What a load of rubbish! No, I’m not referring to the 44 million tonnes of waste that gets sent to landfill every year in this country (although that is an eye-wateringly large amount). I’m referring to Britain’s Rubbish, the feeble effort by C4’s Dispatches to “lift the lid on Britain’s bins and ask what the plan is to tackle the country’s growing rubbish problem” (8pm, Monday 10 October).
The clue was in the lazy double-meaning in the title. Britain’s Rubbish was the epitome of the lazy journalism that seems to pass for normal in Dispatches these days. But the real problem was that this was just too big and complex an issue to address in an hour, which is probably why reporter Morland Sanders kept heading in one direction before veering off wildly in another.
He started off by visiting some poor folk in Manchester whose bins had been replaced by communal bins that were bursting at the seams not just with local rubbish but with stuff dumped by fly-tippers. Then we heard from four people who’d got into trouble with their local councils for innocuous infringements of the rubbish disposal rules (one woman had found herself in court when a cardboard box she’d given away was found illegally dumped).
Sanders seemed to be highlighting how ineffectual and absurd the current two-weekly collection system is (as Eric Pickles put it: “No one expects the town hall binquisition”). So I was expecting a favourable assessment of the government’s promise of more frequent collections. But no more collections would simply encourage us to recycle less, apparently.
Cue a visit to a clueless mum who was helpfully taught to use a sock as a duster, put hoover contents in the compost and wash and reuse an old sponge. Unfortunately, this was pretty much the extent of the useful advice (somehow, I don’t see us all emulating the town that’s recycling record amounts thanks to kerbside sorting).
Everything else was focused on the extent of the problem the poor recycling facilities, the misleading product labelling, the apathetic consumers, the recycled waste that ends up in landfill. At least the conclusion that fewer collections were needed was apt in that it too was rubbish.