I read a piece this morning over on Frank Davis’ site which made me think back to The Good Old Days.
One thing that didn’t exist then is the now ubiquitous wheelie bin. I hate wheelie bins, simply because they are ugly and everywhere, but I do admit that they are extremely robust and convenient.
We have three. We have a black one for general rubbish, a large green one for recycling and a smaller green one for glass. The black one can go out any week, but I am billed for any time I leave it out. The large green one can go out any second week, and it’s free. The small green one goes out even more irregularly and it too is free. Complicated.
Back in the Fifties, we had a weekly collection, where a truck came around, and they used to clatter our galvanised bin against it and it made a great racket. I don’t think we left the bin out very often though, as we had very little rubbish.
How did a family of five have so little rubbish, you ask?
For a start, in those days, there was no plastic or expanded polystyrene foam. If you bought fruit or rashers or whatever, it either came loose, or wrapped in paper. There was none of that fiddly shit of having to fight with Clingfilm or those fucking vacuum packed yokes. There was very little in the way of packaging in those days, and we were all better off for it.
So what did we do with household waste?
If it was edible, it went one of several ways – meat was minced and reused, or it went into the dog, or if it was beyond redemption, it went on the compost heap. Every house had a compost heap in those days. The heap would take everything from meat, fruit, vegetables and tea leaves through to grass cuttings. In return it would supply beautiful rich loam for the garden.
If something was burnable, it was burnt. The bonfire took care of all paper, cardboard and just about anything else that wouldn’t compost. It also took care of the larger garden waste such as hedge clippings, small branches and weeds.
Glass was rarely a problem. Milk bottles were returned to the doorstep for the milkman to collect. Drink bottles were returned to the shops for a refund. Jam jars were usually kept and reused.
So what went out in the bin?
Very little. The bin was reserved for things like broken glass [carefully wrapped in newspaper], old bones and bits of metal that couldn’t be reused elsewhere. Our garage was full of old tin cans holding nails, screws and the like. I still have some of ‘em.
There were a lot of houses on our road. On bin day, a very small truck could cope with the lot. No problem.
There was none of this shit about computer-chipped bins, charging by the lift, or collections every second or sixth week.
And no one complained about lack of landfill sites.