Thursday, September 20, 2012

More of the same old garbage

One of the perks of churning out the column in the Bath Chronicle every week is writing the headline to go on the top of it.

Now headline writing is a noble and time-honoured skill, somewhere between an art and a craft.

The headline has to fit the width of the column neatly, without changing the font size or the spacing between the letters.

It has to be punchy, it has to make sense, and it has to make the reader want to read whatever follows.

Normally, the headline is the last thing to get committed to paper. But this week's was written before even a word of the column itself was penned (or word-processed, to be strictly accurate – there are some concessions to modernity at Chronicle Towers).

Because even before it was started, there was only one possible subject that could be aired this week: garbage.

Or, to be slightly more accurate, garbage disposal.

It's been hitting the headlines big time over the last couple of weeks.

First off, there's a suggestion doing the rounds that "civic chiefs" – or B&NES as we know them – could soon be issuing us all with gull-proof rubbish bags.

What a splendid idea. The sturdy receptacles are a hit in other towns where gulls plague the residents with endless squawking, aggressive behaviour and acidic poo.

The bags are woven from tough plastic and have a zip on top to dissuade even the most persistent scavengers.

You pop your black bin liners inside, stick them outside your front door on rubbish day, and the gulls fly off permanently in search of other fodder.

Or at least that's the theory. To be pessimistic for a moment, they'll probably fly back to Bath city centre, where they'll survive quite happily on left-over takeaways scattered across the pavements by weekend party people.

Which brings us to the second strand in this litter-picking Odyssey: solar powered bins.

Everywhere you turn a new one seems to have sprouted up, looking a little like a glorified speak-your-weight machine, with a panel on top to catch that solar energy, a flap in the front for drunken revellers to stuff their unwanted kebabs, and a compactor lurking inside to mash all the rubbish to pulp.

They do have a couple of drawbacks, though.

To start with, the way our climate's going we'll be lucky if we get enough sunshine in the next decade to evaporate a small puddle, let alone generate the necessary megawatts to power a townful of garbage-guzzling mechanoids.

Second, they're just not exciting enough. You open the flap, you put your rubbish in, you close the flap. So far, so dull.

What they should really do when we feed them is play us a merry tune, or spring up on a concealed telescopic pole and do a little dance, or dispense a packet of Haribos.

Something, anything, to reward us for using them.

Because whatever technological advances we may make in the field of urban waste disposal, at the end of the day it's our own responsibility not to make a mess in the first place.

It's just that sometimes, we do need a bit of encouragement.

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