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In the past the rat has been held responsible for many of the ills to befall man and is thought to be a threat to public health. For centuries the rat has been mans constant though seldom seen companion for the rat is mainly nocturnal whereas man is not.
It is said that if one rat is seen then it is likely that ten remain unseen. Recently the UK has begun to recycle much of its household waste [trash] and it has involved a culture change that is alien to most households within the country.

Until quite recently household waste was collected on a weekly basis from every domestic address in the country and the cost of this collection was drawn from the “Local rates” levied annually by each local authority. The system worked well but nothing was recycled and most of the waste collected was sent to fill landfill sites.
When the landfill sites could accept no more many were compacted, dressed with topsoil and eventually built upon. Many years on these sites showed high concentrations of radon gas, levels of methane and other elements detrimental to public health but little sign of rats.

Whilst there was a constant supply of waste and movement/activity on a daily basis the rat population thrived and to a large extent was self- regulating. When the supply of waste and therefore food began to diminish the rat population stabilised and then went into decline but only to a subsistence level. The landfill sites however were now accepting waste on a bi-weekly basis and not as before every week. The domestic premises where household waste was collected weekly were now forced by the new collection patterns to store their waste for two weeks instead of one as they had previously. The problem now faced by local authorities the length and breadth of the UK is universal, whilst the rat is in decline adjacent to the current landfill sites it is increasing in areas of dense habitation and the reasons for its increase more often than not are directly attributable to the current lifestyle of the human population and the refuse collection patterns that are now becoming commonplace.

In the past two years there has been an increase in the rat population of 40% inside the cities and towns of the UK but to lay the entire increase on the failings of an ambitious recycling program would be wrong, there are other contributory factors which owe much to the carelessness of the fast food culture and the disposal of half eaten food orders purchased from the growing number of outlets.

The amount of food cast aside as unwanted in the UK is rising and whilst domestic refuse collections are now being stretched to two weeks the same culture is finding its way onto the streets which are frequently used by revellers that often cast aside unfinished snacks whilst on their way home after a night out. Awaiting the discarded feast is an increasing population that exists on the margins of excess that is thrown away every night. Some is thrown into bins but increasingly most is simply thrown on the pavements [sidewalks] or out of the window of a speeding car. This same population of rats has in the past brought man to the verge of extinction, in the middle Ages it was known as “The Black Death” it was transmitted by the fleas carried by rats. There are villages/towns that today stand witness to the pestilence that once stalked this country; one of them called Eyam in Derbyshire deliberately put itself into quarantine for the duration and no more than a handful of its inhabitants survived. That it should ever happen again is beyond comprehension but if the management of domestic waste is not properly managed then a disease eradicated long ago may well return.

The pressure upon Local Councils to recycle is coming from central government that has made promises to the green lobbyists, to the international community and to the UN to control the depletion of resources reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases and to use more sustainable energy. The approach taken to control the depletion of resources set a definite deadline for compliance upon the Local Authority’s with no regard to whether they could comply or not. Those who did not comply faced crippling fiscal penalties for non-compliance but central government could now say that they were recycling. The Local Authority’s did however have one alternative to recycling that some who could not comply with a rather hurried policy change took advantage of, export. They simply sold their rubbish to companies in the Far East for disposal. The method of disposal however was less than Earth friendly and a long way from any green solution, they either burnt it or dumped it at sea. The UK government were now able to claim that they had recycling laws and they were in force, they have not solved the recycling/waste disposal problem they exported it.

Recycling is new to many towns in the UK and it is a concept alien to past practise, in the past rubbish was collected weekly but now it is collected every two weeks. Before, the recyclable material was all thrown into the same sack now it has to be separated into various containers and even washed. In some areas resistance to the new culture is strong because the task of separation/cleaning is now the responsibility of the householder whereas before the council refuse collection dealt with everything.
It is true that new waste bins and boxes were provided and it is also true that new machinery to handle the new recycling culture was invested but most households see it as a reduction in service which they now have to pay for and can see no actual benefit for the labour they are now forced to contribute.
In most areas the same material is still being put into the waste bin unsorted but now it awaits collection for two weeks and not one. It has not taken the rats long to take advantage of this new source of food. The pest control departments of most local councils was once a free service but now they charge a fee for de-infestation so many home owners are reluctant to call them. With more food on offer the rat is enjoying an unprecedented rise in population because now the problem is largely unreported and in the last thirty years winter temperatures have risen to a point where today [9th of January] it is a warn 13 centigrade which improves the survival rate of any kits born.

The “Complaints” from householders about the new system are many and varied but they include one of security, in the past a plastic bag containing all of a household’s rubbish was left out for collection and once it had been collected there was no sign that the collectors had been and the house looked “Normal”. Now the householder has to put a wheelie bin at the side of the road for collection, when it has been emptied the bin is left at the edge of the highway, if the householder is out at work then the bin sits there all day until it is recovered. Not only do the bins obstruct the footpaths they are an indication to any prospective villain as to who is in or out and where all of the empty houses are. The rubbish stays inside a plastic bin for two weeks now and not one as it did before, warm weather makes the rubbish sweat and ferment inside the plastic bins which causes them to smell as they have no ventilation, one council advocated the use of one “Odour eating” shoe insole inside the bin to neutralise the smell. The extended period between collections has meant that in some areas where there are a number of large households one bin is inadequate to contain the waste of two weeks so plastic bags are being used for the “Overspill” the bags are not rat proof so in those areas the population of rodents is exploding. To discourage the overspill the council’s response was to refuse to collect anything not contained inside the bin with the lid closed and recently those same councils have advocated levying a charge for collecting the overspill. The resistance to the new recycling culture is throwing up a divide between local authorities and householders and the battle lines are being drawn but alarm bells should be ringing in local council offices nationwide because the residents do have a point where the security of their homes is concerned, if you park a car half on half off a walkway a cop will book you for obstruction but it is apparently acceptable to leave a four foot by two foot square wheelie bin outside every house obstructing a walkway causing pedestrians to walk in the road to avoid them. The rat population in areas of densely inhabited towns has since the recycling began increased by 40% and is expected to double by the end of next year. The public health implications are immense and are being ignored because central government has forced the local councils into this position too quickly so that it can maintain its manifesto issues.

Typically the territory of a rat is around 50 metres radius and it will defend that territory against other rats, the population explosion will accelerate these conflicts and rats will form alliances to other territories causing a “Pack culture” to become the norm rather than the individual groups that now exist. The idea that “Plagues of rats” were a thing of the past is becoming untenable.

For centuries the rat has been mans constant companion dating back to before the time of recorded history. It was once said that there was a rat within fifteen feet of every human on the planet, that distance is now less than ten feet.It is calculated that every man,woman and child will generate one and a half times their bodyweight in waste every six months.It is estimated that there are in excess of 70,000,000 rats in the UK now. A typical lifespan is three years, a female rat can give birth to a litter of fourteen every 23 days. Man is about to drown in his own rubbish and it will not be man that inherits the Earth but the rat.


Posted: January 9, 2007 

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