Tuesday, February 16, 2010

bin and gone

I know it'll only lead to trouble, but sometimes I can't help checking out the Daily Express.

The other day they swivelled their eyes and flailed their hands about plans to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill.

Squads of spies will carry out dawn raids to check that householders are not throwing out any rubbish and recycling it all instead. People failing to comply with the strict rules face hefty fines.

Sadly for them, nowhere does anyone mention going at dawn. And the 'hefty fines'?

A Defra spokesman said: “This project does not involve fines for householders who fail to recycle and it does not involve going through individual bins.

But that's put at the end of the article; most articles are only read as headlines and pictures. Of the articles that people do actually start reading, most aren't read all the way through. So you put the quote from the opponent that completely undoes the basis of your article at the end and it's a technically balanced piece with no grounds for complaint. But your readers have got the message you desire.

The subject of the piece is actually a pilot scheme to see what's in landfill waste so improved facilities and explanations can be given to increase recycling rates. The country is going to run out of landfill sites by 2020. After that, we'll be burning or exporting rubbish.

Recycling gives the council stuff it can sell. Landfill incurs the Landfill Tax, and even without that (and future exporting costs) it still costs more than recycling.

This public project to improve that is, apparently, a

cloak-and-dagger crackdown from the so-called “Talibin”

Hoho. See what they did there? Nicking a pun from The Sun, yet still having delusions of being a real newspaper. Because checking samples of rubbish is exactly what the Taliban would do. What a fair comparison.

The Express' story follows last year's running campaign against wheelie bins in the Daily Mail, which came complete with another obligatory comparison to brutal dictators.

But, again, the detail isn't quite as sensationalist as the headlines and opening paragraphs.

the Mail is calling on town halls to let council tax payers choose between wheelie bins, ordinary dustbins or biodegradeable bags.

The really striking thing is that this outrage and apoplexy (from newspapers who are happy to see people tortured) doesn't even make sense within their own skewed 'grrr, I'm a taxpayer so fuck everyone' values. This campaign seeks to make public services more expensive, as Leo Hickman pointed out

Dust carts are now designed to pick up and empty wheelie bins quickly, so by not utilising this facility you would significantly slow down the speed of the collections – and therefore increase the cost to the taxpayer, something which is presumably anathema to the Daily Mail.

And what about all those litigious bin men suing the councils for causing them bad backs by getting them to lift metal bins once again. This is one of the reasons why wheelie bins were brought in in the first place.

Leave a plastic bin bag out in the open and, within minutes, a crow or fox will have ripped it open and spread the contents on the floor. How's that going to go down on Acacia Avenue?

Those who don't recycle cost the council more money. Or, to put it another way, those who reduce waste and those who do properly recycle are effectively subsidising those who are too lazy/ irresponsible/ thick to sort their rubbish out.

The Mail and Express are the voice of the strand of Tory thinking that gave us the Poll Tax. The Thatcher government decided that household should pay Council Tax according to how many adults lived in a property, instead of the property's value. You tax people for being alive, rather than for being rich.

The Mail, the Express (and my mum) all applauded. Why is it fair that the family of six next door pay the same council tax as me, living alone in a house designed for four? They generate more rubbish to take away and cost the council far more than I do. It's an attack on my individual freedom to make me subsidise them.

But when I want them to subsidise me for not being arsed to do my recycling, or for being inexplicably affronted by the shape of my bin, any objection is also is an assault on my liberty.

Yeah. I know, I know. I'm looking for logical consistency in the politics of the Mail and Express. It's my own fault. We shouldn't worry about it. Just because the Mail has more readers than the Guardian, Independent, Telegraph and Times combined doesn't mean anyone's actually listening to them. Does it?

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