April 3, 2020

In a crisis there has to be a constant balancing between the urgent and the important, and the primary focus has to be on items which are both. These activities get priority, they get publicity, and they get resource. That is often at the expense of activities whose importance is as great, or even greater, but whose urgency is less.


The resource issue is an interesting one. Throwing money at a problem doesn’t guarantee success though it can be essential to remove barriers to finding a solution. Throwing people at a problem can, beyond certain limits, become counter-productive. Come a crisis, effective resource management is critical. The right quantity of the right resource has to be directed to the right activities. When this is applied to the public sector priorities for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some clear priorities, and resource needs to be directed to these. But what happens to the people not involved? The people not involved in the high-profile new roles? For some, the existing role cannot be abandoned – it may even become more demanding as the effects of the pandemic spread across the population.


That leaves a group of varying degrees of seniority, whose work, quite frankly, cannot be justified. Should they simply be put on gardening leave and treated as a reserve until such time as it becomes appropriate to redeploy them to fill gaps in the essential services? Or can some of them spend the time preparing for the day when the world emerges from lockdown?


With this in mind, the DeliveryDemon is about to talk rubbish.


We don’t know how long the pandemic will last. We don’t know what the world will look like when it comes to an end, or under control. One of the very few things we do know is that it will have generated one hell of a lot of rubbish, and that rubbish will need to be dealt with to prevent it choking the entire global environment. The earlier governments can start thinking how to handle this predictable problem, the more quickly it can be addressed.


Where is all the rubbish coming from:

  • Even with inadequate supplies of protective and medical equipment, there will be a massive quantity of infective waste to be disposed of. Incineration may be an appropriate resource, but barely 18 months ago it became clear that the UK did not have sufficient capacity for business as usual operation. There is no evidence of substantial capacity increase. This waste is a predictable problem.
  • A substantial increase in the demand for home delivery by supermarkets will more than offset the efforts of the past few years to reduce the number of single-use plastic bags. Picking and packing under pressure doesn’t allow the luxury of maximising the number of items per bag. And the bags are essential to minimise the level of contact between the delivery driver and customers.
  • Fear of infection predisposes food shoppers to prefer wrapped goods to loose, whether shopping in person or on line.
  • Working from home, limiting time away from home, home-schooling of children, all these create a degree of boredom and tension and the easy solution can be treats – an instant source of soft drink containers, wine and beer bottles and cans, wrappings from sweets and biscuits and other snacks. In one way this can be offset against the reduced waste due to reduced footfall in business centres and the closing of some of the big chains of fast food outlets. In another way it’s a shift from the commercial waste disposal route to the domestic one. Logistics and commercial agreements become as much of an issue as waste volume.
  • Panic-buying has already had a noticeable effect on waste volumes, with bin crews finding fuller bins and obvious disposal of just out of date perishable foods.
  • Tips have been closed at a time when people are forced to spend more time at home. Even those who can work from home will have more time on their hands to notice all the DIY jobs they never quite had time to do. That’s more waste being generated and it has nowhere to go till the tips open again. It won’t just be swallowed up by the newly opened tips either, they are not designed to cope with several months of waste arriving in a week or two.
  • Fly tipping has been an increasing problem for some time as local authorities applied more and more limitations to the usage of tips. It is in fact a growing organised crime. It is also becoming less socially unacceptable at the lower end of activity. As outdoor footfall reduces, and tracing resource is reduced or redirected to other activities, the risk of a flytipper being caught reduces from an already fairly low level. After a few months there will be a lot of rubbish to be cleared from countryside, wasteground, farmland, and parks.
  • And there’s the obvious point that legitimate waste disposal is as likely to be affected by resource problems as any other activity, where employees may themselves become ill or be required to isolate because of contact with others who become ill.


When we are able to look beyond the pandemic, when we are able to go freely from our homes into the natural environment, the DeliveryDemon expects that environment to look very different, and not entirely in a good way. We will not be able to ignore the aftermath of the lifestyles adopted of necessity during lockdown. It would be reassuring to see, as a secondary line of activity, some thought being given to helping our environment recover from what we have done to protect ourselves.

Delivering a Drought

March 12, 2012

It’s not even full spring yet and we’re about to get our water supplies reduced – but not our water bills.

