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Why do so many people recycle litter out of car windows?

By Lindy McDowell

Published 08/04/2015

Messed up: many of us are still hopeless when it comes to clearing up after ourselves
Messed up: many of us are still hopeless when it comes to clearing up after ourselves

I drove into Belfast the other day, from Nutts Corner over the mountain via Ligoniel, a route I haven't been on for some time. On a windy Spring day in those high, wild hills above Belfast you're struck by what a glorious bit of countryside it is. This place gives "rugged" a good name.

The other thing that struck - me, anyway - was, what a tip. The hedges, still more or less bare of summer foliage, were strung with rubbish. Great big sheets of plastic caught on a tree here, two giant blue bags of God knows what dumped on the roadside there, mounds of litter trapped around the base of every bush.

It's not a heavily populated area and I doubt very, very much if the people who live in the vicinity are responsible for the mess. Those two bags in particular looked very much like they'd been sneakily off-loaded from a passing car.

And, of course, you don't have to take the scenic route these days to spot such mess. There are streets in Belfast that look like they've just hosted the Rio carnival any old day of the week.

Despite all those extensive and, I'm guessing, expensive, campaigns to get us cleaning up, recycling more and ostracising litter pigs, it's still a midden out there.

Who to blame? Maybe we'd be better asking, what to blame?

As in - is current recycling policy actually doing the job it's supposed to?

Before going any further I want to stress this is not a rant about recycling per se. I think we're all agreed that we can't just go on burying our heads in the sand and our rubbish in the ground. Use less, recycle more, that makes obvious sense.

But there would also seem to be a bit of head-burying where the authorities are concerned. Their strategy seems to be - leave rubbish with the householder long enough and they'll gradually produce less of it.

Sadly it doesn't work like that.

Instead a sizeable percentage of the rubbish that used to get hauled off for burial at the municipal dump now appears to be "recycled" out of the door of cars to flap for all eternity in the nearest hedge.

We've swapped dumping beneath ground for dumping to the winds. Neither is doing the environment a whole lot of good. But the cutting back on the former is at least enabling councils to meet EU requirements. And that, not cleanliness, would appear to be priority.

I am not for a single second sympathising with the car dumpers. But I do think the current system of recycling is more than a bit too optimistic in its calculations about how much householders can compact their waste. Add to that the chaos of kerbside recycling boxes on a windy day and no wonder so much rubbish and litter is now strung up on hedges like dirty washing.

And while we're on the subject of those kerbside boxes ... council workers in England made headlines this week for refusing to touch a bin "contaminated" by a non-recyclable crisp bag stuck to its lid. (The bag dropped as litter had been blown on to bin by the wind.)

The story led to the usual condemnation of the very picky council workers. Me, I was impressed by their attention to detail. At Christmas a delivery man (he was only trying to be helpful) left a large parcel addressed to me in the recycling box to keep it dry. He'd also left a note to explain this. But I was away and before I got back the inevitable happened.

Oddly enough though, while in the past some of my recycling has been returned on the grounds of "wrong box", this large, unopened parcel, clearly addressed and covered with presumably unrecyclable Sellotape passed muster. I never saw it again. It clearly went right through the system unremarked.

One small incident, granted. It just makes you wonder about the efficiency of the overall system. Our streets and countryside are getting messier by the day.

Why are we still so rubbish about getting rid of rubbish?

It's not what you'd call an Ed start ...

Your heart really does go out to whoever is tasked with spin-doctoring/nannying Ed Miliband. After the leaders' debate (yawn) he's reported to have left behind in his TV dressing room, a screwed up piece of paper with some lines (possibly rehearsed) he used during the debate.

That's embarrassing enough. But the note also included motivational tips.

He apparently regards himself as a "happy warrior", "calm never agitated" who turns "negative into positive". Cringe! And to think these people sneered at Cherie Blair and her wacky lifestyle guru ...

Terror boss Omar's charm offensive

Still on the motivational stuff ... and the Taliban are reportedly so worried about seepage of happy jihadi warriors to their competitors ISIS that they've launched a PR campaign to boost the image of their scary leader Mullah Omar.

This is the one-eyed madman whose "weapon of choice" (we all have one, don't we?) is the RPG 7 rocket launcher. Bit of a challenge to soften the image there then.

However, the Taliban press office do assure us that old Omar has what the personal ads call GSOH. Well, a "special sense of humour" anyway. It's not exactly selling him, is it?

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