The speed at which the issue of waste is becoming a significant trend in the UK is seen in Friday’s front pages. The Independent‘s lead is headlined ‘WASTE NOT!’, about its campaign to persuade the government to get retailers to reduce the amount of packaging on products. The seond lead on the front page of the Daily Mail is about its campaign to keep weekly local council rubbish collections, in which they are claiming some success. For completeness’ sake, the pocket cartoon on the front of the Daily Telegraph is also about weekly collections. On the face of it, these look like conflicting views, but I’m not sure that they are.
One of the issues raised in the Mail campaign is about whether councils should be able to charge households which generate too much waste. A lot of its language is about the local bureaucracy this could create (the “cowboy bin police“). The Independent’s approach is about asking governments to intervene to shift coroporate behaviour. On the face of it, then, these look like opposing positions: the rights of the individual or household put against the limits of businesses’ freedom to act. But perhaps they are not as far apart as that. The sustainability writer James Robertson has argued that criticising consumers for unsustainable environmental behaviour is ‘victim-blaming’, because the systems ande networks in which they live, and over which they have limited control, are inherently unsustainable. On this reading, it’s not reasonable to charge households for excess waste before you’ve curbed the freedoms of the companies who create the excess waste in the first place.