Listen. I need to talk seriously about a subject many of you will find appalling. I don’t mean ‘war crime’ appalling. I mean about as appalling as a serious incident on the High Street on a Saturday night but not involving car keys, eyeballs, or members of the Parachute Regiment.
Yes, that’s right. I want to talk about weekly bin collections.
Christ, I know. I know… Dark days and all that. And it’s tough for me too. Just remain calm and remember: deep breaths. This is only going to be a thousand words long and, if you squint, you might already be able to see daylight in the distance.
Easing myself into my dreams last night with a mental image of Rachel McAdams stroking the contoured lines of the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition) tablet, it suddenly struck me that Samsung should really be in the wheelie bin business.
Beautiful thought, isn’t it?
Now, it takes a special kind of depraved mind to go to sleep combining Rachel McAdams with wheelie bins but until I have a chance to move with Rachel to Samsung’s own island off the coast of South America, sometime around the year 2050, I will have to endure the misery of living in the St Helens area of Merseyside where wheelie bins are a business as serious as my idle fantasising.
Up here it's troll country. We don’t go in for any of that fancy ‘thinking’ in these parts. Reasoning is something you do by smelling the end of your finger and trolls, not being the brightest of beasts, spend a lot of time smelling their own fingers. Take, for example, the trolls in St Helens Council who squeeze out bad ideas like they’ve been fed nothing but slugs, fish oil, and polished ball bearings.
The council are currently introducing new arrangements for our refuse collection. They announced this via bright shiny stickers that appeared on our bins a fortnight ago and promptly stuck to every surface they came into contact with. I forget the exact words because I was blinded by our sticker for an entire day but I do recall mention of an ‘improved service’ as a friend helped peel away the sticker along with most of my eyebrows.
‘An improved service! Whoopee!’ we both cried and then began to examine the small print.
The council are now promising to empty our regular brown bin one week and then, seven days later, empty the green bin that contains all our garden waste. Each bin will be emptied twice a month and this is the improved service.
‘Whoopee,’ we both cried again and then we began to do the maths.
Currently the council empties our brown bin every week and the green bin every fortnight. That means they provide six bin collections per month. The new arrangements mean that we’ll have only four bin collections.
That wasn’t the kind of improvement I was expecting. In fact, I would have furrowed my eyebrows if I’d had any.
An improvement is going from a 1.4GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A9, A8 processor to a 1.9 GHz octa-core Samsung Exynos 5420 SoC processor, as Samsung have cleverly done with the new 2014 Note. An improvement is doubling the resolution, replacing a 1280×800 pixel display with one that has 2560x1600 pixels. An improvement is increasing the ergonomic design by adding a faux-leather back to the tablet design.
A thirty three percent drop in the number of bin collections is not what I’d call an improvement. It sounds like one of those ‘Apple improvements’ when subsequent models of iPad got heavier, battery life shortened, and you needed to stick a wire coat hanger up your sleeve just to get a half-decent Wi-Fi signal.
Yet the part that gnaws me to the bone isn’t the reduction in our services. All our councils have to make cuts and I understand the concept of austerity. But I do believe that if a government or council are forced to reduce a service, they shouldn’t lie about it. Just tell it to me straight, like a pear cider that’s made from 100% pears. I’m not an idiot. I know that six is bigger than four. In fact, if I had a Samsung Note (2014 edition) in front of me now, I would scribble that sum onto the screen, wait a fraction of a second for the cutting-edge handwriting recognition software to decrypt my scrawl and then an infinitesimally small space of time as it did the calculation. Instead I’m counting on my fingers and my curled pinky and ring finger show me that it’s a decrease of exactly two bin collections a month.
I detest bad news dressed up like some gormless ITV rhetoric promising the year’s best entertainment over shots of Simon Cowell and mad old men playing tunes on their armpits. It implies we’re too dumb to spot that we’re being lied to. A man could get angry at the way my council talks-up a cut. He could get angry that they’re wasting money providing expensive colour leaflets that promotes some lousy policy as revolutionary thinking. A man could get…
Oh hang on! They’ve drawn eyes on the bins to make them look like cheerful characters. Everything I’m saying must be wrong and life in St Helens is peachy!
Today more glossy leaflets arrived through the letterbox and, as you can see by the accompanying diagram, we now have a friendly cast of characters to cheer on.
In addition to our main brown bin, we have one irritatingly happy black plastic box dog for tins, one drunk single-but-has-joined-Friends-Reunited pink bag for plastic bottles, one so-studious-he-probably-reads-The-Telegraph blue bag for newspapers, a sweet little ‘kerbside caddy’ (probably from a broken home) for fetid and stinking food, and one green bin clearly on the game and ready to pleasure our garden waste. The ‘Red Bottom’ is just my addition to the leaflet so ignore it for a moment…
Now, at this point, you’re probably thinking: isn’t he getting a little too excited about the bins? ‘Hey! Burke Bevel,’ you shout. ‘Isn’t this what old people talk about? Soon you’ll be complaining about the low necklines of BBC newsreaders and wondering why the Queen hasn’t knighted George Alagiah.’
But isn’t this the stuff that really matters? Isn’t this the warning sound of the creaking rope that holds up the great bureaucratic chimp swing that will eventually collapse and bring about the end of western civilisation? We won’t pollute ourselves into oblivion. Our brains will simply evolve to the point where most of their functions will be given over to figuring out what we’re meant to do with egg shells and what day we put out the potato peels.
Take this final piece of troll logic as an example.
For years we’ve all been using our green bins for cardboard. Only we’re now told that the green bin is to be used only for garden waste. Of course, between October and March, nobody cuts their lawn or trims the hedge so under this brilliant new scheme our green bins will stand empty for about half the year.
Meanwhile, we are now told to squeeze two weeks of cardboard into a box sized approximately 60x40x30 centimetres. That will be fun. After two weeks, our green wheelie bin is usually so full of cardboard that we can’t close the lid. I’m going to have to buy an industrial strength press just to deal with a week of cardboard.
If the whole thing sounds like an utter mess, there’s only one man I hold responsible.
The name Barrie Grunewald might not mean much to you. It sounds like the name of a troll in Beowolf or some ancient Norse myth. In a way, I think it is. Barrie is my local council leader and resembles a troll in publicity photographs. I never did write to Barrie about the council’s lousy policies for cyclists but it now seems they have an equally absurd policy for recyclists. That’s where the ‘red bottom’ comes into play.
I would humbly like to suggest to Barrie that he takes all his council leaflets and sticks them… Well, I’ll let him figure out ‘what goes where’. I’ve even provided a helpful diagram to guide his hand. And if he’s angry or thinks I’m wrong, I’d simply point out that I’ve added a pair of cartoon eyes to my diagram. Cartoons eyes excuse every kind of stupidity, don’t they?