Hackney recycles

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 September, 2005, 12:00am

Monday mornings are unpleasant. They jar the still-sleeping senses, arriving far too abruptly after a lazy weekend, and remind our resting souls that the train to reality is nearing our station - so we had better skip the toast and get ready for work.

Mondays are made worse here in Hackney by the twin terrors of heavy traffic and the rubbish collections. The dustmen arrive at 7am; the whirl and din of the crusher is a nauseating alarm call of both noise and smell, especially in summer, when the windows are open. There is also the rush hour, with motorists revving and beeping, a hell compounded by the geezer who sounds his Tarzan horn. It's all enough to get you out of bed.

But now there is a new round of noise to contend with: the recycling workers, delighting in their dawn chorus of smashing bottles and clanking cans. Bizarrely, no locals seem to mind. Recycling in De Beauvoir town, a largely middle-class oasis in East London, is seen as a worthy cause, much like the Victorian chores of churchgoing and painting the globe pink. There is a smug feeling of doing your bit for the planet. Besides, much as you would like to, you cannot 'shush' the recycling men - that would be like telling carol singers to shut up.

Where once Hackney denizens obligingly carried such rubbish to communal recycling bins, now they just put it out for kerbside collection. They can be seen doing this late on Sunday nights. Many of them seem to be smiling, almost smug; no doubt they are savouring the hidden benefits.

It seems that recycling sates our nosiness. Unlike rubbish, which is kept in black plastic bags and stored in bins, the recycling box affords an insight into people's tastes and foibles. No53 reads The Daily Telegraph (bumpkin!), while No4 takes the Daily Mail (fascist!). Mrs Smith at No63 is possibly on hard times, unless she actually prefers the cheaper, Tesco-brand baked beans. No97 is risking communal wrath, ditching her Cosmopolitan rather than saving it for the doctor's waiting room at No105. Doesn't she know sick people love fashion magazines?

This recycling ritual is far from common across the capital. Londoners will soon become the worst in Britain at recycling. Just 13.3 per cent of household garbage is recycled, compared with the national average of 23 per cent. That makes us the worst in Europe, far behind Norway's 68 per cent and Germany's 57 per cent.

Hackney recycles 6 per cent of household waste - still far off the 34 per cent of Hillingdon in west London, near Heathrow airport. Still, Hackney fares better than the 2 per cent in Newham and 5 per cent in Tower Hamlets. Perhaps they need a wake-up call.