The great recycling myth.


This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 4 January 2014




There’s absolutely no need to separate our rubbish by hand.


My frail elderly mother has recently moved in with us in Epsom and in so doing has joined the 15 million people worldwide who spend their days sorting through rubbish. Mum, however, does not get paid $1 a day. She does it for nothing. This is because we now have five separate bins and every morning she and the other 10,000-plus members of Surrey’s army of housewives sort through their rubbish to make sure it all goes into the right one.

I am of course describing the phenomenon known as kerbside recycling, and Epsom Council would like you to think that it is good for the environment. But my day job is raising money for environmental projects, including waste plants, and I know that kerbside recycling is all a big con to save the public sector money. Everybody involved in the waste industry knows this simple fact: all rubbish can be sorted much more efficiently by machines without the need for any human intervention.

That may come as a surprise to you, but think about it for a moment. We are the generation that built the large hadron collider. Do you really think that it has been beyond human ingenuity to invent a simple and cheap machine that can distinguish a tin can from a glass bottle? Of course it hasn’t, and there is now a whole industry supplying clever bits of technology to separate your unsorted rubbish into the component parts of glass, metal, food, paper and plastic. One of my clients even has a machine that uses reflected light to distinguish between different types of plastic and different colours.

So given that these machines exist, why are we still sorting through our rubbish? The legislation behind kerbside recycling originates in Brussels, with the laudable aim of making Europe a ‘recycling society’. The EU bureaucrats then get very prescriptive about exactly how to do this: clause 28 of the 2008 EU directive on waste says that member states should ensure ‘that waste is separately collected if technically, environmentally and economically practicable’. Our government has decided that yes, it is practical for households to do this, and so from 1 January 2015 local councils must collect waste paper, metal, plastic and glass separately. No explanation, no discussion of alternatives: just do this because we tell you to.

However, what is very telling about all of this is that ‘practicable’ is a forgivingly subjective concept and gives the government a handy get-out to avoid imposing source separation on the rest of the UK waste stream. Of the 288 million tons of waste that were collected in the UK last year, only about 31 million or 11 per cent was domestic waste.

The remaining 259 million tons were cheerfully collected by a thriving private-sector industry contracting directly with waste producers and even householders. Nobody there is insisting on five different bins or limiting the amount of waste you can put out or saying they will only collect it every two weeks. The commercial and industrial waste producers are not circumscribed as we householders are because the government knows the disastrous impact it would have on our economy if they were. Legislation for 90 per cent of the waste stream is aimed at the end treatment of waste, not how it is collected.

And despite being left alone to get on with it, disposal contractors can achieve very high levels of recycling. One of my clients runs a big skip business and with mechanisation achieves recycling rates from completely unsorted skip waste in excess of 90 per cent. In comparison, local councils achieved about 43 per cent last year and Ashford in Kent came in at a measly 12 per cent. My client is incentivised to buy the equipment to do this because the increases in landfill tax over the last few years have made the cost of putting untreated waste into a hole in the ground so punitive.

It is worrying that our economic rivals outside the EU are not imposing this obligation on their citizens. The odd angsty liberal country like Canada and New Zealand may be following suit but the global powerhouses of India, China, Russia and Brazil are not.

So having survived the Blitz, tuberculosis and the Wilson Labour government, my mother is ending her days sorting through rubbish like a slum-dweller on a landfill site in Nairobi. She does this because the bureaucrats in Brussels tell her she has to. They know that there are mechanised ways of getting the garbage to the same place, but these machines cost money.

Turning the whole of Europe into a recycling society is a bit like building the Pyramids. It’s a worthy and ambitious aim, but very expensive unless you use slave labour along the way.

This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 4 January 2014


I burn solid fuel and over the course of a week a good amount of ashes is created.  I was unsure at first into which bin these ashes should be placed. So I asked the binman. I was totally amazed when he replied that he also was unsure.  So as the ashes are created in the house I now place them in the household rubbish bin, which I might add is about a third smaller than the original bin.  “WHY” ?

