Shortly before moving to Brighton, I joined a facebook group where people share photos of Brighton, just for the sake of sharing the beauty and all of Brighton with other people. Someone posted a gorgeous series of photos called “Bins at sunrise”. It was really gorgeous and makes you think, are bins really that ugly? What makes them ugly?
Well, bins stink. Bins are sticky. Overflowing bins make it difficult to move around the street. Bins show you what you don’t need to see, which is the unwanted bits of humans’ material creations: empty pizza boxes, drink bottles, cardboard and foil that cans come in into stores, worn out items of clothing, spare shoes.
Binmen working for the Brighton and Hove council have been on strike caused by poor working conditions and low salaries.
But this makes no sense. If after only a few weeks city streets become a health hazard to those living in the city, something’s off. And I don’t mean the milk in that half-empty bottle someone discarded in the street (like a) they couldn’t drink it b) they couldn’t pour it out c) they couldn’t put the bottle in the recycling bin instead). How do we end up producing so much rubbish?
Rubbish has always fascinated me, because there’s so much of it (or maybe that scene from Judy Moody saves the world just got stuck in my brain a little bit too deep). And yet, some people don’t seem to care. They get all frantic about TikTok ’cause it’s everywhere (particularly on Instagram) but not about rubbish! Rubbish has been around for way longer. But we don’t see it because it’s usually magically picked up by the invisible binmen who work for little less than minimum wage.
As for someone who makes us feel better about ourselves by removing the highly visible and smelly consequences of our actions, they should surely be paid more – what they’re doing is little short of magic.
Where I was going with this is that binmen have been doing a great job striking. Finally we get a chance to see just how awful we are at consuming the goods we’ve been given in this contemporary western world. And, if you ask me, they might as well get paid much more while not carrying out their jobs. The world could be better off for it, ’cause maybe we’d see how much rubbish we’re actually making, and maybe cut our unsustainable consumption habits a little… or a lot.
The problem is not the striking binmen. The problem is not their low salaries. The problem is us.