I WAS mystified on my return home a few days ago to find a red hanger on my emptied blue wheelie bin. It is not that I did not know what it signified. I just had no idea what I had done to be exposed to the world as a Bad Person.
A few weeks ago, my county council joined the latest craze for snooping in bins; see here, here, and here to get some idea of how the fad is sweeping the nation. Under this new traffic light scheme, should there be an unrecyclable item in my blue bin, they will kindly empty the bin but I will receive an amber hanger, alerting me to my offence so that I can do better in future; failure to learn from this first mistake will mean an unemptied bin, upgraded with a red hanger, in a fortnight’s time. I had recognised that from now on I should play it safe and Reduce my Recycling rather than Risk getting it Wrong. But I have no idea what I did Wrong this week, as I have never had an amber hanger; it cannot have been too Wrong, as they did empty my bin, but it was Wrong enough to get a red hanger. Unfortunately, I am at my wits’ end as to how to correct my errors, as the waste crews overlooked ticking the relevant box, or writing in the space provided on the red hanger, to let me know what Wrong thing I had inadvertently put in the bin. As a result, outside my back door there is a most unwelcome combination of an empty bin and a clean red hanger, contrary to all sense and reason as dispensed by the authorities.
So, the second conundrum with which I am faced is what to do with my good-as-new red hanger, which did not prevent my bin being emptied and which serves no obvious purpose, although I really ought to value it as bought by a benevolent county council on my behalf with my council tax money.
I have decided to be Good but, entering into the spirit of Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, the first option is out of the question as I cannot Reduce something I did not augment to start with. I suppose I could Re-use it by checking and marking other bins in the village in a fortnight’s time, saving time and effort for the waste collection crews. But that does seem a bit un-neighbourly – at least taking part in the old shaming activity of stocks and rotten tomatoes was noisily transparent for all parties, whether giving or taking, or even just looking on. Or I could Return it to the waste crews next time they are up my lane, for them to Re-use on a more worthy recipient; I could give them a verbal amber warning to do better next time and suggest they ask for Re-training in the scheme. Overall, the least confrontational option seems to be Recycle, especially as the whole point of the new hanger scheme is to encourage us all to ‘recycle more’.
And here my dilemma scales new heights, for my good-as-new red plastic bin hanger does not have the recyclable logo on it. So, do I put it in my black wheelie bin to go to landfill? Or do I put it in my blue wheelie bin and risk getting a further hanger and an unemptied bin in a fortnight’s time? But maybe they will Reduce, Re-use and Recycle it by Removing it from inside my blue wheelie bin and Re-attaching it to the handle? Am I condemned to an everlasting cycle of Recycling an unrecyclable red plastic bin hanger? Or shall I send it to landfill and be done with it (but oh, the lifetime of guilt I will have to endure!) until the next un-explained hanger appears on my blue bin?