It was Big Eric Pickles who said, “It’s a basic right for every Englishman and woman to be able to put the remnants of their chicken tikka masala in their bin without having to wait a fortnight for it to be collected.”
Mind you, it was the very same local government minister who said of local authority CEOs that, “I want all chief executives to take a pay cut. They should be paid no more than the Prime Minister. Some are paid £250,000, which is ludicrous. These are ridiculous salaries that can’t be justified.”
Here in Conservative-controlled Croydon, we are heading towards fortnightly collections of our rubbish (though the chicken curry debris will still be picked up each week), and we live in a council with a CEO whose “ludicrous” salary is nearly £100,000 a year more than David Cameron.
Potholes. Street lights. Grafitti. Wheelie bins and rubbish collections.
The casework of a local councillor can be pretty mundane, unglamorous at times, if the most common complaints from local residents are anything to go by. So getting the waste and recycling policy right ought to be a real priority, both in terms of the living standards of the community, as well as politically.
Yet in a classic example of “That is so Croydon”, our council is introducing fortnightly rubbish collections in the same month when their mates at Westminster announced a multi-million fund (where did they find that money from?) for local councils to keep weekly bin collections, as well as £805 million to allow a “freeze” on Council Tax. And all just in time for the 2012 local elections…
Yet even the scheme to deliver the silly little R2D2 food waste bins to every household in the borough appears to have been mismanaged by Croydon, where confusion and misunderstandings are routine.
Each household was supposed to receive at least 100 liner bags for use in the food waste “caddie”. Yet we have heard that many locals reckon that they have been given less than 25 liner bags – which they will have to replace at their own expense once they have all been used.
Council tax-payers have also complained about the size of the caddie; some object to the amount of space it takes up in their smaller kitchens; others, meanwhile, with larger households, think the caddie’s too small.
And take, for example, this letter from an Inside Croydon reader:
“Just received my new food waste bin in preparation for the changes to the refuse collection and was struck as to how small it was. A quick check on the council website showed that this bin is 23 litres in capacity.
“Further reading of the FAQs explains that, ‘Food waste makes up at least 25% of the average landfill bin’, but the sums don’t add up. Croydon residents get one of three sizes of bin – 140, 180 & 240 litres depending on the household. Each household has received only a single food waste bin, so they will have capacity to recycle only 16.4%, 12.8% or 9.6% of their usual food waste capacity. Are larger households being penalised or will there be extra provision made for them?
“According to the council website: ‘Can I get a larger bin? Can I get a second bin?: No, the council only supplies one bin per household’.
“Then what about our neighbours in ‘properties with five or more doorbells’? Flats are due to get this service by March 2012, but what form will that take? Hundreds of little boxes stacked outside the blocks in New Addington? Or perhaps communal slop bins?
“Oh well, Christmas is coming, always something to look forward to . I suppose we can also look forward to grinding up/cleaving a turkey carcass just to comply with the new food waste rules…
“All this just to ‘save taxpayers around £600,000 a year compared to the old system’. Are Croydon’s residents happy to put up with this reduction in service for a 0.4% saving compared to the council tax revenue of £145,525,000 last financial year?
“Surely there are simpler, less costly and less inconvenient ways of saving £600,000 – salaries at the top for starters.
“I hope that Inside Croydon can present these concerns to the wider Croydon public in its usual compelling style and in a way the local rags seem incapable of or uninterested in doing.”
One suggestion that has been made is that if you don’t want to use the silly little food waste bins, you can phone the council and they will come to collect the device. After all, if you already compost your (raw) kitchen waste (peelings, tea bags and the like), possibly using a council-provided composting bin, then you will have already reduced your black bin bag/landfill waste significantly over a period of time.
It would not take many Croydon households to return the food waste boxes and caddies for it to have a significant effect on the savings that the council had hoped to make. It would mean that your cooked food waste will sit (bagged up, presumably) in your wheelie bin for a couple of weeks though.
All it should take is a call to 020 8726 6200 – although whether it is because loads of other Croydon residents are trying to do the same thing, or the staff cuts at the council have left no one to answer the phones, one call this week to the relevant department took 35 minutes before it was answered.
