The invasion of the wheelie bins

Once I thought nothing could make residential Britain look uglier than pebble-dashing, PVC windows and satellite dishes. I was wrong. As if the country had not been brutally homogenised enough by the fact that every high street has the same shops, now every residential road is reduced to being an identical backdrop for a very persistent invader: the wheelie bin. Lined up like Daleks, they are breeding in my North London neighbourhood, blocking front gardens and pavements. Outside houses split into flats, where each has its own set, there are actual crowds of these 4.5ft graceless plastic buckets, which come in multiple colours for different sorts of rubbish. When wheelie bins first

How Rome’s rubbish became a political problem

‘Excommunication,’ reads a stone plaque on the wall of the church of St Theodore in Rome, ‘and a fine of 200 gold ducats for any person who should dare to unload… waste of any kind and cause a stink outside these precincts.’ This threat might have worked when the plaque was erected in 1703, but it certainly doesn’t work now. A few paces down the street, a waist-high pile of stinking rubbish bags festers in the autumn sunlight, pecked at by seagulls. In Rome, even the rubbish is eternal. Italy’s capital is strewn with litter — geological layers of the stuff. In a pile of last year’s crumbled leaves by

The fraudulent business of recycling

I am a litter picker. No, not one of those high-minded volunteers who have proliferated of late with litter-picking sticks and black bags, but a professional: I am paid to empty the bins and collect the debris left by the public in a small park in Middle England. And I’m angry, not with the great British public who leave the stuff but with the real litter louts who are the root cause of the problem. As summer approaches and people who have been stuck indoors crowd into the beauty spots and on to the beaches, litter becomes a hot topic and it is important to be clear where the blame

What Greenpeace’s ‘Wasteminster’ stunt won’t tell you

Greenpeace has been responsible for many a fatuous stunt over the years, but its latest video has a point. It shows an animated Boris Johnson making a speech outside 10 Downing Street, boasting about his government’s environmental achievements, like banning plastic straws. Meanwhile, plastic waste starts to rain out of the sky, engulfing the Prime Minister as well as all of Downing Street, the Cabinet Office and much of the Foreign Office, too. This immense pile, we are told, is the quantity of plastic waste which we are dumping daily on developing countries. I’ll take Greenpeace’s word for it that the size of the pile is accurate. But whether our

It’s about time we cleaned up our filthy rivers

Cold water swimming has gone from an eccentric and very niche pursuit to something everyone is doing – and is very keen to tell you about, whether or not you’re interested. There’s been a bit of a backlash against the sport’s popularity recently, with a variety of objections. The first comes from the ‘in my day, we called it swimming’ brigade, who are particularly aerated about the current fashionable term ‘wild swimming’. It’s just swimming, they say, and people who do it aren’t any more special than anyone else. The second is the one that accompanies every new trend: it’s being colonised by annoying middle class types who are turning

I have always liked angry food: Ugly Butterfly reviewed

Ugly Butterfly is a zero-waste restaurant and champagne bar on the King’s Road, Chelsea. The ‘champagne bar’ addition is so awful as to be pantomime villainous — I think of zero-waste diamonds and zero-waste wars — but perhaps they need this kind of duplicity to seduce the punters, who move so slowly towards wisdom? ‘Zero-waste’ isn’t an advertising catchphrase designed for Chelsea and its constituent tractors and immaculate blondes, unless they are very drunk. It is from Adam Handling, who has six venues, including the Frog in Hoxton and the sustainable deli Bean & Wheat in Old Street. Ugly Butterfly is pretty, because anything ugly in Chelsea would shrivel through