any of us get difficult.
Stroppy Suffolk Resident: Hallo, Mrs.Twinbin, can you tell me what I can and can't put in my green bin, please?
Mrs.Twinbin: No. It's a secret.
So what are these naughty materials that can't be recycled in Mid-Suffolk? Well, there's plastic. "Harden" plastic (whatever that is) is no good (but just how harden does it have to be? What is the ordinary householder's yardstick for hardenness, exactly?). Soften plastic's all right though, but not if it's polystyrene. Luckily being well-trained in molecular physics and industrial chemistry the GOS will be able to tell what's polystyrene and what isn't, but Mrs.Baggott over the road can't tell her arse from her elbow at the best of times.
Then there's egg-boxes. You'd think they'd be recyclable all right, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong. And old CDs and DVDs? Wrong again.
What about textiles? When the GOS was a little boy the rag-and-bone man used to come round with a horse and cart collecting old clothes in order to recycle them (well, mostly he just sold them to very poor people, who wore them. But if that isn't recycling, I'd like to know what is). In Mrs.Twinbum's brave new world textiles aren't fit to rub shoulders with proper recyclables.
Laminated paper's out, too, you'll be sorry to hear. And …. get this … we are allowed to put paper in, but not if it's shredded!
So what it all boils down to is that Mid-Suffolk District Council aren't really operating a recycling scheme at all. What they're doing is sending the stuff to a private contractor who's only interested in receiving material he can make a profit on. And it's us that have to sort his wheat from his chaff for him.
To add insult to injury, Mrs.Twinbum included a nice little sting in the tail. Just before Christmas, mark you, the season of peace and goodwill. Almost her last paragraph reminded us that "you have a statutory obligation under Section 46 of the Environmental Protection Act (1990) to ensure that you place your waste for collection in receptacles of a kind and number specified by the Council - failure to comply with the said legislation may result in the Council taking enforcement action against you".
Well, that's nice, Mrs.Twinbum. A little Christmas threat! A little Christmas threat from someone who is paid (by me) to provide a service (to me) and to ensure that the service is of a type and quality that will make it suitable for the people it is designed to benefit (yes, me again).
But Mrs.Twinbum doesn't quite see it that way. She thinks that she can take her salary (paid by me) and then chuck her weight about. She thinks it's OK to design a stupid system that doesn't accept anything inconvenient, to require the householders she is supposed to serve to do her dirty work for her, and then threaten them with legal retribution if they don't fit her wishes.
Mrs.Twinbum's address is …
Mid Suffolk District Council
131 High Street
Ipswich IP6 8DL
Her telephone number is 01449 778678, or you can email her here.
The GOS says: Is there actually such a word as "recyclable"? Doesn't look right, does it? But it serves its purpose so I suppose it'll have to do. I expect Mrs.Twinbum knows what the correct word is, but it's a secret.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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