All-in-one dustcarts lost to mists of time

Great Yarmouth soon after the war, when every household's dustbin was emptied weekly by the council.

Great Yarmouth soon after the war, when every household's dustbin was emptied weekly by the council. Today bulky wheelie bins, two per household, overwhelm narrow streets of terrace houses with small or non-existent gardens or yards. Picture: MERCURY LIBRARY - Credit: Archant

Despite my oft-repeated claim that my lifelong ambition was to be a journalist, I must confess for a short time as a youngster I did fancy becoming... a dustman!

Yarmouth Corporation's refuse destructor after receiving a direct hit by a German bomb in 1942. Pict

Yarmouth Corporation's refuse destructor after receiving a direct hit by a German bomb in 1942. Picture: OFFICIAL RECORD - Credit: Official Record

In my childhood binmen – among them, if I recall correctly, a family friend named Eddie Manship who played football for Gorleston – called weekly in an adapted lorry far removed from today’s sophisticated collection vehicles.

It was modified to include six “roller-blinds” (three each side) like those on a roll-top desk. The crew furled them up to empty into the lorry at shoulder height the two-handled galvanised iron domestic bathtubs filled with the contents from our bins, much of it cinders and ash from coal fires.

Everything was carted away, with no rigid enforced separation of types of waste as happens now. The so-called dust-carts headed to the corporation refuse destructor on the river bank off Lawn Avenue and Caister Road – a 40-year-old facility destroyed during an enemy air raid in 1942, with only the tall chimney surviving. Where the tip was thereafter I do not know.

For me, the operation’s chief appeal was those roll-top “blinds” on the lorry which I yearned to open and close.

I can but surmise that they sub-consciously forecast my adult future would be spent at an office desk, albeit flat and without all those interesting little compartments!

This recollection was sparked recently by reading items about our domestic rubbish, today a process so volatile that - elsewhere in the UK - bin lorries have CCTV cameras to record infringements, bin crews have filed seven million reports on householders infringing the rules, and councils might be banned from using the fines imposed as “cash cow” type of general income.

Most Read

Locally, at Peggotty’s Hut our bi-weekly collections have never been beset by problems and the crews always seem efficient and friendly. Nothing in our bins has been rejected. But have we innocently transgressed, unnoticed?

Households have received a pamphlet listing “three simple rules” for recycling and items that are acceptable or not. Its recycling advice seems largely OK, although I wonder why dry empty bottles and jars should have their lids on. Will lids have to be removed by someone at the depot and put in a different classification for, say, cork, metal or plastic?

The pamphlet says “teams of people hand-sort your items before they are mechanically separated into raw materials needed to make new products” so perhaps they do it.

“No thanks” is a category including plastic bags (which surprised me - didn’t we all use supermarket bags when they were free, or black bin liners for conveniently avoiding messy bins?), cling film, tissues and kitchen roll, dirty or greasy paper, crisp packets, soft plastics and clothes and textiles. How we dispose of those items now? Put them into our grey bins?

Our Town Hall’s website tells us grey bins are for “general waste” so sounds like being the right receptacle...but I am sure that a few years back we were told officially hereabouts that they are for food waste only - in the case of Peggotty’s Hut in Gorleston, one modest plastic bag transferred from kitchen bin to empty wheelie bin on collection day.

Is that bag now forbidden?

An official recycling website says food waste must be kept separate for weekly collection - but that applies not to Yarmouth but only to King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, Norwich and Breckland where householders are issued with two waste caddies.

So, if our local grey bins are for general waste, does that include food waste? And can we now legitimately use the grey bin for items on that list of non-recyclables? If food waste is forbidden in grey or green bins, where can we dispose of it without it decaying?

As Morecambe and Wise used to crack: “What do you think of it so far?” “Rubbish!”