Reduce, reuse, recycle.
The venerable three Rs of sustainable waste management. We’ve heard the mantra time and again: the powers-that-be urging all of us to be front runners in the race against waste. It’s a laudable goal, one that we’ve wholeheartedly embraced, and that we have tried to instil in the girls from day one. But while central and local government are pushing the green message, their record on the ground leaves a lot to be desired.
Human nature dictates that people only change their behaviour when there’s a compelling reason to do so. While a few conscientious souls will go to extraordinary lengths to reduce consumption, re-use materials and recycle as much as possible, the vast majority of the population are quite comfortable leaving things the way they are. Convenience and value are the order of the day. If local authorities are serious about the mass adoption of sustainable waste-management practices they need to make it easier and cheaper than the alternative.
So what do the “geniuses” at Cork County Council do? They implement a blanket €3 levy on people bringing their recycling to the local Civic Amenity site.
It’s completely bonkers! First they cut back on the recycling facilities at local village “bring sites” across the county, forcing tens of thousands of households (or at least those who are willing) to drive their recycling to a central Civic Amenity site, and now they introduce yet more inconvenience. You’d swear they were trying to put people off!The Council are the first to bemoan the fact that fly-tipping and the back-yard-burning of rubbish is on the increase across the county, and insist that they’re doing their best to tackle the problem. Their best, it seems, involves conjuring up new and interesting ways to make it more difficult for people to adopt a sustainable approach to their waste.
In Clonakilty, for example, the council-imposed barriers have just become physical with the introduction of automatic, coin-operated gates that will only accept exact change. It’s hard to think of a better way to make recycling more inconvenient. Way to go Cork Co. Co.!
To be fair, the County Council has introduced kerbside collection of recyclable materials, which is a step in the right direction. But what about those who can’t avail of the service, or choose not to? The levy is an incredibly unsubtle ploy to lure people who’ve opted out of refuse collection back into the fold, giving the Council a handy, measurable revenue stream over the year. But if they’re serious about encouraging sustainable waste management the Council should be trying to offer more, not less options to householders. Make it as easy and convenient as possible to recycle, make better value and less hassle than chucking it in the bin, and hey presto, you’ll get more people recycling.
It’s not rocket science.
A solution to Ireland’s waste management woes will demand vision, commitment and a healthy chunk of forward thinking. Unfortunately, what we have is a local authority that’s so short sighted it terminally myopic.
Cork County Council is obviously as strapped for cash as everyone else these days, but targeting responsible waste disposal as a way to generate additional revenue is sheer lunacy. If the council want to save money I’d suggest they start by getting rid of the bright sparks who decided that taking already inadequate recycling facilities and making them even worse was a good idea. But this is the civil service, so instead they’ll probably get a bonus.
As for us, we’ll keep recycling of course, as will many other households around the county. If you’re recycling already you’ll probably keep doing so; the real worry is that encouraging people to start recycling just became that little bit harder, and the temptation to burn rubbish or simply chuck it over the nearest hedge that bit stronger.