Thursday, 22 September 2016

The "New Narcotics" Is ...

... 'waste crime' - or so saith the Environment Agency.
"The offences, sometimes involving organised crime gangs, range from illegal dumping of household and industrial waste to massive frauds involving recycling fees and landfill tax"
And, actually, I buy this to some extent, allowing for the hyperbole this new chap at the top is using to get his headlines.  (People-smuggling, of course, is the real new global crimewave, but let that pass.)  And whatever troubles the EA reckon they confront here, you wouldn't be hard-pressed to find countries where it's all a hundred times worse.

Smart legislation and enforcement is critical.  Many of the folks around here who particpated in our heated 'plastic-bag' thread are likely to disagree with me on this, but I am unrepentant.  There is so much scope for greater efficiency by reducing waste, it's one of the great sources of potential future growth that makes Malthusian predictions wrong.  If we extend the waste-reckoning to my own patch, energy, there is vast untapped potential for efficiencies in that sphere.  That can be viewed - properly, IMHO - as genuine market failure in many cases, where the potential investor in a self-financing efficiency scheme can't raise the capital or, as is notorious in the social housing sector, where the potential beneficiary (the energy bill-payer) isn't the party able to do the work.

But when it works, it's game-changing.  The introduction of steam-pumping in the Cornish mines reduced operating costs by 90% (sic) - which is how the world moves forward.  Mercifully, in many circumstances the potent combination of technology, capitalism and self-interest do the necessary unaided.

Not everything yields to legislation: we read that half the food purchased in the USA goes uneaten which, even allowing for some inevitable trimmings-waste, is pretty grotesque - given how much they do actually eat.  But that one's a deep societal malaise.

Then we get other 'capitalist' stories like the 'landscaping' of golf courses with landfill: hard to know whether to laugh or cry.  Dumb legislation and non-enforcement are counter-productive in the extreme, and there's no shortage of that.

As part of the overall mix in this complicated stew, I note that the Kidz are all supposed these days to be vehement on the subject of Their Future and how we are all messing the world up for them.  But the schoolchildren I see are considerably more prone to discard half-consumed fast-food - in quantity, and randomly across the pavement - than I ever recall.  Ditto their consumerist attitudes to outmoded clothing, electrics etc etc.

Yeah, showing my age there, I know ...  but the point remains.  Decades of worthy green banging-on have had an impact of sorts, but hardly a wholesale change of attitudes across the population as a whole.  Some things need to be forced along a bit.

ND

26 comments:

Antisthenes said...

Government at the behest of environmentalists have made refuse disposal a short supply item. So it's no wonder people turn to the black market to overcome that lack of capacity. The usual blinkered thinking that drives so much of our decision making. Some day it will be realised that good intentions very rarely result in good outcomes.

Steven_L said...

There is so much scope for greater efficiency by reducing waste

Funny you should say this. As the other day I was just thinking there is so much hazardous waste on its way - nuclear decommissioning, north sea decommissioning, electrical tat with a 2 year lifespan.

So added a small stake in Augean plc to my early retirement fund.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't "the market" control waste like everything else. Why do we have legislation when we have "the market"

CityUnslicker said...

anon - very insightful that. really, amazing clarity.

ND - depends which way you look, seems to me there is far more re-cycling than there used to be, just balanced by a society that becomes more wasteful (i.e. things don't get repaired etc). The net effect is thus not much. mind you, if you google national waste strategy you may find someone who had ideas about all this many moons ago....

Electro-Kevin said...

People smuggling is given tacit government approval so isn't really a crime.

The illegal waste dumping is a result of tax against waste. Have you seen how expensive skips are lately ?

An illegal dumper got fined £1000 around 'ere recently. I expect he's still well in profit.

As for prolific waste (food, clothes etc) that's down to credit cards. People having it today and not worrying about paying for it until some time in the future devalues things and increases consumption beyond earnings.

Anonymous said...

Lots of opportunity for a non-arable farmer with a digger to cut a deal with a 'waste disposal operative' - deep trench, bury and backfill, you won't know it was there in a few years - and the more nasty the waste, the more cash you can save by using Dodgy Dave's Disposal.

Raedwald said...

As usual, our piss-poor public servants have screwed it up. Blockading Victorian streets and mansion blocks with a multi-hued clutter of bins and containers, together with threats, bluster, bullying and abuse of power is exactly how NOT to manage waste efficiently.

Here in the valley I swapped my London pair of 240l bins both filled and emptied weekly for an 80l bin for restmüll collected every 4 weeks plus an optional 240l bin for waste paper and cardboard collected every 10 weeks or so. If you don't want the big bin, you can take your paper waste to recycling points instead. Waste food goes in the composter, tins, cans and bottles one has to take to the many communal recycling points and electrical collection points operate 4 times a year, at which you can also bring your waste oil.

At times I have to scout about for stuff to fill up my 80l bin each month. And it all works entirely without resentment, rancour or abuse.

When I recall the waste I got away with over the years hidden in my London wheelie bin I'm amazed; an old carpet cut up into small bits and disposed of over 3 weeks, buckets of old bathroom tiles, plaster, bits of old kitchen units, left-over shotgun cartridges brought back inadvertently in Barbour pockets from weekends at home, a cylinder head and valve cover, garden rubble ... mostly because the Council had pissed me off in some way. It's the ordinary man's retaliation.

