Few longstanding relationships break down without acrimony. More often than not there will be harsh words and grudges, raised voices and resentment, when a close partnership suddenly collapses.

You know the sort of thing: “I kept my end of the bargain and you let me down – you heel!”

And: “You walked away from your promises – you can’t be trusted!”

All entirely predictable, rarely without justification and generally part of an everyday life’s multi-textured pattern. Bad things happen. It was ever thus.

But when response to anger and hurt runs along the lines of “Don’t blame me, it’s your ex-partner’s fault” or “Nothing to do with me, Honeybunch. The system is broken,” any road back to harmony – however rocky - seems remote.

Bins. Specifically – although not uniquely – Allerdale’s bins are causing acrimonious breakdown ructions right now. Not that any of us could honestly claim to have fallen in love with our wheelies but we’ve all trusted in their collection as “faithfully” promised. And in Allerdale it isn’t happening.

You could call it a pre-nup council tax agreement gone wrong, if you’re minded to continue the romantic relationship idea. There’s little chance of cashing in on any breach of contract, mind. The council’s response to anger can be summed up with: “Manage as best you can.”

Complaints to councils about waste collections – or absence of them – are now so many and frequent they’ve become a national source of comedy. Not funny, of course, should yours be the neighbourhood left to store or dispose of your rubbish for weeks on end. But a smart-Alec satirical view that household and garden garbage is a first world problem we should be sucking up without complaint has rapidly gained momentum.

There’s an obvious contradiction in that chortling point of view. Just when we’ve been persuaded to do our bit to limit irresponsible disposal; when we’re willingly warming to doing our best to heal our ailing natural environment; when we’re cheering on David Attenborough’s warnings of looming catastrophe, we’re deserted by our partners in preservation. To be told faults lie with new contractors, slashed government funding, previous politically motivated local authority administrations and anyone – just anyone – other than serving elected councillors, cuts no mustard. Blame games are always a deliberate distraction. They fix nothing and mean very little to the abandoned, who simply want the promises kept.

We’re all of us good at buying into any big picture painted by a charismatic campaigner. We don’t want our seas choked with plastic, our countryside marred by fly-tipping, our planet killed by man-made climate change. Talking up a global ideal is the easy bit. Doing something about making meaningful progress is the killer. There’s more to it than bags for life and no wet wipes.

Every big picture starts with a single, nervous brushstroke. That’s always the one that matters most. Without it, nothing happens. And nothing happening is precisely what we can’t afford... contractors or no contractors.

Relationships with responsible recycling and disposal are, at best, a bit shaky. They’re relatively new and depend entirely on the trust that when we keep to our promises, others are meeting theirs as well.

Trust is fragile. Once broken, it’s damned hard to mend.

I sympathise with people living in Allerdale who now, understandably, want to know what happens next; where all that piled up glass and plastic will go, in the fullness of time; where it ever went, come to that; whether they can trust future partnership promises and who are wondering if their own efforts to be responsible with rubbish were, at any point, really worth it.

Sympathies are genuine, not least because it’s a mess – literally - and though I don’t live in Allerdale, it could be me some time soon. Or you.

And with the best will in the world, I genuinely doubt even Sir David Attenborough – hero of responsible, radical, life-change and environmental protection though he is - could do a single thing about any of that.

So far as I’m aware, he has yet to take on a district council and its contractors.