With its emphasis on re-using old materials or selling them as scrap, Mark Howard's bicycle shop is a model of environmental efficiency.It gets better.
So you might have imagined that his local council would be grateful to him for enhancing the area's green credentials.
But instead the father of four has been hit with a £180 fine - because officers refuse to believe he doesn't create any commercial waste.
You see, Southend Council contract out their waste collection to their contractors, Cory, who arrange for a certificate when businesses pay them £80 to supply 50 commercial waste bags to be collected. Mr Howard doesn't have any waste, so doesn't require a certificate.
In just the same way that having no TV license because you don't have a TV blows the minds of the morons that run the collection service for the Beeb, this does not compute with Cory or the council! This is unpossible!
Mr Howard decided that the best thing he could do was explain this. And that's when the fun started:
When he rang up to explain, no one believed that he did not use the service and he was told that someone would visit his premises.I'm sure, if I have older Russian readers, they will be nodding thoughtfully to themselves here, and reminiscing a bit...
'An officer came round a week later but he didn't look round or ask any questions,' he said. 'He just handed me another letter which said I must pay a fixed penalty.
'They didn't give me a chance to show them what I do - which is better than the council contractor's service because their waste goes to landfill.'
...'Despite repeated calls I was fobbed off all the time. I have tried to get an interview with the director of the department but nothing has happened. This is totally stupid. The council must have money to burn because they want this case to go to court.Of course they don't. They just want to ensure they've ticked all the boxes, and the possibility of someone not fitting into those boxes, well...let's just say arguing with them is like arguing with some nut who thinks the USA never went to the Moon.
'I'm not some environmental fruitcake trying to save the world. I'm just an ordinary person using my brain to avoid waste. But they don't seem to care.'
You can't win, and you'll only get a headache.
Southend Council yesterday defended its actions. Simon Crowther, group manager for waste, said: 'Mr Howard is required under the Environmental (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991 to produce evidence as to how he legally and lawfully disposes of commercial waste under his control.Because he doesn't have any waste to dispose of, you utter cretins...
'Mr Howard has been issued with a fixed-penalty fine due to the fact he failed to provide this evidence.'