Terry Towel Virtual Olympics

5 Jul

It is often said that there are two groups of people in Western Civilisations, those who climb to the top of the pole no matter what. They don’t mind if they trample on other people to get there and have no feelings for them. The other group are said to have some sort of vocation, they are prepared to sink down the pole, provided that they can give a hand up to others who are less fortunate.

This could be allegorized by saying that if you found a Ten Pound Note in the street, a person in the first group would pick it up and put it in their pocket, while a person in the second group would give it to a beggar. How do you get your head round a person who picks the Ten Pound Note up and tears it into small pieces and throws it into the air? This is what we do if we don’t recycle.

At the moment, in a rather muddled way, some global thinkers are suggesting that it is imperative that we put a brake on run away consumerism. We have an idea that the actions of man are contributing to climate change. On the other hand we are being encouraged to spend our way out of recession. Build bigger and faster roads and railways so that people can burn more fossil fuels, or perhaps build more and more houses over the countryside so that it doesn’t matter if people have two or three homes. It doesn’t matter if this is at the expense of farm-land because Strawberries can be flown in from Africa, and this will aid poor farmers. All this so that we can kick start the economy so that everybody has a job, money in their pocket and can go out and buy the latest electronic gadget that will allow you to see video on you wrist watch, get silly squiggle messages from people you don’t know, or be told that your relative has just got on a train that you didn’t know they were going to catch in the first place.

All of this activity requires resources. Water in Africa to grow the Strawberries, oil from deeper and deeper wells to power the machinery to dig out the roads and railways and to power the transport, packaging to wrap up the latest consumer gimmick, and this has got to come from somewhere. The answer is simple, it can only come from this lump of rock that we stand on, the Earth.
Millions of years ago our planet was a ball of gas and dust spinning in space. As it cooled it condensed into a rotating sphere and the various gases combined into more and more complex substances to eventually end up with a rocky globe with a still molten core. The presence of Carbon in the surface matter, water vapor and oxygen in the atmosphere, and a suitable temperature eventually produced living organisms. The key point in all of this is that apart from the odd meteorite, no extra material has arrived on Earth since it formed. We do not have fleets of Starship Freighters arriving at Space Ports to unload Titanium and Zirconium from other Galaxies, what we have got is all we have got. Therefore, why do we throw it away? After all where is away?

For some time enlightened people have said that the only way to save the planet is to recycle. The odd Hippy was saying that sixty years ago when I was a teenager, but nobody took any notice. Then gradually, various “Green” organisations took up the call, then UN bodies, until finally it became obvious that it was actually a good economic policy because it was cheaper to recycle than make products from virgin material. The next stage was that raw material market prices began to go up as the Earth’s resources got scarcer. As a result of pressure from Europe, the UK is beginning to get its act together, but any day of the week you can still see people piling recycling into black bags. The litter blowing about on roads and caught in fences beside railway tracks is there for all to see. Funny thing is it is worth money, I bet it wouldn’t stay there for long if it was actual money.

Nearly everything can be recycled, and legislation is slowly coming in that says if you can’t recycle it, you can’t make or sell it. However, some recycling is simple whereas other items require a certain amount of pre-treatment which puts the price of the process up. The simplest way to make recycling pay is to separate the material before putting it out for collection. Some people claim that they haven’t got room for all those bags, but the material still takes up the same space whatever you do with it. Some people say they haven’t got the time to do it, but it takes no longer to put it in a recycling bag than in a black sack. The truth is they can’t be bothered. So how do you make them bother?

Psychologists are divided between behaviourists and cognitivists, the former believing in carrot and stick and the latter, that explanation and logic will produce results. Cognitive methods take longer and tend to be more firmly fixed, but we don’t have much time. Monmouthshire Council have said that they will only collect two black bags per fortnight in order to encourage residents to recycle. A commentator on the radio said she would not be able to manage, particularly when it was one of her children’s birthdays. I wonder what material arises on a birthday that cannot be recycled. I speculated that perhaps her children were so young that they got over excited and used up extra disposable nappies. This was followed by other speculation, like what happened to a Terry Towel nappy? I also then made myself a “virtual” fortune by inventing a TV panel game in which fathers were asked to change a baby’s Towel nappy and then hold the infant vertically to prove that it wouldn’t fall off.
I have these moments now and again, it must be old age!

Other Councils use financial reward to encourage recycling, giving out tokens for free meals in local restaurants, or vouchers for shops. However, the key factor that needs to be addressed in Cornwall is that burning the waste in an Incinerator makes it impossible to recycle it. As recycling generates money, and Cornwall Council is so short of money that it is cutting front line services, then the obvious answer is to link the recycling with the provision of Council services. This would be explained to the public by ambulances with stickers on the side saying “You paid for this Ambulance by donating your recycling.”
One of the big disadvantages of what would appear to be a simple solution is that Cornwall Council don’t seem to get any money for the material we recycle. They have to pay Sita to take it away! But that is another story. Therefore, even if we the public, do not benefit from recycling via our Council Tax, keep doing it for the benefit of the planet.

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