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Terms and conditions apply

Good-oh, it’s Bin-bag Day.

Scrimping and saving, the Council has decreed that Bin-bag Day comes around once a fortnight in our neck of the woods. Confusingly, Recycling Bag Day still happens every Tuesday, early. You need to get that Recycling bag out by about 8 a.m. or back it comes for another week sitting in the area outside the kitchen, filling with rainwater that trails through the house. I carefully wash all the recyclates, mostly plastics packaging that formerly held bloody dogmeat, but it still stinks.

Now, Black Bin-bags contain rotting stuff and should technically go more frequently than Recycling bags that don’t. Recycling bags can wait. But the Council wants to push people into creating less putrefying rubbish and recycling more – although they won’t take glass, which is crazy. So they make you live with your putrefying rubbish for longer, in the hope that you’ll get the message and stop throwing so much stuff away.

Thus, Black Bin-bag Day happens only every other week, which is fine in winter but not hygienic in summer. I try not to fill more than one bag a week, as I live on my own with Hunzi and Scat and we shouldn’t generate that much garbage. Somehow it mounts up, and I miss a day and have to wait another two weeks. So my kitchen area can contain bags of rotting stuff that is a month past its collection date.

I’m hopeless at appointments, I missed the optician last week, having asked them to be sure to remind me nearer the time. They texted dutifully, and phoned, and still I took Hunzi out for our seaside walk and at some point checked the time and realised I should have been at the opticians an hour earlier. Ho hum. And I spent half an hour this morning trying to recall the word Dioxins. It’s just come back to me. But I’m surprisingly impressive at remembering which week is Black Bin-bag Day week. I rarely miss, only sometimes.

A lot of students live around here, easily confused little tousle-headed creatures who often put the wrong bags out on the wrong days. The pavement is very narrow, probably illegally narrow since they widened the road to allow lorries bigger than my house to thunder by, refilling the shelves of the town with cakes and fizzy drinks and Cathedral City cheese, refilling fuel tanks at petrol stations, hauling hundreds of silently shivering sheep in triple-decker, double-trailers to the slaughter. So an uncollected Bin-bag is a tripping hazard.

But it’s more than that, isn’t it?

It’s so great, living in a society where stuff you no longer want, if you ever did, can just be made to disappear. You put it away in a bin lined with a Black Bag, you remember to put out the bag once a fortnight, you come home from walking the dog and it’s gone. Who knows where? Who even thinks about it?

The fact is, the world is peppered with big holes in the ground where this stuff ends up. Millions and billions of black plastic bags, squashed down by big diggers, full of worn-out pairs of socks, dud radio batteries and lightbulbs, junkmail circulars and non-recyclable paper egg cartons, scrapings from the catfood bowl and last night’s uneaten portions of dinner, eggshells, apple-cores and potato peelings, trainers you can’t bear the smell of, orange peel, unidentifiable matter scraped off the bottom of the vegetable tray, freezer-bags full of something-or-other you planned to eat another time, rusted kitchen implements and more….

And all this stuff in bags is slowly rotting, composting down together, and the diggers come along when the hole in the ground is so full they can’t squash any more in, and push the earth respectfully back over the top, so we can forget about what’s down there, softly exhaling greenhouse gases and ozone-layer-killers – methane, CO2, dioxins, chlorides – leaching toxic heavy metals – cadmium, lead, mercury – and oestrogen-mimicking phthalates into the groundwater, practically forever.

While from an economics point of view, how good is it that we are quite happy to go along with the idea that we were persuaded we needed to buy all this stuff we no longer have a use for if we ever did in the first place by the very people who made it, people who compete ferociously on behalf of their institutional shareholders and the global cyberspatial money-recycling machine to monopolise its production and supply, its privatised collection and disposal – and then remain helpfully on hand to lend us the ‘credit’ to buy it when our wages run out halfway through the month, at now only 29.9 per cent annual interest free for six months – terms and conditions apply?

Our sons and daughters even die or have their arms and legs and faces blown off in order to defend the principle that we should impose this brilliantly original system on other people’s sons and daughters in faraway countries, of which we know little (except that they don’t have enough holes in the ground yet).

I’m not sure that the stench is entirely coming from the kitchen area, to be honest.

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