What a load of garbage!

The downtrodden and scorned dustmen of my youth are getting their own back.

September 17, 2008 20:18
4 minute read.
poor in garbage 298 AJ

poor in garbage 298 AJ. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])


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Whoever would have believed that it was possible to be intimidated by a load of garbage - but that's exactly what it's come to in my old home country, England. When I left around 25 years ago, garbage, or rather rubbish, as it's known there, was simply stuff you didn't want, and so you threw it away. We had some large dustbins (metal garbage cans) which we filled with whatever we wanted and pulled outside the house into the street to be collected once a week by the garbage men or, as we called them, dustmen. These men, who did a long hard day's work with a cheery smile on their faces, and collected whatever we decided to leave out for them, were not, I have to admit, the most respected of individuals. It was no child's ambition to be a dustman, and a constant threat issued by a parent to a wayward child was, "If you don't do your homework and try a bit harder, you'll end up as a dustman." But all that's changed now. I FIRST noticed it a couple of years ago on one of my visits to my mother in London. As I tossed all the wrapping from the shopping I had done into the rubbish bin in the kitchen, my mother called out, "You can't do that any more. Take out all the paper and cardboard and put it in the black paper recycling box outside." Not having any intention of digging around among the remains of our last meal, I said, "I'll try and remember next time." "Forget next time - they won't take the rubbish away if they see it's got paper and cardboard in it." And that was my rude welcome into the world of the garbage police and the power they wield. It put George Orwell's 1984 and Big Brother right into the forefront of my mind. THE DOWNTRODDEN and scorned dustmen of my youth are getting their own back. They now have the power to refuse to remove our garbage. They open the bin while we watch and wait behind closed curtains with bated breath. Will they find any reason to reject our discarded rubbish? Fine us for not recycling? (I'm told that in some areas they have this authority.) Will they reject our bin because the lid didn't shut, as the regulations stipulated, because it was overstuffed ? On a recent visit, I read in a newspaper's "Ask the Expert" column a query from a man who was entitled to one garbage bin only (the local council decides the quantity of garbage allowed, according to the number of people living in the house). You are only permitted to leave your rubbish bin outside the house a certain number of hours before the collectors come, so as not to cause a disturbance to the neighbors. This hapless guy had gone away on vacation, leaving the day before garbage collection and, therefore, his full bin inside his garden. Now he had a bin that hadn't been collected - but he wasn't allowed to put out more garbage than he was entitled to. So by the next week, he had two bags of garbage, while the collectors refused to take more than the one he was entitled to. If the regulations were followed, he would forever have one bag of garbage that would not be disposed of. He was begging to be informed how he could get around this. WHAT KIND of a life is this ? What kind of a recycling system? Around the time of the Jewish holidays, will the authorities know or care that people have guests and therefore a lot of extra garbage? Will non-Jews be allowed to dispose of more garbage at Christmas time? In a word, no. It is quite apparent that different areas, towns and even streets are accorded different treatment. In the old days all Brits, when they got together, used to discuss the weather. Now they discuss garbage collection. Discarded electrical and electronic items are a major problem. Some citizens pay a special company a lot of money to remove them. One friend (who wants to remain anonymous) admitted to leaving them on the sidewalk, hoping someone would steal them before a policeman or garbage collector came around. Others simply leave the items indoors, collecting dust, or bequeath them to their children. THE BRITISH government has admitted that its draconian garbage laws are backfiring. Some families, stuck with garbage they can't dispose of, are resorting to making bonfires in their gardens as a last resort, releasing all sorts of poisons and toxins into the air, constituting a safety hazard and thus rather defeating the whole principle of improving the environment. As my friends discussed their garbage indiscretions, they turned to me. "What's it like in Israel nowadays?" they asked. Oh, what a pleasure it was to tell them about the large garbage bins in our streets or parking lots into which we can throw just about anything we can think of. I told them about our totally voluntary recycling containers for newspapers and plastic bottles - and in some areas also for glass. I also told them with pride about the extra garbage collections we get the week before Pessah, not to mention the fact that many people purposely leave unwanted furniture, electrical goods, and even clothes, next to these large garbage bins for people to take away if they feel can make use of them. "And after Succot," I added, "they come especially to clear away the s'chach," the leaves that have been used for the succa roof. Now what, I wonder, do British Jews do with their s'chach? The writer is a freelance journalist.

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