Two weeks back I had to take to the local council collection point, the 'Recycling Centre', a few pieces of miscellaneous rubbish, a broken microwave, some kitchenware, a few metres of cracked plastic water piping, some leaking shed roofing material, a mound of cardboard boxes, and waste wood from a demolished shed. How much is actually recycled is an open question. The metal, I imagine, has some value (it is, after all, and even though it is now waste, much lower in entropy than the metallic ores from which it was originally derived).
But for all I know the plastics, the cardboard and the wood, are probably marginally economic as resources and may be best burned to generate heat and save primary energy consumption. Perhaps everything except the metal, and in spite of our careful streaming, goes into landfill. The Council would surely say otherwise, but one has doubts. However, the service is free for householders depositing their own domestic rubbish, so these doubts count for little and the place is very popular. Indeed, I had to queue with my groaning truck for some ten minutes to get in to the site.
However, apart from the sound of one car leaving and the next driving in, the shuffling footfall of other visitors on the openwork stairs on the sides of the vast skips, and the intermittent clatter of discarded materials falling into those cavernous containers, the place was completely silent.
Perhaps there were twenty people milling about at any one time and no one said a word. Those who had arrived together communicated by gestures; eye contact was carefully avoided, and even the staff, though heavy, hairy men clearly capable of demolishing a house with their bare hands while laughing cacophonously had the noiseless tact of first class butlers. Whispered queries were answered with discrete gestures. Is this unique to my area, or to Britain? I suspect it might be an extreme case, but of a very general phenomenon. Is it shame? Is that part of the explanation of fly-tipping? No one wants to be seen striding around a tip holding objects which by definition are your possessions, otherwise you would have to pay the fee: a broken electric lawnmower, a third rate chair, a truly hideous lamp? Would we rather drop these after dark in a layby than confess to ownership? Yes, and for the same reason that direct excretion from the body is a very private business. One learns a lot about someone from their spoor, and, now I come to think of it, I really ought not to have told you about the microwave and the kitchen trash. Thank goodness I didn't mention the brands.