Household rubbish and I go back a long way. As a child, probably from the age of seven, one of my jobs was to empty the wastepaper baskets and, with them, the ashtrays.
After seventy years, not much has changed. Although thanks to a shift in social customs, ashtrays no longer need attention, I still do the waste-paper baskets once a week. Now, however, there is additional work – I also have overall responsibility for the disposal of household rubbish more generally which, in our cottage in France, includes managing two compost heaps which are heavily dependent on kitchen waste.
In all this I have to keep my wits about me. The idea of recycling, which has great appeal, brings complications. In Richmond we have four different categories of rubbish each stored separately for collection, in Tréguennec it is three with plastic and glass handled separately and in Paris two – but there, nobody cares! In Richmond and Tréguennec attitudes to rubbish and its collection have gone up in the world!
This blog is about one particular aspect of collection – a new development in the way we, in Richmond, manage the rubbish while it is waiting outside to be removed by the council. More specifically, this blog is about a new binstore in our front garden.
Dustbins, along with the various ‘recycling’ bags and boxes filled with paper, plastic, or food waste and the like can be unsightly and, late in the week, rather smelly. They are also susceptible to fox attack with food-containing bags ripped open and their contents distributed far and wide. Not surprisingly, there are countless entries on the Internet suggesting ways in which bins can be hidden. None of them looks like ours!
Obviously, the storage space has to be accessible to householders and refuse collectors alike. And for years, access for us was a problem. When we bought our house seventeen years ago the binstore we inherited was a nightmare. Despite a complicated counter-lever device, its lid was so heavy that I found it difficult to lift – and for Rohan it was almost impossible. Soon the device came off its bearings and I was left as the sole opener and, even then, it needed two hands. Now, after years of procrastination everything has changed and the problem is resolved.
For the new binstore we asked Ollie, designer, creator and youngest son, to build something special. Commissioning was done over the Internet while we were away in France during a lull in the coronavirus pandemic. The brief was to dismantle the old brick storage space and build something in its place that would be pleasing to the eye, would allow easy access, and would reflect the new importance of rubbish. We also asked that in its building there should be no compromises!
A series of sketched proposals were soon exchanged with different ideas but all on the same theme – the binbox would look like our house. Accordingly, as we live at No. 2; the new container would be called no. 2A. Discussions about proportions, dimensions, fine details, colour and materials went back and forth and then, with everything worked out – well almost – building started and it was given a nick name. While officially it will remain 2A, privately it will be known as the ‘Temple of Bin’ (see illustration)
I introduced the Temple to Peter, a member of the refuse collection team and he was delighted. It was unusual for people to think in this way about the storage of household waste. It made him chuckle out loud.
For most of the week the Temple will serve as a safe haven for our bins and bags generally. On the evening before the collection most of the waste is put out on the pavement ready for the collection next day. The general household waste stays locked up that extra night, safe from any prowling fox and then is taken out by the collectors themselves when they arrive early next day.
Having a new and easily accessible home for our bins comes as a great relief. The fact that it has a grand aspect is amusing and befits rubbish’s new higher status. It is also important to me that we are not trying to hide our rubbish away behind a nondescript or bland wall or fence, rather it is something that is unmissable and might even provoke questions. That the collection team seem to feel the same way as we do gives added pleasure.
The illustration shows a photo of our new outside container for dustbins, boxes and assorted bags. The style of this ‘Temple of Bin’ echoes that of the 1896 terraced house it serves (photo updated 23 January 2021).
For helping me write this blog, I would like to thank Oliver, Rohan and Vivien.