We are all conditioned by our environment.
In the UK we are looked after by the welfare state ‘from the cradle to the grave’, and we have got used to it. In fact we get more used to it every year as new laws are brought in to protect us from ourselves. Probably when we think about it we resent it.... but then we just accept it as the new status quo.
I am not automatically against these new constraints, but I do worry that we don’t think beyond them. We learn to take them for granted, and we forget to ask questions... or we are just too lazy.
I have been increasingly interested in the way that our population and our politicians have adopted the recycling doctrine. The speed with which this country moved from cynical indifference to steadfast commitment has been breath-taking; and since I live in a county which has more or less run out of landfill sites, I am delighted.
But we are still falling into the same trap of allowing the State to look after us, and assuming that everything outside our own little box will be ‘taken care of’.
I have been reading a lot of stuff about recycling – different local authorities have different ways of dealing with the problem. Some collect all the recyclates in one bin, to be separated mechanically at a recycling centre. Others ask the householder to carry out the separation. Not all authorities offer the same recycling opportunities.
When I read that local authority ‘a’ asks you to put out paper and cardboard, and explains how it will be recycled, while local authority ‘b’ asks you to separate cardboard and coloured paper from white paper, so that the white paper can be used to make more white paper, then I guess one of the authorities is doing better than the other.
But the trouble is that we don’t know which, and we don’t know who to ask. And we don’t know for sure that the paper is being recycled, or whether it's being used to the best advantage, or how many miles it travels before being processed. (A lot of mechanically separated paper cannot be used because it's contaminated with glass.)
My local authority will not process yoghurt pots because there is nowhere within a sensible distance where this can be done – so it goes to landfill, because that's the greenest available option. Other local authorities say that they will take all plastics, all mixed in together, for recycling. Do I believe them? Not really, but I could be wrong, in which case, my local authority is under-performing.
So if your local authority says it can recycle, say, plastic mushroom cartons, do you just put them in the green bin and hope for the best? Or do you ask the local authority exactly what they do with them?
I really hate being a cynic...