I’m absolutely sick of this. These are this week’s offerings at our local rubbish bins: an armchair, a fridge and a child’s tricycle. That’s not all. In the bin reserved for items for recycling was a wooden box containing a lot of old chicken wire, plant pots and various discarded garden tools. None of those things should be there.
This is yet further evidence of the lack of civic responsibility and general chacun pour soi-isme – everyone for him/herself – that pervades French society these days. No doubt it also pervades other societies but I’m not in a position to pronounce on those. I live in France and have done for 14 years – more than a quarter of my life.
These are not isolated incidents. This is a regular occurrence. And I don’t believe it’s just one person. Boxes of empty bottles are frequently dumped by the bins, despite the fact that there are bottle banks all over the place. I have been reduced to collecting them up myself, taking them to the bottle bank and then leaving a notice by the bin exhorting people not to dump bottles there. In recent months I have also seen sacks of cement, piles of broken tiles, shattered panes of window glass, an old pram and a baby buggy to name just a few.
In most of France, residents don’t have their own refuse bins. You take your rubbish in sealed black plastic sacks to a strategically placed grey-lidded bin that serves a number of households. The corporation dustcart comes and empties it regularly. In rural areas, particularly, the cost of servicing individual households would be prohibitive.
Unfortunately, our bins are at an isolated crossroads which is not overlooked. I suspect people come from miles around to dump there, although ours are not the only bins that are abused like this. I have seen bathroom fittings, including a lavatory, gracing another bin in our commune.
A few years ago, our Communauté des Communes – grouping of town councils – introduced recycling bins with yellow lids. They supplied every household with a heavy-duty bag in which to collect cans, plastic bottles, newspapers and cardboard. You are not supposed to put anything else in the yellow-lidded bins. A van comes round regularly to collect the contents. If they contain prohibited items, the recycling centre will reject the whole load. In that case, the van-drivers refuse (sorry about the pun) to collect the stuff and leave a notice on the bin to that effect. There has to be a special collection later to remove it.
A municipal rubbish tip is about 3km away from us. You have to provide proof of residency to use it but it is clean, tidy and very well-organised. Dedicated skips take different types of waste and they collect used engine oil, chemical receptacles and paint tins, for example. Why can’t people take their stuff there? The energy they expend in dumping it by the rubbish bins could just as well be spent taking it to the proper place.
What really infuriates me is not just the ‘someone else can deal with it’ attitude, nor even the unedifying sight of other people’s detritus, unpleasant though those things are; it’s that we all end up paying for it. Special collections to remove the junk plus those to take away the spoiled recycling items cost money. Who gets to pay for it? Us, the residents, on our local taxes, which increase enough as it is every year without these self-centred individuals adding to them.
We put our recycling items aside, take our bottles to the bottle bank, compost as much organic waste as we can and take everything else that can’t go in the bins to the rubbish tip. I’m not being particularly self-righteous here: it doesn’t require a huge effort; you don’t need a degree in Astrophysics to manage it; and it doesn’t cost anything.
I’m tempted to mount guard by the bins and take photos of the offending individuals. Or set up a vigilante group to run them out of town. Any other suggestions?
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