April 18, 2018

Rubbish Thy Neighbour

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Transparent waste recycle bins.

So we can see what you/others are throwing away.

Coming to a suburb near you.

An inner-city or coastal suburb near you if you live in Perth, or actually coming to you if you live in one of those suburbs.

There’s a good idea in there somewhere, probably down near the bottom under the illegally dumped coffee pods.

The program may well do what the councils hope it will do; change our buying habits and our chucking out habits.

It’s more likely to mean we throw more recyclables into the general waste bin to avoid being shamed. Cos that’s what we want – more naked transparency in the face of people we neither know nor trust. People like our neighbours.

There are noble intentions here. But inadvertently – or perhaps more worryingly, purposely, – this could turn into a shame campaign.  Never mind “Face Your Waste”, it’s about not risking losing face in front of your neighbours.  “Waste Your Face” more like it.

There’s something personal about our rubbish isn’t there?  Whether bin rubbish or life rubbish, we’re keen to keep it under wraps and revealed only to the most trusted.  We don’t expose our rubbish to just anybody.

And we’ve been told incessantly in the ads for cars and for house tiles how we can be the “envy of our neighbours”.  It’s been a constant for quite some time, so why not the scorn or the ridicule of our neighbours instead?  They can determine our value by what we eat, what we read, what we throw away.

And then there will be the actual contests.  Comparing this week’s transparent bin of the slightly crazy family with five kids down the road, who never seem to have that much time; who are a little bit loud, and who leave the bin over-flowing, with next week’s poker-faced couple in the unit across the road whose only recyclable rubbish is their six month supply of communist periodical The Big Issue, which has been recycling rubbish for decades already.

Perhaps there could be a Recycling Cup, made out of Styrofoam coffee cups and glued to one of those fancy iPad boxes you keep for six months cos it’s so beautiful until you realise it’s just a cardboard box.

There’s no-one more scary than the righteous indignant.  Except the righteous, indignant neighbour.  Or even the righteous, indignant neighbour who is a councillor on a slightly left leaning council.

The perthnow website reports this program as:

a push to spark conversations between neighbours about what we’re binning.

Given we drive into the garage and put the roller door down, before entering the house through the side door, a rubbish conversation is better than no conversation I suppose.

But can a bin campaign do it?  That’s a lot of weight to carry even for a 240 litre moulded plastic receptacle.  We put our bins out at night for a reason.

The program will see 20 bins rolled out, and rotated between neighbours over a course of weeks to expose what you are putting in your bin and give us the opportunity to:

A) Be scorned by our neighbours

B) Feel more self-righteous than our neighbours

C) Go on sneaky bin runs to get rid of rubbish in non-transparent bins on bin night

D) Find some really good stuff.

According to the chief executive of one of the local councils taking part:

“The idea behind the clear bins is so people can’t ignore what is going in their bin.” 

She went on to say:

This campaign means that neighbours, who barely acknowledge each other, will be given the opportunity to compare themselves favourably to each other through what they put in their bins. This will inevitably lead to better relationships and a chance to build the deep, transparent, utopian levels of trust that our land release billboards claim to deliver.

Actually I made that last bit up.

The councils’ idea of how this will kick off looks something like this:

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Hey neighbour, you know that’s the WRONG type of plastic!

The upside of course is that we will never again buy Froot Loops, Krispy Kremes or high powered assault rifles that comes in fancy packaging from the USA. Shame is a powerful motivator after all. Life could get healthier and safer for everyone.

And just that little more nerve wracking when your neighbours start to rubbish you because of what you put in your bin.






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