Monday, November 13, 2006


We had a lovely evening out in Glasgow on Thursday with Andreas and Ildy. Andreas is a colleague of Nicks and they have recently moved over to Glasgow from Switzerland. We went to cafe Gandolfi which I can highly recommend, not only for the excellent food but also for the amazing furniture.

(for a moment there I was starting to sound like Christian and his restaurant reviews. Unlike Christian I am not going to tell you how much the bill came to, or make a smiley face at this point)

Anyway, back to my point...

We got around to talking about Switzerland and their attitude to waste disposal and recycling. Over there you have to pay for your waste disposal according to how much you throw away. Recyclable stuff is taken away for free. I think this is a brilliant and would sign up immediately. The idea has been mooted in this country and, as usual, there was an outcry. God help us in Britain - we just don't like the thought of making any changes that will help the environment if it might cause the weeniest bit of inconvenience or change of habit.

Andreas had an interesting theory about why attitudes are so different. In Switzerland they were always reminded that resources were scarce and valuable. As a country they do not have alot of natural resources and have to buy in the things they need. Historically Britain has always had access to anything we needed, especially when we were a large empire. Our ancestors grabbed stuff from large parts of the globe, along with rich deposits of our own resources like coal, oil, clay, iron ore, timber etc. This has made our basic culture totally different.

I have come to believe that if we were charged for the amount of rubbish we produced, a large part of our wasteful behaviour would be curtailed virtually overnight. The first shopping trip you did would be undertaken with fresh eyes and a fresh attitude. You wouldn't buy the pre-packed, cellophane wrapped veg that comes on a little polysyrene tray! You'd buy them loose, in a recyclable brown paper bag.

The supermarkets would soon cotton on. Before you knew it you would be buying your milk in glass bottles and bringing them back to be re-filled (hmmm what a novel idea) Meat and bread would come wrapped in paper like in the old days. Tetra packs would become obsolete. (you can't recycle them at all.)

The shops that didn't make those changes would find customers going elsewhere, because as a nation we don't give a shit about the environment but we sure do care about our wallets!

Andreas and Ildy told us about an interesting case in Switzerland. The best selling chocolate bar in Switzerland recently commissioned a famous artist to redesign their packaging. It looked amazing but was a commercial disaster - sales plummeted. No-one bought the newly packaged chocolate because it was too voluminous and couldn't be recycled.

Today a meeting is taking place between the 13 biggest retailers in Britain. They are discussing ways to reduce packaging. This is excellent - they have alot to answer for. However I think change also has to come from the consumer, and sometimes consumers have to be pushed/persuaded into making changes.

I doubt that charging for rubbish collection will be introduced in the foreseeable future. It would be a brave political move that would piss off many shortsighted and selfish voters. Pikeys would revolt by dumping bin bags full of used nappies and burger packaging by the sides of motorways. There would be a national debate about the rat problem and the scheme would be abandoned.


Blogger Christian Briddon said...

Surely the cost of a meal is important when writing about a restaurant so that the reader can decide if it for them or not, and I like smiley faces, but I would not put one where you suggest. :-)

3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pikeys would revolt by dumping bin bags full of used nappies and burger packaging by the sides of motorways.
Aye, there's the rub.
We were talking about this in the pub recently, about how somewhere in London they are trialling RFID chips in the bins, and then the contents of the bin are weighed automatically by the bin lorry and the RFID chip would link it to you and you'd be billed accordingly. But of course, how do you stop pikey bastards just putting their rubbish in other people's bins? I suppose you would need bins that can only be opened by the owner (and the bin men).

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Andreas said...

A lovely evening it was indeed! And it's even lovelier that some half-sober talk spawns such an elaborate post on sustainability, granting me the honour of having my own theory! For some background on environmental protection from slightly more competent sources go to

9:29 PM  

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