The warden opened the heavy,
steel door of the prison cell. He removed
Jennys handcuffs and roughly pushed her
into the narrow, claustrophobic space. The door
closed, and the clang of the wardens
retreating footsteps upon the metal landing faded
Jenny noted the bare, stone
floor and a small, barred window, high up on one
wall. A bunk bed occupied half the cell.
A woman sat on the lower
bunk. Jenny judged her to be of an age similar to
her own thirty years.
said the woman. What are you in for?
Me too, said
her companion. Been here three weeks. Five
more to do.
Jenny sat beside Sharon and
introduced herself. Suddenly, her eyes filled
with tears. It was dark, she sobbed.
I thought I was putting that bottle in the
blue recycling bin. I didnt realise Id
put it in the white one until I was arrested by
the recycling police.
Its so easy to
make a mistake, Sharon sympathised.
When they only had green bins, it was easy.
Then the Council added blue bins for glass and
brown bins for food waste.
Then yellow bins for
garden waste and white bins for paper,
And grey bins for
plastics and orange bins for cans,
Jenny stared blankly at the
cell wall. I have to park on the road, now.
There are nine recycling bins on my drive - plus
the red-and-white striped one for landfill.
I started off really
well, recalled Sharon. I put all my
washed rubbish into the correct bins as
prescribed by the Councils recycling bylaws.
So did I,
explained Jenny. But it was taking a full
day each week to keep up. She glanced at
Sharon. With a full time job and the kids
and mum to look after, I was often cleaning and
sorting rubbish into the small hours of every
morning. I was exhausted.
led to my first mistake, Sharon
confessed. I put a can in the plastics bin,
and the next thing I knew, I had a fifty pound
fine and two penalty points on my recycling
The penalty points
soon mount up, said Jenny.
getting the wrong collection day, agreed
Sharon. They used to collect the brown bins
on the third Tuesday of each month. Then they
swapped that with the fourth Wednesday when the
white bins had previously been collected. Id
forgotten that this left the blue, yellow and
striped bins to be collected on the second Monday.
Yes, they dump all
those in the same cart, remembered Jenny.
accidentally put the orange bin out with the
white bin on a Friday and
well, they left
the bins and brought me straight here.
Id only got
four penalty points in six months, said
Jenny, proudly. I was just about coping
until the Council signed that recycling contract
with Hampshire and Berkshire and began dumping their
rubbish in our gardens for us
to sort. Even then, I only reached seven penalty
Putting glass in the
paper bin is a three point offence, isnt it?
noted Sharon, deducing what had taken Jenny to
ten points and hence a mandatory eight weeks in
prison. Most of the women in here are
serving sentences for recycling offences,
she added. Mavis in the next cell is one-hundred-and-three
years old. This is her third spell inside.
Yes, but they
commuted her public flogging to six months in
solitary due to her age and Alzheimers. If
wed been in Oxfordshire, of course,
shed be on death row.
My cousin was in a
similar position, but luckily got away down the
fire escape when the recycling police raided her
She managed to get
across the border into the next county with the
help of the Watford Maquis. The Council are
trying to get her extradited from Essex.
Jenny looked around her. Whats it
Pretty grim. The
foods awful, and there are long hours in
the prison factory, making and recycling
recycling bins. There's a rush on at the moment
to produce the new pink ones for fabrics and the green ones for
Jenny looked at the shadows
of the window bars cast upon the grey, stone
floor, and silently reflected upon her two month
sentence. She had, however, already learned her
lesson. In future, there could be no
mistakes in sorting the household waste.