IN DISCUSSIONS with a neighbour recently, I was trying to figure out which bin went out the next day:

was it the green or the brown one, and did the little food one go out too?

Not that I'm complaining. Landfill isn't good, and I try to recycle everything I can.

Loading article content

Working from home, it's a cause for excitement when the bin men arrive. I feel a sense of achievement when my bin has been emptied successfully. I've done my civic duty. I put the bin out. They arrived and emptied it. Something in modern society works!

Edinburgh environmental chiefs have decreed we should get smaller bins to make us throw out even less rubbish. The Conservatives have spoken out against the move, so it must be good.

This recycling culture does make the once breezy business of putting out the bin rather more complicated, right enough.

But it leads to so many questions. Do plastic containers count like plastic bottles? Are envelopes allowed in the paper box? Do teabags count as food?

Once, a binmen did a dance of rage because I had put my plastic bottles in a separate bag, which had interrupted the smooth flow of the executive-style operation. I couldn't show my face for days.

It's all a bit scary now. You hear of places in Englandshire where putting the wrong thing in the wrong bin gets you taken away in the middle of the night, never to be seen again. There was even talk of putting cameras in bins to monitor the contents.

And, however much I approve of recycling, I dislike its encouragement of people with a witch-hunting mentality. Once, on a Scottish island, a Norwegian with a typically misplaced superiority complex scowled at me for throwing a newspaper in a bin. It was an island and, certainly at that time, had no paper recycling. There was nothing else you could do.

The recycling depot for larger items is also a scary place. Though an ardent socialist, I disapprove of putting working-class people in positions of authority as they rarely go about it pleasantly.

Sometimes you have to ask them which of the many skips should accommodate your junk: difficult when you've an item that's a third metal, a third wood and a third plastic.

But it's all for the good of the planet in the end, or at least for our little fear-filled part of it.