The Cone

Like to recycle? Here is the ultimate in waste disposal for the green at heart. A repost charting the rise and fall of The Cone in the lives of the Shrewsdays.

Some time ago, around two years to be precise, there was a whole lot of shenanigans in our town about rot.

British people have a troubled relationship with their refuse.

We are wedded to a thing we call, here, a Wheelie Bin. It is a large push-around canister which holds a prescribed amount of a prescribed type of rubbish.

The green bin has become an icon round our way. It represents everything that is both civilised and uncivilised about Britain. The council gives little barbie-sized ones away during promotions. All the kids have them in their dolls houses.

People are covetous of their space, and tussle with anyone who tries to dump their trash into someone else’s bin. Neighbourhood disputes break out. A man’s bin is his own domain, a nether region no-one wishes to view, but which is the undisputed right of every English person.

Not everything, however, can go into a bin.

What about meat? We lobbied the council. Before you know it, we will have unspeakables in our beautiful bins, and unspeakables attract unutterables, generally with a long wiry tail and four boney pitter-patters.

The Council paused, and placed the tips of its fingers together. It rubbed its proverbial chin in deep thought. And then it said: Here, try these.

It was a green cone. A plastic 3D miracle.

This is what we were urged to do: queue. up for hours at Sainsbury’s supermarket car park, and use a voucher to get your green piece of plastic for just Β£10.

Then, dig an obscenely large hole in your garden: a clay pit which collects water and attracts all under fives to come and mud wrestle.

Remove said under fives. Give them a bath.

Then put something which looks for all the world like a washing basket in the hole, and fix a green plastic cone atop it, thick end at the bottom, thin end pointing skywards with a convenient open-shut lid.

When you have a roast and the bones need somewhere to go, fear not: they go in the cone.

Scraps which even the dog will not touch: these pop into your friendly neighbourhood cone.

Even unsightly doggie doings can be dispatched safely. It is a modern miracle.

Some of us, myself included, shook our heads darkly and didn’t hold with it all. And Time, that great leveler, has proved that there are things about The Cone which are earth-fostering and eco-friendly: and things which are dark and dastardly.

You’ve got to say one thing about it: it can hold its smell. The gases expelled by the unthinkable contents do not make their way into the outside air.

Right up till the moment you take the lid off. And then, bejesus, it knocks you flat. Unless you are a small connoisseur, with triangular ears and four legs.

The cone is fed from the scraps jar, which lives on the working surface in the corner of the kitchen.

We play a daredevil game, Phil and I. It’s called How Full Is Your Scraps Jar, and it entails refusing to accept that the jar is full on your shift. When Phil enters the kitchen with a proprietorial air, I run like the wind, away from the kitchen, anywhere.

Because discovery of the scraps jar, seething with recycling potential, is imminent. Phil will be forced to empty the jar.

I think we are both secretly hoping that the sorry receptacle will become such a teeming source of life that it will simply take itself off, out of the kitchen door, down to the green cone, and hop in to join the party.

In the warm months it does just about take the primeval slime that is produced by a nice average family of four.

My sister, who has Big Al contributing liberally, gave up using it sometime during August, just as the first morsels began to peep over the top of the cone in a grotesque parody of Pandora’s Box.

We have continued bravely on. Until yesterday.

Because no self-respecting bacteria is staying around here to be abused by the cold of a blustery March. They have packed their microscopic little suitcases and headed off for warmer climes.

And so that living, breathing thing is suspended in gruesome stasis. And the food is simply piling up hopefully. Maybe, it thinks (for surely by now it has a consciousness) now is a good time to stroll around and take the air. By storm.

Phil stomped in from the garden, shoulders hunched. I had stuck it out, once more, until his shift.

“That food out there’s piling up a bit”, he muttered gruffly.

I agreed with grim acquiescence.

“Better stop using it for a while”, said the man who styles himself High Emperor of Recycling.

“Yes,” I concurred. “We better had.”

So out there The Big Idea sits. It would work in a rainforest: but here in my freezing back yard?

Not a chance.



55 thoughts on “The Cone

  1. So it’s for everything except vegetable waste is it? Does that all go onto a compost heap?

    I don’t understand re-cycling – my sister in London spends a good couple of hours a day re-cycling and when I go there I live in fear of putting the wrong thing in the wrong box. Re-cycling here leaves a lot to be desired – not much separation at all – but at least it’s quick!

