Consumer Society

Topics: Recycling, Waste management, European Union Pages: 2 (814 words) Published: March 27, 2013
Within living memory, Britain was a country where recycling was a way of life and waste was abhorred. Milk was delivered in glass bottles and the empties were left on the doorstep for collection the next morning. The silver tops were kept to buy guide dogs for the blind. A beer or soft-drink bottle carried a deposit that was recoverable on its return. Rag-and-bone men toured the streets seeking waste material. Children who failed to eat up their food were sternly told the Chinese would be grateful for it. Shops would charge for bags (which became a subject of growing consumer indignation) and so you took your own bag instead. Socks were darned, elbows patched and small pieces of string kept in the cupboard under the stairs. Most of these things were commonplace, at least until the 1960s. But no sooner had we created our new, more convenient world than we started worrying about it. Friends of the Earth launched its first waste campaign - returning thousands of empty bottles to Schweppes - in 1971, and the first bottle banks appeared in 1977. A 25 per cent target for recycling of household waste was set in 1990; even though we've reached the target, the amount we consume has risen so steeply that unrecycled waste has fallen only slightly. The whole issue of waste is surely one of the great policy failures of the past 50 years. With global warming, politicians can at least argue that the science was inconclusive until about 20 years ago. But it was always obvious that our capacity to dispose of waste wasn't infinite. Even now, governments do little more than nag consumers, with local authorities mandated to threaten fines or unemptied dustbins (the prospect of the latter always terrifies the British) for those who put their cans in the wrong receptacle. However, as the House of Lords science committee observes in a report published on 20 August (HL Paper 163), that isn't really the problem: only 9 per cent of total waste is domestic. And, as usual, the government is...
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