The opening ceremony of the XXX Summer Olympics in London on Friday was a brilliant rock opera that had more to do with music and literature than water polo and wrestling.
Sure, there was the living, breathing timeline depicting the ascent of the British people from simple, agrarian times through the oppressive industrial revolution. Real sod was rolled up like carpeting and replaced with massive gears and working smokestacks.
It was the soundtrack of the ceremony that brought the tale up to date, using the music of the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Who and David Bowie.
James Bond dropped in on Buckingham Palace in a clever video piece, and Mr. Bean found himself at the keyboard.
If the local Olympic committee really wanted to serve up a sample of British culture, they had to look no further than how trash is collected. Enter the green garbage tote, or as the Brits call them, “wheelie bins.”
Most Buffalo area residences are supplied with a 65-gallon tote with a hinged lid, designed to keep garage in and vermin out. They are at the top of the size chart in such historic locales as Oxford, which also offers two smaller size bins.
It’s interesting to note that each wheelie bin in Oxford is outfitted with a microchip, a fact that has made some residents nervous that their trash may be searched or otherwise scrutinized by the government.
“[This is] so we can track lost bins, as each has a serial number relating to the property it was delivered to,” states the Oxford website. “In the future we will be able to deal with customer enquiries better by having live information fed from the trucks to the call centre, for instance why a bin hasn’t been collected or where the crews are on the rounds -- no personal data is held on the chips, only address data.”
Maybe the late British author George Orwell should have had a place in the ceremony. After all, it was his novel, “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” that addressed the issue of a futuristic state that controls every aspect of citizens’ lives. In Oxford, “Big Brother” even has his hands in your trash.
British firms that sell wheelie bins are very particular about their use.
“We hope everyone knows what we mean by a wheelie bin, some people still use the term dustbin. We do sell dustbins, although most people don’t use them as dustbins these days. Garbage Bins, Refuse Bins, Wheely Bins, Wheeled Bins, Wheeled Waste Containers, Commercial Waste, Eurobins, Bins and Rubbish Bins are also terms that are used. Our Wheelie Bins are the lowest price, cheap even, but still top quality,” according to britishbins.co.uk.
Government in Britain worries about residents putting their wheelie bins out too early or in such a way that interferes with walkers.
“We do not expect residents who live in properties with no front garden to
use wheelie bins, and do not deliver bins to them. These residents will instead get branded sacks. We expect residents to take all reasonable steps to avoid a nuisance or a danger from obstructing the footway. Although we will try to persuade people to put their bin out on the day of collection only, we do have powers to take action against those who place waste out too early or who leave containers out too long, and we employ enforcement staff for this purpose,” advises the Oxford website.
To counteract the ugliness of the heavy plastic bins, many companies sell stock or customized stickers to decorate their wheelie bins. One such firm, Bright Star Kids, had the following review posted on its website: --- “I bought these because I wanted something tidy that still differentiated our bins from our neighbors. I found them a little fidly to get on without any air bubbles but two years later and they’re still on without peeling.”
Webster’s defines fidly as “requiring an annoying amount of close attention.” We Americans might say “a pain.” I’m not sure what David Bowie would say.
(David F. Sherman a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of approximately 75,000 homes. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at email@example.com)