Since about a year there is a recycling-bay in Swinton Place, taking glass, plastics and papers. At first unused, it soon became quite popular as an added opportunity for locals to dispose of their recyclables during the week. Soon the container became over-loaded and full, days before emptying. And so it was for a few weeks, with bags full of waste rising to its sides.
Eventually I decided to remedy the problem, finding out that Camden empties containers that are full usually within 24 hours on notification. All people must do is to dial Camden’s main switchboard 020-7974 4444, to get through to recycling and report the container at the recycling-bay in Swinton Place as being full to brink.
Yesterday was such an occasion and Camden emptied the container within several hours of my call. Now the container is empty (see photo). Still this morning sometimes between 9.30 and 10.45 one or several people felt the need to carry all their recyclables to the container and just dump them next to it, regardless of the fact that the container was actually completely empty. It is something that has happened before, and two weeks ago I hung up little notes asking to “please insert the waste into the container out of neighbourly respect.” Once in the morning I caught one man who also had just dumped his waste in spite of an empty container, and when I showed him that the container was in fact empty, he shrug his shoulders and walked apologetically off (leaving his waste though put). On this and on other occasions I have just taken other people’s rubbish and put it inside the container. It seems a task impossible to some.
Is it not true that if we want a nicer more communal area, we all look after it, as if it was our back-garden? This at least is the way I was brought up in post-war Germany in an era where everybody was very concerned to rethink society in a positive way for humanity. We were constantly reminded that living somewhere the democratic citizen had not just rights, such as waste collection by the council and access to clean water – but also obligations. The obligations are especially pressing when somebody else’s freedom of throwing their waste about carelessly enfrinches upon the freedom of the majority of the neighbours to enjoy the area they live in as anything but a waste dump.
I understand that also there may be cultural attitudes at work here. For example in some cultures there is no regard of what happens outside one’s door, whilst the inside of the house might be super sparkle clean. I learned that lesson, when living in an estate in Tower Hamlets and a family’s smelly rubbish (nappies included) stood in the closed public hallway for days until collection, whilst the inside of their flat could teach many about how clean one can get a home. Make no mistake in presumptions, the man I caught the other morning was in fact West-European.
I think though we have to have general regard and decency for one another, through a measure of common sense of what is mine, yours and what is public and common to all.
It includes checking if a recycling container is in fact empty. It also includes respect for the council’s rules that black bin-liners on “TFL highways (where there is daily rubbish collection),” such as on Gray’s Inn Road, Kings Cross Road, Acton Street and Swinton Street” should only be deposited after dusk.
It includes to upkeep the old rules on cleaning one’s dog mess, and littering, and beyond that, and this is often the difficult bit in inner cities, to clean up even other people’s messes.
It is enough that we suffer the effects of male late night sojourners who relieve themselves from the effects of excessive drinking in our street corners, so we as residents must not also add to this, but actively do anything we can to counter this.
It is time we plant a few flowers, take the home broom onto the street at times, and celebrate living here by making it special, through special little acts of kindness.
Kings Cross has shown in the past decades that it can grow out of its urban dumping ground status and move beyond drugs, hookers and even car chaos (even though the later is but a slow process).
Far from being marginalised and downtrodden we are also in the driving seats. It is evident from campaigns on cycling within this blog.
We must insist on continuing to build our areas as livable places. Sure let’s complain where councils or TFL fail, but we must also use our hands and souls to make this place what we all know it can be.