There’s been a good deal of hoo-hah about space bins from the future found deposited like changelings among the normal bins. Now, I’m normally an advocate of civil liberties, although like anyone who isn’t mad or a fucking moron I can, for example, tell the difference between the dangers posed to liberty by CCTV and those posed by speed cameras. But what liberties are being eroded here? Do these wheelie-bin chips do anything more than provide the refuse collection service’s equivalent of water meters?
Typically a week’s rubbish for K. and me is a small bin-bag. That’s perhaps a seventh or a sixth of the capacity of our bin. Because the council recycling scheme is relatively simplistic—a single container, from which they separate the relevant materials (unless the Vale of White Horse idiots are standing in)—we stick almost everything except combination packaging and food waste in the recycling box. If we had a garden, or a communal composting scheme, I dare say we’d throw away far less.
On the close where I live there was for some time a single family of what one might as well refer to as chavs: perhaps two or three dependents (all post-nappies) plus a mother, living in a one-storey coach-house like K. and I. Every week their bin was full to overflowing with God knows what; but when they filled it there was a suspicious, hearty clink of glass bottles on their way to hundreds of years spent in a stratum of a landfill site. And the whole unrecyclable ensemble was frequently crowned with a dayglo structure of broken, cheap, mass-produced toys. To one side there was almost always a couple of boxes of overflow. All in all they must have demanded each week the removal by the council of perhaps ten times as much as rubbish as we do.
The members of la famille Chav consumed, and destroyed, and threw away, and rendered unreclaimable and ultimately, fundamentally wasted, because there was no fiscal reason for them not to, and the social, ethical, moral and environmental issues escaped them. They were lazy, feckless and utterly unconcerned about the consequences of their actions: because they could be. If anyone can think of an easier way to measure this distributed, heterogeneous, cumulative, wanton stupidity across villages, parishes, towns, counties and the country that somehow doesn’t involve coded tracking of individual bins then I’d love to hear of it. If anyone wants to work out an easier way to penalize these waistrels, who exemplify the tragedy of the commons in every fibre of their Adidas tracksuits—Burberry not yet having reached Witney—then that might be a better use of their time than berating the council about a possibly non-existent privacy issue. While we fiddle, the climate burns.