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NANA AKUA: Green meddlers’ love of making life difficult has resulted in 13 different bins, streets strewn with rubbish… while half of ‘recycled’ plastic goes to landfill. What a mess!


Black bags strewn across the pavement. Wheelie bins on their sides. A food-waste caddy raided by a fox. No, not a portrait of the apocalypse, but a snapshot of modern Britain.

I remember a time when I sorted my rubbish into just two bags: recycling and non-recycling. And each week, without fail, my friendly local binmen would take them away.

But, of course, they’re not ‘binmen’ any more, they’re ‘waste collection officers’. And, where I live, in Hertsmere borough in Hertfordshire, bins are collected on rotation: recycling one week, ordinary domestic waste the next.

Of course, nobody voted for this. But every Thursday morning, I awake to the screeching of the rubbish truck and pray that I’ve put out the right bins. Was it recycling this week, or is that next week? Then it’s a mad dash downstairs in my nightie and slippers to check, as my neighbours poke their heads out from their front doors for the same reason.

But I am one of the lucky ones. I have a front garden where I can put my rubbish. Millions of others have no choice but to dump theirs on the pavement. The result is that streets up and down the country are being littered with an unedifying, unhygienic — and in summer, malodorous — assemblage of wheelie bins, black bags and recycling boxes.

A waste collection officer grapples with several food waste bins in Clifton, Bristol, where residents are forced to separate their rubbish into 13 different bins

A waste collection officer grapples with several food waste bins in Clifton, Bristol, where residents are forced to separate their rubbish into 13 different bins

Recycling bins overflow in London (pictured), as it awaits collection from the council

Recycling bins overflow in London (pictured), as it awaits collection from the council

In a bid to tackle this growing ‘bin blight’, Michael Gove announced on Tuesday that the Government would cut the red tape that currently forbids homeowners in conservation areas from erecting bin sheds. The Levelling Up Secretary hopes it will prevent refuse from ‘impacting on the local amenity of residential streets’.

I hope he is right. But this sounds more like a plan put together by an out of touch politician who doesn’t live in the world you and I inhabit. I struggle to see how it will do anything to help the 56 million Brits living in urban areas.

The simple act of taking my son to school every morning has become a Herculean task. My six-year-old has cerebral palsy, and so rides his scooter to school to help build up his muscle strength. Unfortunately, this is increasingly like competing in the Olympic ski slalom on some days, with the pavements an unsightly and dangerous assault course.

A significant part of the problem is the sheer number of different bins into which people are increasingly expected to sort their rubbish. In one particularly egregious case, residents in the Bristol suburb of Clifton were expected to use no fewer than 13 different bins.

Unsurprisingly, local residents were less than amused. Lesley Leadbeater, 63, told the Mail: ‘It’s become an eyesore every week, it can look a real mess and blights the area.’

READ MORE: NANA AKUA: Why I wish I’d never given my daughter a smartphone

Last September, Rishi Sunak scrapped a nationwide plan for household waste to be sorted into seven different bins, promising to ‘never impose unnecessary and heavy-handed measures on you, the British people’.

But this doesn’t go far enough. Councils are still doing everything they can to make our lives more difficult when it comes to rubbish.

My local council has even introduced a ‘subscription’ for green waste. From April 8, we’ll have to sign a ‘register’ to have our garden waste taken away and, from 2025, they’ll start charging us extra for it. What was my council tax for in the first place, if I’m now paying another fee?

And let’s not forget that little of our household recycling actually gets recycled. An investigation by Greenpeace found that more than half of ‘recycled’ plastic was shipped to Turkey and Malaysia, where huge piles of the stuff were set on fire or dumped into landfill. Dishearteningly, less than 10 per cent of the plastic you put in your recycling bin will actually be recycled.

From how and when to collect it, to what to do with it afterwards, this country’s approach to domestic waste has become a load of rubbish. The Government has done what it can, so now it’s time for local councils to clean up their act — as well as our streets.



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