Now, the council are trying to convince us that it will “save money”.  Yea right  !!! The truth is they shall “make money” by adding to your daily chores., as if you havn’t got enough to do  !!!

Are we living in a democracy, I don’t know sometimes. But when “we” are clearly “ordered” to do “their” binning, it makes me wonder if we are all living under a dictatorship cleverly disguised as a democracy.

I don’t know what “you” think  !!!

But I would like to  🙂



Manners Maketh Man


Money Maketh Monsters.


8 responses to ““Rubbish”

  1. Don’t get me on the subject of Brussels!! Get me the hell out of this power crazy dictatorship before we lose all control of our country, our way of life and our sovereign UK citizens rights. Oh hang on…haven’t we already done that to all intents and purposes…

    Rubbish wise my landlady deals with sorting both our house’s and her house’s on a regular basis. Her family refuse to help her root through smelly bags of rotting rubbish and she won’t accept my help. Don’t. Know why tenants find it so hard to separate out recycling stuff into the alternative bin but they don’t care. But our bin men threaten and bully her over it threatening her with fines and regularly refusing to empty bins. A situation that often leaves her in tears. All this in the name of recycling?? This country has a big problem with Brussels at the heart of it.
    Timid one x


    • Once this proud nation “ruled the world”, now the World rules us. We have had our time at being a great Empire. Now we must kowtow to the ridiculous “demands” of Europe !!!
      How kind of the tories to promise a referendum on europe “if” the idiots of England vote them back into power in 2015
      We should be screaming and shouting in the streets “DEMANDING” a referendum “NOW”.
      Being “ordered” to use “three” bin’s instead of one, by a bunch of european nobodies, is akin to meeting the demands of a burglar. Because that is exactly what the un is doing to us. Like a thief in the night europe is squeezing the life blood out of this Country. The sooner we turn our back on europe the better off we shall all be. Look at Norway for eg. They are not in europe and their economy is thriving. “”OUT”” I say ! and slam and lock the door to every point of entry to this fair isle. The scavengers and thieves are already here but we could stem the flow, simply by an act of parliament saying enough is enough, and to hell with what the rest of the world thinks.

      “Human” babies offered “for sale” in London parks, by “dogs” !!! It was once the other way about. How the World has changed and not for the better.
      Once more I say… “OUT OF EUROPE NOW” and let us reclaim that which is rightfully ours. The ability and right to walk down the street without worrying about being accosted by the evil that is now living beside us.
      Rant over 🙂
      Kenny x


  2. With all our modern technological capabilities we should be able to drop it down into a “composting toilet” with no ill effects on the environment


  3. “The EU bureaucrats then get very prescriptive about exactly how to do this: clause 28 of the 2008 EU directive on waste says that member states should ensure ‘that waste is separately collected if technically, environmentally and economically practicable’.”
    It is our Whitehall Sir Humfry’s who, rather than use the machines described, dictate that we should become council unpaid refuse technicians.
    The basic edict comes from Brussels and as is all too familiar our uncivil servants add a whole raft of instructions which can then conveniently bypass Westminster Parliament and local elected councelors!


    • and once again Laird we must dance to the tune of brussels. Orders, instructions and demands, I am tiered of all this !!! There is only one cure against this corrupt pack of scavenging vultures. “GET OUT OF EUROPE”


  4. In other words we are doing a job for free that would cost the government money to pay someone, it’s like the self serving checkouts, we are doing a job for free that would have to be done by a paid for checkout employee.


    • True Arlene, however, It is our “choice” to use the self service checkouts, we have no choice regarding our rubbish 😦 This is my beef, I feel like I am being bullied into having 3 bins at the front of my house and to carefully sort through my rubbish. This opens the door for possible dangers from glass, tins etc and infections.
      Never have been good at taking orders, the rebel in me is still alive it would seem lol 😉


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