There is something quintessentially British - and quaint - about just not wanting to be told. On the one hand, we see bravado and a pride in ‘being British’. On the other, we see entrenched resistance to authority. Too many politicians seek to benefit from this resistance, aiding a culture of complaint in the populist media about nosey councils checking on our bins, imposing fines, or approving “untried” technologies for waste disposal plants.
In an exclusive conversation with MRW, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee chair Anne McIntosh says she cannot understand why the public is so nervous about energy-from-waste. The key is in her observation that successive governments had failed to “sell” that technology. The EfW sector must not be given carte blanche to ignore communities but if our decision-makers do believe it is one of the ways to deal with our waste, they must do a lot more to help the authorities persuade their residents.
Britons do need sticks on occasions. On page six, we report a united council and industry cry against Defra’s proposals for civil sanctions and less punative fines for residents who repeatedly misuse waste collection. Some papers have raised ‘Big Brother’ fears of people dragged through the courts for chucking out the wrong sort of plastic or paper. We are not seeing long queues of defendants paying the maximum £1,000 fine so it can hardly be argued to be a current social injustice. Throwing out the capability to fine, though, would remove an important sanction when, in cases of last resort, ‘not being told’ is plain unacceptable.