Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Column, August 22, 2006

THERE is something fitting about the English sending us their rubbish to be deposited in large holes left after they extracted whatever useful that once resided there.
They left us a legacy of large, worked-out quarries and so I suppose that, in a way, it’s thoughtful of them to come up with a handy way of filling them up.
The world is built with Welsh brick and roofed with Welsh slate, so there’s a kind of symmetry to them sending us something to put back into them. Just slightly sad that it wasn’t something a little more desirable than millions of tonnes of rubbish.
I’m not objecting to us taking it because it’s English rubbish mind you. I’d like to know the figures for how much rubbish is exported from Wales to English landfill sites before I sallied forth on my high horse.
I suspect though that, as a predominantly rural nation without the huge urban sprawls generating the vast mountains of rubbish that English cities do, we are a net importer of rubbish – with more coming in than ever goes out.
You also have to be ever so slightly careful about levelling such criticism against a neighbour as near as Liverpool.
The city was built by the Welsh. We even held eisteddfodau over the water in Birkenhead. So many of its present residents who are generating the rubbish to be dumped in Hafod Quarry, near Wrexham, are Welsh by parentage, if not by birthplace. At least they’re sending something to the old country.
As the nearest large city to North Wales it still provides a ready source of employment to many young people, so it’s a little difficult to object to disposing of rubbish from them that would have been coming our way anyway had they stayed.
So those fulminating against the idea of English rubbish sullying our pristine Welsh landfill sites ought, perhaps, to take a deep breath and – in the words of those Scousers who would foist their refuse upon us – calm down.
But what is objectionable is the fact that we seem to have no control over what rubbish is dumped in our back yard at all.
This is clear from the fact that rather than our Assembly dealing with this matter, as it should, it has taken the redoubtable Martyn Jones, who has had to ask for a meeting with Environment minister David Milliband to try to sort this out.
You’ll note that this a Westminster MP talking to a Westminster minister. Presumably this is one of those irritating things that remains the preserve of the London parliament and so despite the Assembly’s ability to talk, oh my how they can talk, this is not one of the things they can talk about.
Or rather, they might be able to talk about it, but there is precious little they can do about it. And there should be something they can do about it.
The UK as a whole has a scandalous record when it comes to recycling its rubbish, preferring instead to burn or bury it, resulting in massive landfill sites stroing up who knows what problems for the future, or incinerators belching out who knows what into the atmosphere.
One authority which set up a high-profile recycling scheme was even found to be shipping the supposedly recycled rubbish off to India for sorting violating all manner of international treaties governing what rubbish can be shipped where.
But it seems that if you want to ship your rubbish to Wales then come one, come all, plenty of room here. And if Liverpool can do it, then you wonder where else is eying up our redundant quarries in the hope they will provide a home for their unwanted waste.
I’VE written before about the joys of the correspondence that this column attracts. Some of it a real pleasure to read, and not just when people are agreeing with me.
But now an again you get the odd, the very odd, letter or e-mail that just rocks you back on your heels.
The latest comes from someone who believes he has something useful to add to the discussion about the Rhyl Cycling Club tragedy.
In his email ‘Mr Williams’ says: “To look at both sides of the coin I do not believe it was a wise decision by the Rhyl Club to organise an outing on such a frosty morning with icy roads. There are faults with both sides.”
In other words, we’re all fine to share the roads when the conditions are fine, but if it a bit nippy then the roads become the preserve of the people who have the only real right to be there – the motorist.
So that’s cyclists put in their place then, save your weird habit for when it’s sunny.
As I said, as more and more people take up cycling the nation is dividing into those who know what it’s like to ride a bike on public roads and those who don’t.
And I know which of those groups makes the better car drivers as a result.

NOT Entirely Surprising News – an Iraqi NCO being trained in Wales has decided that, on balance, he prefers the peace and quiet of Wales to the civil war of his home country.
He and an Iraqi interpreter on a night out in Cardiff at the end of their training course, failed to turn up for their passing out parade, after which they would be shipped back to the war zone that is their country.
So, the choice confronting them was a simple one – do your duty and go back to the war zone that is your home country. Or continue enjoying the welcome in the hillsides, or anywhere else you could evade detection for that matter.
Hmm, Brecon or Baghdad, Brecon or Baghdad – it’s a poser I’m sure you’ll agree. But on balance I think you and I would choose the place where there was less chance of meeting a grisly death by decapitation or power drill.
I’m sure their superiors back in Baghdad won’t see it this way, but at least his British training taught this NCO to use his initiative.