Which leads me to suggest that the greatest incentive to domestic recycling in the UK is Councils that one can love more.

Nick Drew said...

Councils that one can love more

now there's a project

Anonymous said...

AFAIK each bin has (or can have) a chip in it which reads the weight of material being dumped. In the same way you are charged for utilities by use, you could make a volumetric charge for the space your crap takes up in landfill. Not a tax, just a long term storage charge.

As a side issue, you'd know how much your neighbours like you.

Nick Drew said...

a chip measuring weight would be interesting

as regards a chip that identifies your bin, with the bin itself being weighed upon being loaded onto / emptied into the truck and thereby linked back to you: in our area the binmen reach down inside the wheelie and transload** into a mega-wheelie they trundle down the pavement, instead of loading up each household's wheelie onto their truck

so I don't see the opportunity for weighing mine!

(**they do this for speed - efficiency, hahah! - because they all have second jobs to go to & want to finish the round ASAP)

andrew said...


Doesn't "the market" control waste like everything else. Why do we have legislation when we have "the market"

... Because markets do not understand externalities.

Dick the Prick said...

My favourite economist when I was a kid was Arthur Pigou and his models to internalise externalities and it's always weirded me out that the Green Party are just frikkin' socialists who seemingly focus on virtually the most irrelevant aspects of environmental policy. None of my business, I suppose. Mind you, he was a mathematician who dabbled in economics so what use would Greens have with numbers and all those ghastly sums and stuff.

Jan said...

Couldn't agree with you more Nick. There seems to be a whole generation which delights in strewing litter about and getting fat on a diet of fast food. Now they are hell bent in teaching their children to do the same.

Perhaps we need to enforce the rules on dropping litter etc which don't seem to operate any more in most places. Also re-introduce money back on glass bottles/aluminium cans etc.

I actually find it quite distressing when people seem to love living in a mess.

Steven_L said...

AFAIK each bin has (or can have) a chip in it which reads the weight of material being dumped. In the same way you are charged for utilities by use, you could make a volumetric charge for the space your crap takes up in landfill.

As ND points out, a chip can't measure weight, there would need to be a load cell in the bottom of your bin that that, a very expensive exercise.

It's perhaps also worth pointing out that weight (a way of measuring mass) and volume are two very different things. If they wanted to measure volume and charge you accordingly they would have to just charge by "the bin or part thereof" and probably use some kind of rough conversion to allow for compacting. I'd suggest this would encourage people to compact their own waste and hang onto it, which would encourage vermin, like foxes, rats and seagulls.

Far more effective would be to introduce more stringent rules (and enforcement) of excess packaging. But this would require quite a change in mindset. The classic example being single malt whisky, where the cardboard or metal tube is completely pointless. so how many of you would support a law banning them?

Lord T said...

They chip the bin and put scales on the wagon that weighs it. Database stores the data.

There are a few full bins around here and I have seen neighbours going around at midnight putting things in others bin. Plus many of the flats have communal bins.

I think the problem is as solved as it will ever be. More legislation and ordinary people will start dumping.

There are also some people that mix up the recycling and put metal waste in compressed boxes just to screw them over. It is a small item of rebellion and all we can do really without going all serious like fly tipping.

Once they start charging by weight then fly tipping will shoot through the roof as people dispose of their items on the way to work, at work, at various spots. I understand it costs councils a fortune to sort out fly tipping sites. Good.

btw: Your captcha system is a pain. Worse than most.

Electro-Kevin said...

Do they call that... chip 'n' bin ???

Electro-Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Electro-Kevin said...

Jan said "I actually find it quite distressing when people seem to love living in a mess."

Well. I (and others) are active in clearing up parks and beaches 'round 'ere. Young people seem to enjoy coming to clean spaces and picknic-ing... but leaving detritus and they don't give a fig about the sensibilities of those who follow.

I expect it is uncool to be the kid that puts it in the bin. They honestly think there is a Litter Fairy that comes and cleans it up, actually there is... me !!!

PS, There is the ubiquitous McDonald's litter. There isn't one within 8 miles of here but their crap is everywhere. Clearly inside-of-car must be spotless... outside-of-car doesn't matter.

BRAINLESS.

Jan said...

One thing I've noticed is that in places where there are more well-off and or older folk there is a lot less litter. I agree it must be that it's "uncool to be the kid that puts it in the bin". So yes it's a form of rebellion to go around dropping litter and I too pick up more than my share of other peoples' and often recycle it too but I'll bet you the inside of their cars won't be spotless.....they'll be full of c*** too!

Electro-Kevin said...

People are well-off because (usually) they make better decisions. Picking up litter is an example of a good decision - it makes the denizens of an area well-off, spiritually and through higher house prices.

Cars - I see plenty of spanking new cars outside c*** houses with litter in the streets, another sign of poor decision making.

Anonymous said...

EK - have you seen the inside of most cars?? (spanking new or otherwise)

I seem to be the only person I know who keeps as little in my car as possible. I guesstimate I save about £40 per year on fuel compared to someone who doesn't.

Anonymous said...

I seem to be the only person I know who keeps as little in my car as possible. I guesstimate I save about £40 per year on fuel compared to someone who doesn't.

Spot on. Saved a fortune by telling the wife and kids to take the bus.

adham said...



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adham said...


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adham said...


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adham said...


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