Monday, July 29, 2013


There's a word you may well have used to describe some of my past letters, "Rubbish!" you may have declared.
And I'd be the last to argue with you. There's no way that we can all agree on everything.

But this time the choice of word would be wholly appropriate because, if you've a moment to spare, that's what I'd like us to think about . . . the sobering topic of rubbish.

A few minutes ago I was walking home with the shopping.  It wasn't easy as I had to navigate my way along the pavement through a forest of bulging bags and boxes.
Had the refuse van been delayed?  Had my neighbours accrued a particularly large amount of rubbish over the weekend?
I don't know.  But the boxes and bags, the bins and the bundles, together with the general bevy of unwanted baggage, commandeered almost all the walking space on the pavement.

Th refuse van would soon arrive.  The debris would be driven away.  The quiet, residential street would soon regain its normal, uncluttered appearance.  But that rubbish had to be taken somewhere.  It had to be taken to a depositary where it would join the accumulated waste of all the other streets in the neighbourhood, and it didn't take a mathematician to realise that this single day's collection would amount to a staggering pile of rubbish.

As I side-stepped the bags, I couldn't help reflecting that man is the only species on the planet to produce totally unproductive rubbish.  The so-called rubbish of other species becomes fodder or fertiliser.  Unlike human beings, the other species of the world walk lightly on the earth that gave them birth.

Not only do we leave a heavy footprint, but we are the species who, through over-population, are fast pushing many of our fellow creatures into extinction.

Did you participate in the survey offered online the other week?  If not, click here to see how, in the past seventy years, the population of the world has expanded from two billion to nearly eight billion.

Just think of that in terms of an increase in rubbish!  Bad enough for one person to discard a plastic bottle, but if eight billion of us regularly do the same . . . ?

Our rubbish clogs the land, our discarded plastic clogs the seas and chokes the wildlife.  What can we do about it?

According to the Canadian writer and broadcaster, Bill Casselman, the word 'rubbish' has an Italian source.  It comes from the word 'robaccia'.  In Italian, many words take on the suffix 'acchio' when the word becomes pejorative.  'Roba', meaning stuff, becomes 'robaccia' when it is 'bad stuff', or 'rubbish'.
Has this something to tell us?  Perhaps that it's up to us to prevent the essentially good 'stuff' becoming the wholly detrimental 'rubbish'.

After all, is there any real difference between stuff and rubbish?
Many years ago I came across a small bookcase discarded on the pavement, it has been a valued inhabitant of my home ever since.
A potted fig-tree, once found languishing in a gutter, now thrives happily in my indoor garden.

Couldn't a great deal of what we look upon as rubbish be seen as valuable in the eyes of others?  And what of packaging?  Instead of throwing out those bag and boxes, mightn't they come in useful in the future or serve some other purpose in the present?

Ignorance, too, subscribes to our wastefulness.  Unaware that, given a little time and care they will flower again, we discard our house-plants the moment they cease to bloom.  Unaware of the conservation techniques of our forebears, we throw out large amounts of perfectly good and nourishing food.

Talking of which, tell me, have you heard of the Dippy Egg?
As you enjoy your boiled egg for breakfast tomorrow morning, reflect on this marketing breakthrough.

An enterprising fast-food manufacturer has produced a pre-cooked, pasteurised egg.  It comes in its own shell in a plastic pot which, when filled with boiling water, will produce the perfect runny egg in five minutes!  True, the egg-shell itself is bio-degradable . . . but what about the plethora of small plastic pots that this enterprise is scattering so wantonly around the globe?

On our over-crowded planet, disposal space for rubbish is finite and fast-disappearing.

It we're not to  become buried beneath a vast range of mountains entirely of our own making, something needs to be done . . . and done quickly.

Just look at this picture . . . it wouldn't be a pleasant way to go.

And I'm sure you won't be saying, "Rubbish!" to that!