The UK waste industry developed when people began producing too much waste as the population grew. Nowadays, there are multiple types of waste and multiple ways to dispose of it. From the moment you throw something away, to the moment it ends up at a landfill or recycled, there is an entire process that occurs.

Recycling isn’t new. Towards the end of the Second World War, necessities were rationed and so people couldn’t afford to throw things away. During the war, the infrastructure for “salvage” as recycling was then called, was provided by the waste management industry and 9 million tons of waste was salvaged.

The 1970s, however, Britain had become a consumer society and we began to see the emergence of a “throwaway” nation. Environmental awareness was inspired by a growing fear of our wastefulness. So the production of modern rubbish disposal trucks and further methods of recycling a large amount of waste were introduced.

During the late 1970s, Southend Council began having problems with the refuse collection service. Every time that a new house was built in Southend, the dustmen demanded a bonus payment for collecting the rubbish from it. Some routes, with lots of new houses, had become extremely costly for the council. For over a century, domestic waste was handled by local authorities. But there were no laws against outsourcing the work to private contractors.

From this, came the birth of the privatisation of Southend’s public services. In 1981 Southend Council handed over its refuse collection service to a private contractor and all the dustmen were made redundant, although most were rehired by the private contractor “Exclusive Cleaning Ltd”.

Despite making huge profits, Exclusive Cleaning was charging Southend’s ratepayers half a million pound less, than when the council was collecting the rubbish. Up and down the country 117 other local authorities all paid £100 each for a copy of Southend’s waste privatisation blueprint.

Many environmentalists came to believe that private businesses would never reduce waste because that means fewer profits. But someone had found a way to make money out of recycling and in 1977 the first-ever “Bottle Bank” was introduced. These were then joined by banks for paper, aluminium and even old clothes. By the mid-eighties, supermarket car parks had become mini recycling plants.

However, only a fraction of recyclables were getting processed using this method and it eventually became clear that for the recycling process to be truly effective, it had to begin at the consumer’s home. Separating our rubbish into different bins at home, makes us feel better about our environmental impact.

The waste management industry is continually working towards finding ways to preserve precious resources, often turning to techniques that we haven’t used since the wartime era of salvage. But improving waste management in Southend-on-Sea isn’t enough. At the heart of Britain in the 1950s was a mindset, exemplified by “make do and mend”, where people would only throw away what they could no longer find a use for and that way of thinking has not yet been rediscovered. We still create waste like there’s no tomorrow and expect the waste management industry to clean up our mess.

This article was provided by Canvey Skip Hire & Recycling Ltd who provide both domestic and commercial skip hire in Southend-on-Sea.