    Sounds a complete nightmare!

    1. Quite frankly, EB, we just chuck everything into it…although since we decided to give it a rest the dog is getting notceably fatter.

      The British take recycling – like queuing- to idiotic proportions.

      Who colour codes their rubbish? Seriously?

  2. I’ve wheelie bin there and got the T-shirt with the complexities of British rubbish (although the collectors of one’s fortnightly tribute (it really SHOULD be weekly!) in that area seem more tolerant than in other parts of the country. They allow one to have the lid slighlty overflowing or for the bin to be a few inches out of alignment – things like that. This cone thing, though, I cone not say I have cone nectared with. It sounds like the pits to me.

  3. I’m confused. Is it supposed to decompose?

    We have little green bins with special biodegradable bags for all food scraps; there;s very little smell. Once the bag is full we tie it up and throw it in the big green bin. Seems to work pretty well.

    1. It is confusing everyone, Tilly. The idea is indeed that it rots down and makes more space. But what self respecting bacteria is going to come out and munch at minus three?

      1. I was kidding! I meant the bacteria could knit themselves some scarves and mittens.

        But don’t tell Phil this bit, and see what happens πŸ˜‰

      2. It’s ok, Tilly, irony dripping from every one of the seven letters πŸ˜€ I promise not to pop my Kaffe Facett into there. Anyone can see you’d need far too many tiny knitting needles.

  4. This was fun! I must say I’m somewhat curious when you wrote this. The tone reminds me of the first one of yours I ever read about the blowfish, last fall; which enamored me immediately…

    1. You are clever, Brett. I wrote this in happier times: I have always wondered whether my state of mind shows as clearly in my writing as it does on my face. Sense of humour is the first thing to disappear, for me, when the going gets tough.

  5. That is a class piece of design Kate. We have a box with a lid and a handle. The handle has already broken off. I’ve now noticed how much fruit I eat. This makes me feel good about myself.

    1. You have my admiration, Jim, on the fruit front (not easy to say early int the morning, that). My food of choice is hamburgers. Because I have a family I cook healthy-ish food, but the moment they off to university my cone will be full of hamburgers and I won’t fit out of my front door.

  6. Very interesting how it’s all supposed to work. We have recently been given by the town a very large blue bin to put all types of recyclables in..paper, plastic, metal, newspapers, everything but actual garbage as in food leftovers. The food leftovers are nicely packed in plastic bags and placed in the huge brown bin which is then picked up weekly.

    Sounds like the whole composting thing is a bit more difficult for you, obviously, they want you to only eat once or twice a week so you don’t overflow the cone. Or, perhaps, every home should be provided with about 5 dogs to handle scrapage.

  7. Hmm, that looks like a very sci fi compost bin. Try seeing if some of the bottom is ready and shovel it into a separate container, that worked for our more normal looking proper compost bin. Bin collections are a pet subject that I’m brewing into a post too. πŸ™‚

    1. Ah, would that it were a composter, IE; it is hermetically sealed so that our little four footed friends cannot, ever, reach it. The blurb that comes with it says it should rot down and we have stuff to chuck in to it to speed up the process. But it doesn’t seem to be doing the trick and I daren’t dig the whole thing up for fear of finding primeval slime at the bottom….

  8. love it – unspeakables attract unutterables. We have that issue as well, though I’m surprised your unutterables aren’t invading the cone. For our family of 5, we have three compost bins out back – and that’s without adding meat (which attracts our unutterables, bandit-masked and fluffy tailed), which goes in the actual garbage.

    1. We thought the unutterables might make an appearance, Lexy, but the mesh at the bottom theoretically keeps them out. I should put out a ratcam to find out whether their claims have substance πŸ˜€

  9. When I was in England, I was impressed by the fastidiousness of environmental safeguards. I can see how it could quickly become cumbersome to live with, though. We recycle in our blue bin (a la Lou above). Usually, we have so much that the every-other-week pickup sees us overflowing.

    In normal times, we probably make a bag of normal trash a week. These days, with a pending move, we are chucking a lot more into the bin, simply because we don’t know what else to do with it, and we don’t want to move it.