Every time the DeliveryDemon puts something in the waste bin, the drought springs to mind, as do thoughts of how ‘un-joined-up’ this country’s bureaucracy is.

Why? Well, if you live in an administrative area which is committed to the recycling, have you realised that you are using up precious water supplies to WASH the rubbish you pay taxes to have collected?

The DeliveryDemon has nothing against recycling. In fact her household were recycling long before the bureaucrats decided it had to be imposed. Bottles, cardboard, paper, tins, old clothing, garden waste – it all got sorted and composted or taken to bottlebanks or charity shops or recycling centres. No problems and no transport overhead as disposal fitted in with the weekly routine. But now the dead hand of bureaucracy has descended. So:

  • We have slop buckets.
    • They’re too small for the remnants from a day of cooking proper food, or even a single meal, so they are forever needing to be emptied into the bigger slop bucket.
    • They stink because they don’t close tight enough to keep the smell in.
    • They’re made of poor quality plastic which isn’t resistant to the acid remnants of food, so they stink even more.
    • Because they stink they have to be washed out at every emptying, and that takes water. So in just one area, that’s over 30,000 of these slop buckets needing washed out at least once a day.
    • Because the bins are never properly emptied, there’s a residue of rotted food wo go in the next collection, accelerating the decay of new food waste.
  • Then there’s the bigger slop bucket.
    • It’s not really big enough to hold a week of food waste if you use fresh ingredients and lots of fruit and vegetables. But it’s the only bin that gets emptied weekly.
    • Of course it stinks.
    • It gets pretty filthy by the time it’s been chucked at the bin lorry’s automation then thrown back anyhow on the ground, so it needs washed after every emptying.
    • It isn’t really emptied, just waved at a bigger bin, with no account taken of the fact that week old food debris tends to stick to the container, so that’s another load of water cleaning out the 30,000 bins.
  • There’s a massive bin for stuff that doesn’t go into the slop buckets.
    • This is designed to hold about 15 times the amount of rubbish produced by a household that recycles as a matter of course.
    • It’s too light to withstand the boisterous winds in open countryside so local cars and pedestrians are at danger from flying bins.
    • It’s a third bin to be cleaned out, fortnightly for this one.
  • There’s an even more massive bin for paper and cardboard and bottles.
    • That’s another fortnightly collection and another bin that needs washed out.
    • Rubbish needs to be washed before going in the bin, or it stinks and the lids are not proof against odour or flies
    • That’s another flying bin on windy days.
  • There’s another massive bin – at additional cost – for garden waste

Then there’s the disruption and complication.

  • Multiple handling of food waste from one slop bucket to another
  • Complex collection arrangements, needing a section in the local paper to remind people which bins go out when.
  • Up to three days a week when the peace is destroyed by noisy rubbish vehicles, with the constand grinding and beeping audible for streets around for hours at a time
  • Up to three days a week when the roads are blocked by rubbish vehicles whose drivers never pull in to the kerb,  thinking they have no duty of care to other road users

Of course the taxpayer can spend more money on biodegradable bags for all the slop bins. And sit on summer days with the windows closed and earplugs in till the rubbish lorries have gone. That’s what the bureaucrats want us to do. But let’s think about what this is really about.

There’s a need to dispose of rubbish effectively, recycling as much of it as possible. That doesn’t mean it’s necessary to manufacture and distribute 150,000 bins in one small area. There’s no reason why each and every household should turn into a mini waste-sorting and cleaning plant. The council is trumpeting its greenness on the basis of the council doing less, but the full picture is a lot less green.

  • The council is generating noise pollution in previously peaceful rural areas and making it worse in town.
  • The council, at the taxpayer’s expense, is financing the manufacture and use of 4 times as many rubbish vehicles as were previously needed.
  • The council is adding to the overcrowding of roads by blocking them with rubbish vehicles
  • The council is worsening the drought situation by forcing people to use water to clean multiple bins

There’s a very well established principle of economies of scale. Apply it to rubbish collection and you end up with the single collection of waste and central sorting. The rubbish industry is becoming ever more sophisticated, with technology becoming increasingly able to separate different types of waste.

The DeliveryDemon wishes her local council would acquire the intelligence to see the difference between effective recycling, and a bureaucratic ego trip which consumes resources and creates pollution.