Since I found out about it
I’m gonna make my point and shout it
– Mince Meat / Spencer P. Jones, 1994
I noticed this couch out on the naturestrip recently. Gorgeous vintage vinyl, I was quite prepared to install it in my loungeroom in place of the ageing beast lurking in the corner (the present couch, not the Bald Man). Sadly, closer inspection showed why it was abandoned – the timber and horsehair insides were literally rotting, the legs snapped off, the stitching unravelling. It was beyond my rudimentary furniture repair skills to save.
As well as tragic neglect of a marvelous bit of vinyl history, the couch represents an informal disposal/recycling phenomenon unique to the Berra. If one has an item that’s no longer wanted but which could reasonably be appreciated by someone else, one leaves it out on the naturestrip. Passers-by are free to take the item, gratis. In my immediate neighbourhood in the past 12 months I’ve seen office chairs, lounge suites, prams, desks, and electonic equipment of indeterminate age and dubious functionality all offered up this way. All of them eventually disappeared, presumably to good homes.
It took me a while to cotton on to this silent swap system. At different times I thought I was observing a) an early start to hard rubbish collection; b) untidy neighbours; c) people moving house; or d) white trash extending their living area. The silent swap is a lovely example of people acting to fill a gap, but the more I think about it the more it emphasises this gap we have in the Berra. Everywhere else I’ve lived offers local residents either an annual hard rubbish collection, or else reasonable tip access for disposing of large items (ie. one or two tip tokens for free disposal per annum). Here in the Berra there’s no collection, and when I asked the real estate agent for tip tokens she looked at me like I’d asked for a month’s free rent. I’m not sure where Berran residents’ rates go, but it isn’t into hard waste management (nor footpaths or potholes, arguably). It’s no wonder an informal recycling system has started up.
Mind you, it makes it very easy for the Berran Government to trot out a very green line. They’re proud to be the first Australian Government to set a goal of sending no waste to landfill, by 2010 no less. That could be possible, given how hard they make it for residents to throw things out.
You’ll excuse my sceptical tone, but refusing to take people’s rubbish isn’t actually reducing waste, it’s just ignoring it and hoping it will go away. Waste, like emotional conflict or things in the fridge, does not improve by refusing to deal with it. I was amazed, and envious, to discover how much better they have it up the road.
Queanbeyan is a town just that side of the ACT border; local Berrans typically look down their noses at Queanbeyan, and of course it’s governed by the
basket case government of NSW and a local council. Yet on a recent visit there I learned that Queanbeyan Council works a lot harder to deal with rubbish, recycle and minimise landfill, use water resources more wisely, and really encourages locals to do the same. Things Queanbeyan residents get for their rates that we Berrans don’t, include:
* a three-bin system that includes a bin for green waste, as well as one each for recyclables and rubbish;
* up to two large/hard rubbish collections per year, which you book according to need;
* an annual hazardous waste collection;
* a plain-looking website with straightforward and useful information about how the systems work.
Queanbeyan residents are also entitled to a range of benefits under Council’s Waterwise program, including:
* a free dual flush toilet;
* a free AAA-rated shower rose;
* various subsidies for rainwater tanks, washing machines and other water-saving devices.
Things Berran residents get for their rates that Queanbeyan residents don’t, include:
* a nice-looking website that’s chock-full of a lot of words, fact sheets and some ‘useful’ hints, including how to donate unwanted goods to charity (in case this is a new concept to you), and a number to call if your ‘no junk mail’ sign is being ignored. (I did try to find some more good things to say here but the TAMS website kept timing out.)
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see who’s getting the better deal. The Queanbeyan system certainly isn’t perfect, but it’s much more hands-on and practical. It’s not a load of rubbish.