Knowledge is power

Walking my children to school this morning, a different kind of education presented itself to me.

The council here have just introduced a recycling regime which involves fortnightly bin collections and green recycling tubs. This morning was the first collection of the green tubs which are meant to contain glass, plastic and tin cans. The full tubs lined the streets as we walked our route to school and inside them was the lesson.

It was as if all the bin owners had invited me into their house to look inside their cupboards and refrigerators to see what they ate and drank.

Some people seemed to live off diet coke, others, beer – and that beer was not obtained from the local supermarket because I couldn’t recognise it. Everybody drank milk.

Then it dawned on my why supermarkets, among other organisations, are so keen to keep track of all our spending habits. As I examined the contents of these boxes I was able to form a picture of the type of person who lived in that house and imagine what else they might buy. So if a person drank a lot of diet coke, it stands to reason that they might also be interested in low fat foods or slimming products. If I saw a box full of empty hydrogen peroxide bottles and fertiliser bags for example, then I could guess the hobby of that person and contact the relevant authorities…

It was a powerful lesson about the collation of information; knowledge is power.

One slight drawback I noticed with this scheme though.

It was calm this morning as we walked to school. On a windy day all those precariously stacked, uncrushed plastic milk cartons will be swirling round the estates like so many large and transparent rats.

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