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Perhaps people could simultaneously reduce the amount of food they waste, then the size of the food waste bin would be ample for most. Failing that, those with larger households will in all likelihood have a garden.. get a compost bin! £600k saved, while not sending food to landfill can only be a good thing..
So Croydon Council did not take The Pickles money.
I hope fortnightly collection works being honest. And I will be recycling what little food scraps I produce. But in my heart of hearts I don’t think this is going to work. The food stuff will go every week sure, so that will clearly work, but what is left is pretty much fortnightly now.
Used nappies, old sanitary products, cat-litter… Do you honestly want that hanging around for 2 whole weeks? It’s gonna be vile.
A smarter man would have taken the Pickles money and still made a big push for recycling. Weekly bins are needed. As Eric Pickles himself said those wise old ( sometimes not psychotic ) Victorians knew that weekly waste pick-up had to happen to keep disease down. And back then people were so poor very little food was wasted. Yorkshire Puddings and the like were even about not wasting animal fat. That’s how efficient olde cooking was. So I doubt those Victorians threw out much grub.
Yeah, this is gonna get nasty. Why on earth did they not take the money and then push for recycling? If they’re that worried about wastage and the coffers the Pickles money could always be returned if it ended up only partially spent.
This £250 million is a gift horse that should be looked in the mouth.
For starters, how can such money be found to help pay for rubbish to be thrown away, when apparenlty there isn’t any money to spend to keep libraries open or to help small local charities keep on serving those with special needs? What a warped sense of priorities!
Then you have the fact that the more “waste” that is thrown away rather than recycled, the more will have to be paid in landfill tax. The level of landfill tax within the UK currently stands at £56 per tonne, rising to £64 per tonne on April 1 2012, £72 per tonne on April 1 2013 and £80 per tonne on April 1, 2014. A spokeswoman for the Chartered Institute of Waste Management (CIWM) said last week that “Nine of the 10 best performing councils [in terms of recycling] have an alternate week collection, which suggests recycling rates could be hit.” In a statement, the CIWM said the £250m could have been better spent on widening the range of materials collected for recycling, especially food waste, which it said was the main area of householder concern regarding collection frequency.
Then you have David Cameron proclaiming to civil servants at the Department of Energy and Climate Change on 14 May 2010 that “I don’t want to hear warm words about the environment. I want to see real action. I want this to be the greenest government ever”. Using £250 million to undermine recycling is not what you’d expect from a government with such lofty ideals. Biodegradable waste like food and garden waste that is landfilled gives off methane, a greenhouse gas 72 times worse than carbon dioxide. Recyclable waste – like paper, aluminium, steel – that is thrown away means more raw materials are required to replace these items, at great environmental expense. And we have on our doorstep in Croydon the threat of a waste incinerator being built, fuelled by rubbish from Pickles’ public subsidy of those too lazy or stupid to recycle. The fumes that are given off by waste incinerators can cause cancer, and the ash they produce can also pose risks to human health.
Finally, you have the ludicrous situation whereby Eric Pickles MP thinks he can boss around local councils and their local electors. This undermines democracy.
This doesn’t mean the Croydon Council is doing a great job on this issue. Despite living in the borough’s most politically volatile ward, Waddon, we haven’t yet had our green waste bin. I also think that Phil Thomas is at best a bit of a buffoon, at worst The Anti-Cyclist. But on this particular issue, he has got it right in rejecting the government’s cash incentive – or “bribe” – to scrap the new fortnightly bin collection scheme. Pickles should bog off and mind his own business.
Yes the call centre (or “contact centre” as we must call it) is a nightmare.
We haven’t got our caddie (as we must call it) .
Phoning the number and selecting option 2 means you have to listen to a long speech, recorded months ago, about what is to happen. Two minutes 30 seconds after initially ringing you get to a voice telling you you are 37th in the queue and the person at the front waited 22 minutes. This seems fairly consistent.
I’m not willing to spend half an hour of my time and money (or indeed my employer’s as they’re not there outside office hours) on phoning Croydon Council. My contribution their recycling programme will have to pass them by.