Arguments over the unwanted stuff Linda Kelsey leaves on her doorstep

Pavement wars: LINDA KELSEY calls it charitable recycling, her partner calls it fly-tipping, their arguments over the unwanted stuff she leaves on her doorstep have led to conflict

  • Linda Kelsey and her husband Ron disagree on how to dispose of unwanted stuff
  • Ron regards fly-tipping as lazy, when items could be taken to a charity shop 
  • They’ve compromised by leaving old items outside their home for just 48 hours 
  • Linda believes the method helps to recycle items that would end up in a landfill 
  • She shared how she decides which items are acceptable to leave on the street 

The rusted old barbecue had been sitting round the side of the house, blocking the gate to the garden, for a couple of months. My partner, Ron, kept promising to drive it to the dump, but never quite got around to it.

Finally, I had a hissy fit and lugged it out to the pavement. ‘You can’t do that,’ he growled. ‘It looks disgusting.’ ‘Watch me,’ I replied. ‘I bet you someone snaps it up in no time.’

We came to a compromise. I was allowed 48 hours of defiling the neighbourhood, as Ron put it, in the hope that someone would happen across the barbecue, decide it was just what they had always wanted and take it off our hands. If no one did, I would return the offending item to the side of the house until he had time to dispose of it.

After 24 hours, he said: ‘I told you so.’ But the following day it had disappeared, along with an equally rusty, floor-standing candelabra I’d left there.

‘One-nil to me,’ I smirked.

Linda Kelsey and her husband Ron have different views on fly-tipping. Linda revealed how they compromise and why she believes it’s ethical for the environment 

Although this tiff took place only the other day, Ron and I have been disagreeing about what he calls my ‘nasty habit of middle-class fly-tipping’ for a good three years now.

It’s a fight neither of us can win, since we embody opposing sides of the great fly-tipping debate.

While it was clear the barbecue was no longer up to grilling sausages, I felt certain that the kerb-shoppers who regularly cruise our North London neighbourhood in open trucks, looking for scrap metal to sell, would welcome this chunk of reusable cast-iron. And where’s the harm in that?

Ron, on the other hand, thinks what I do is a blight on the environment and a discourtesy to our neighbours. I see it more as contributing to the health of the overall environment by recycling stuff that would otherwise go straight to landfill.

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He regards it as laziness, when I could easily nip down to the charity shop; I perceive it as considerately sharing for free what others might appreciate, or profit by, even if I no longer do.

Judging by the number of couples I know who argue over the best way to get rid of their unwanted wares, it seems the new battle of the sexes isn’t over who takes the rubbish out, but where its new home should be.

Of course — despite my partner’s protestations — I don’t see what I do as fly-tipping in its true sense. I’m as appalled as the next person by those who dump what appears to be their entire household contents at the side of beautiful country lanes. That sort of thing is rightly illegal. But surely what I do is different.

Environment minister Therese Coffey recently said that, while recycling is better for the planet than landfills, ‘it’s important people don’t leave furniture outside their homes for more than a day or so, as that can cause disruption for pedestrians and can be an eyesore for neighbours’. Sounds fair to me.

Linda began fly-tipping three years ago after she found a discarded chest of pine drawers that her friend was able to use for a nursery (file image) 

What offends me is people throwing empty drinks cans in the street, tin foil cartons containing the remnants of last night’s curry despoiling the pavement, and general litter louting that encourages rats and foxes.

Compared to that, who could object to my nice, free desk chair, which doesn’t support my back sufficiently but is otherwise OK?

I regard myself as a goddess of philanthropy. My partner thinks it’s more a case of Lady Bountiful.

However, it seems I might be on tricky ground, legally speaking. Fly-tipping is defined as the illegal deposit of waste on any land that doesn’t have a licence to accept it. And local authorities are coming down increasingly hard on people who leave unwanted stuff outside their homes, dishing out fixed-penalty notices and fines of up to £400.

But it’s hard to imagine anyone nabbing me for the cut-glass vase I left out rather than take to the charity shop, or the perfectly respectable green plastic garden chairs we’ve recently upgraded.

My fly-tipping career began not with leaving stuff out, but with taking it in. I was strolling down a neighbouring street with a friend one day three years ago, when we came across a discarded chest of pine drawers. My friend exclaimed it was perfect for her daughter, who was expecting her first baby and was short of cash to furnish the nursery.

Linda says she’s donated chairs, an old desk and stereo equipment by fly-tipping (file image)

‘It’ll spruce up wonderfully once it’s been sanded down and painted white,’ she said. It turned out she had been inspired by Kirstie Allsopp’s TV series Fill Your House For Free.

Spurred on by her success, I decided to try a little experiment. My street is a thoroughfare to local schools and transport links, so plenty of people pass by, including those from less fancy parts of the area who can’t afford to buy everything shiny and new.

The next day, I put outside a small, glass coffee table and an old CD tower and scrawled, ‘Please take’ on a bit of paper. By the time I left the house for an appointment two hours later, both items had disappeared.

What’s more, whoever had taken them had scrawled back a message: ‘Thanks so much.’

I felt exactly the kind of thrill I usually get from giving someone a present and watching their eyes light up with pleasure when they see what’s inside.

After that, there was no going back. Chairs, a sideboard, an old desk and some stereo equipment have all been placed on the pavement and, presumably, gratefully received.

And now, having just installed a new kitchen, I’m about to donate some still-usable pots and pans and old crockery to passers-by.

Ron is not happy with my embarrassing antics, but given that things tend to disappear during the day when he’s at work, he doesn’t know just how many of our possessions I’ve passed on.

Linda says donating items feels like a duty as today we accumulate more stuff than we know what to do with (file image) 

I’m not above taking things in, either. Recently, I nabbed an old dressing table with a cracked mirror, which I thought his daughter would love. He sniffed; she said it was just what she wanted.

Today we accumulate more stuff than we know what to do with. Sharing it out a bit feels like a duty, and the pavement is as good a place as any to do it.

‘Middle-class fly-tipping’ is a tricky little phrase that insults me, but also implies that no one middle-class is guilty of the really major sort of fly-tipping, leaving half their worldly goods in a pristine woodland. Rubbish!

When it comes to my little habit, I’ve worked out rules for what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Old children’s books and toys? Yes, there’s a large population of young families in my neighbourhood. A large item of furniture? Only if it leaves enough room on the pavement for a buggy or wheelchair to pass by.

Adult books? No, because people’s tastes are so varied and there’s a homeless man who sells books outside my railway station who I’d rather let profit from my pre-loved novels. Clothes? Never, because this is what charity shops do best and make most of their income from. Plus random bits of clothing would fly all over the place and create a major mess.

Scuzzy, stained mattresses? Absolutely not. And no unwanted fixtures and fittings such as cookers, baths and toilets.

So there it is. I regard myself as an environmentally aware, ethically conscious spreader of goodwill. But since my partner insists on including me in his fly-tipping hall of infamy, and I did once have an irate note put through my door by an anonymous neighbour, I will accept his insulting label. With pride.

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