Rhys Wynne said...

I've got a bit of a thing about refuse being shipped around. I often see bin lorries from the Vale of Glamorgan LA entering a site just north of Caerphilly (having already travelled through Cardiff LA)
Rubbish from Bristol is taken on a train to the English Midlands and rubbish form Naples in Italy is taken by boat to Albania.

BUT having Englsih rubbish dumped in Wales is something else! The fact that the company that bought and opertaes this site is owned by a Local Authority in a different area seems even more wrong.

I think that every LA or whatever should have to deal with their own waste. Urban area's then whould have much more of an incentive to reduce waste rather than bending the rules regarding the % of waste the bury by either re-classifying the waste or simply just transporting it to somewhere else.

Ifan Morganwg said...

In other news, Cardiff are talking about opeining up a new landfill near Creigiau once Lamby Way fills up in 3 years.

Apparently they make 3.3m very year by accepting waste from other cities to be dumped there.

Some are suspicious that the place they've decided to put the rubbish is the only Plaid Cymru ward in a Lib Dem dominated city.

Rhys Wynne said...

PC have 4 councillors representing 3 wards in Cardiff (the have 2 in Riverside and a LibDem form Cathays has switched), but I don't think that has anything to do with it.

A local residant at Creigiau was on the radio (obviously aginst the plan), but his claim was that the council expect opposition to the Creigiau plan, and what they really want to do is buid a large scale waste incinerator plant on the border of Cardiff and Newport (sparsley populated) in a joint scheme with Newport Council. This plant would then be a money spinner as waste is then brought in from other areas for burning.

Again, the solution for dealing with waste isn't to produce less of it, but try and dispose of it in a different way. Crazy.

seren said...

V disappointing Banksy... why is it OK for Liverpool councils to disregard recycling and take the easy option of dumping? Even easier when it's dumping outside your own area.
Mersey Waste Holdings are jumping the gun - a Wxm Council planning meeting is due on September 4 but the company started dumping today to set a precedent.
And a bit of investigative journalism, y'know that thing you teach, might have revealed that Wales does export some of its waste but it imports 1m tonnes (800,000t of it from England).
We're in danger of becoming a dumping ground because we haven't got the political powers to say "no".
So, if our politicians can't deliver, the people will have to take matters into our own hands and get down to Hafod quarry and block the lorries.
Don't drop this one - stay on the case because it has massive significance beyond Johnstown.

Ifan Morganwg said...

Rhys, I've talked to those involved and the problem seems to be that it will take 7 years to build the incinerator plant in tandem with Newport council while it will only take 3 for Lamby Way to fill up.

Banksy said...

Seren, I think you've missed my point.

Where did I say it was ok for Mersey Waste to ignore recycling. In fact I made quite the reverse point.

What I did say was that Wales was a net importer of waste due to the fact it does not have the large cities that generate such waste.

It also has a multiplicity of worked-out quarries which must look very tempting to those either side of the border with rubbish to dump in them.

The real scandal is that Mersey and other authorities are failing to fulfil their recycling quotas, using whatever landfill they can, and then accepting whatever fines come their way, which are obviouslty not having sufficient deterrent effect.

Ifan M Jones said...

I wouldn't get too keen on the fact that we held Eisteddfodau in Liverpool, Banksy.

We had Eisteddfodau in many other parts on England too (the first Gorsedd ceremony was held on Primrose Hill, London) and according to the only surviving attendant of the last Eisteddfod in Liverpool it was "a bit crap, really".

As nice a city as Liverpool is and however much I might support their football team, they have perhaps the worst record when it comes to treating Wales with any dignity.

Banksy said...

I mentioned the Merseyside eisteddfodau only to illustrate te fact that a lot of Welsh people lived and live there.

As for the last one being 'a bit crap' - that's as maybe. But I haven't heard the same thing of the one in Birkenhead where Hedd Wyn won, posthumously.

And I didn't know there was a league table of cities that treat Wales with dignity. And if Liverpool is the worst, who is in the Premiership?

Ifan Morganwg said...

"And I didn't know there was a league table of cities that treat Wales with dignity. And if Liverpool is the worst, who is in the Premiership?"

Kalyazin, Russia