    We always wanted to try composting. If we ever have a mountain cabin, we plan to have a composting toilet. In reality, though, the thought of sitting on all that doesn’t appeal much to me. πŸ™‚

    1. Gracious, a composting toilet. My spirit quakes at the very thought, Andra: you are a woman of stern stuff.

      Your mountain cabin is one of the nicest mental images I have heard of in a long time.

  10. I find Councils aren’t comprised of real people (my theory is that individuals are taken over en masse by some Über-alien the minute they pass election, possibly even before). So while they can mime people gestures and speak voluminous amounts of… er… speak voluminously on any number of topics, they aren’t as a rule on the same page as the humans they allegedly serve (ha!) and who must abide by their rulings. Did any members of that Council actually try out this clever idea before exhorting the general public to invest in the darn cones?

    1. There’s an interesting question, Ruth, and one which I will forward to the gentlemen in question.

      When it has been signed in triplicate and referred on to several departments, I expect it will be inadvertently returned to sender.

  11. If I had to put meat waste into something separate, I’d get a worm-composter, that way the worms (tiger worms, not earthworms) do all the work of turning it into (apparently) nice compost. But a cone… yuk! 😦

    Most (all?) councils are… not in touch with anything or anybody other than themselves.

      1. I think you’d need a special bin for them, the stuff inside needs turning. As for sub zero temps, as I understand it, the compost gets warm…

  12. Goodness me, one of your commentators actually asked if the Council tried out the idea! Where is the fun in that? Much better to get the mere public to experiment, then you have an excuse to spend more money if it all goes wrong. However, if they went on a trip to somewhere like Bermuda to try it…….

    Cynical? Moi?


  13. I compost regularly, but I never once thought about how climate would affect this! Of course it makes sense. I wouldn’t be so inclined in freezing weather either. When I saw your title, Kate, I was afaid poor Macaulay was back in that “cone/halo” contraption again! I’m glad the problem was basically refuse! Reposts are great when you have other things on your mind. I’m never going to be able to play “catch up” so I read each one as though for the first time, and simply enjoy! Debra

    1. Glad you enjoyed this one, Debra. I haven’t reposted twice in a week for a long time, but this week has been insane! When one needs matchsticks to prop open one’s eyes, it’s time to put the laptop away and give in gracefully πŸ™‚ This is one of my favourites.

      1. I am the one in the crowd of friends who continually reminds everyone to be kind to themselves!! I’ll add you as one of my long-distance friends, how’s that! D

  14. Good blog, Kate! Hmm our dog used to do most of our recycling, as no doubt Mac is helping you out at the moment. The rest is done by Wiggly Wiggler worms. Except onions. They don’t like onions – and oh they like to sleep in the winter…so perhaps, thinking about it, we could do with a Cone too! πŸ˜‰

  15. Doesn’t anyone feed scraps to their DOGS anymore!! I find the cone deeply unsettling, but also i find the fact that the council came up with this idea quite invigorating, throw some lime into the hole!! it takes away the nasty smell and helps the icky stuff go away! true.. the old buggers used to throw some in the outhouses! Works like a charm! c

  16. It’s delightful to know that other people fret over their compost like we do. The dance of the countertop bin to the compost pile, with the festering, belidded nonsense that one hopes will escape on its own?

    Oh, I know the steps!

  17. Oh! No! Please don’t let this cone contraption spread to Canada! I have enough on my plate…Did you know that my FIL wanted to compost dog poop? It’s all just too much for me to bare!

    1. At the top of my parents’ garden is a dog poop composter. It is pure evil. Approaching it is something for which one has to spend whole days mustering up courage.

      Suffice to say, I sympathise, Belle. Don’t ever let a cone into your life πŸ˜€

  18. Our compost bin worked perfectly ~ we chucked stuff into it year round and every spring opened the door at the bottom and pulled out lovely compost for the garden. But we never put in meat, eggs, or dairy ~ just veggies, fruits, and grasses.

    Your cone sounds like a smelly contraption full of rotting unspeakables. I would evade the scrap detail too! πŸ˜‰

    1. I think the cone was the council’s answer to fortnightly refuse collections, Nancy. Rather than have meat/dairy sit in a warm wheelie bin for two weeks we could put it in a warm cone for two weeks.

      It is not ideal πŸ˜€

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