Rubbish? Greens smell a rat over this recycling scheme

As anticipated, there’s nothing more likely to stir up a bit of local interest than a load of old rubbish. But please don’t expect this to be another column about Richard Ottaway.

One of the biggest fans of the latest Tory cuts in Croydon?

Our rubbish report earlier this week about the less-than-perfect introduction of food waste “caddies” excited considerable comment, in comments posted directly to the article, emails and via Twitter (@InsideCroydon).

The local Greens seemed particularly miffed at our disparaging comments about the scheme, while with others, the caddies appear about as welcome as Wayne Rooney‘s dad holding a betting slip and walking into the South End branch of Ladbrokes.

Residents, such as David White, a one-time Labour councillor on the GLC, wrote, “It is a step forward to have recycling of food waste and fortnightly collection of non-recyclables will encourage me and others to recycle as much as possible. Similar schemes seem to have worked in other areas.”

Not sure anyone can disagree with that. But White adds an important rider. “Having said this Croydon Council should not have ended the garden waste collection so early and it would have been better if they had consulted on the new scheme.”

Croydon Council? Consult? Do those words ever sit happily in the same sentence?

We have received several reports of utter confusion among residents over the timing of what is supposed to be the final garden waste collection of the year, with calls to the Taberner House phone line and some council-published leaflets providing conflicting advice.

Another south London resident, Saif Bonar, got in touch. “I support the food recycling in Croydon,” he wrote. “Bromley introduced it a few years ago and it works well. But…” there had to be a “but”, “…my two cats are running up an astonishing kill count and I wonder how smelly decomposing rats will become after two weeks.”

Rubbish? That is *so* Croydon

Rats were mentioned as an issue with food recycling schemes more than once. The theory is that cooked food waste, which is to be collected weekly from the caddies by Croydon Council, ought not become an issue with vermin. But some who have tried using compost bins for their raw kitchen and garden waste remain convinced that this new “source” of food in their gardens has been the cause of their rodent problems, and so are distrustful of any change to their weekly bin collections.

The essence of the criticism of the Croydon scheme remains more to do with the management of its introduction, rather than the method itself.

On the day that we posted our previous rubbish report, we were sent this email from a south Croydon resident who was less angry with his council, more resigned to the blatant mishandling of the situation:

“We have not received our new recycling food caddies, bags or new refuse instructions or new dates of collection. This was all supposed to have been delivered before September 30.

“I rang Croydon Council on Friday late afternoon reporting – no food waste caddy, no instructions or collection times had been given to us. The guy who answered took our details and said he would call back. They never did.

“I sent an email to Croydon Council detailing our problems and got an auto response saying they would answer within 24 hours. They never did.

“We stuck a note on our wheelie bin stating our problem. We had our wheelie bin collected this morning – Oct 4 (we put it out on the off-chance). The guy read the note and looked up to the house and shrugged his shoulders and then got back on the refuse lorry and went.

“I rang the council on their recycling number 8 726 6200 and after along totally uninteresting spiel about the new recycling and the reasons for it – which was out of date anyway – and then instructions to press this for this and that for that, I received a recorded announcement saying that all their reps were busy due to a high rate of calls. You need to take a mortgage out to pay for the phone bill.

“The announcement then indicated that there were 13 callers in the queue and that the caller just answered, ie No1 in the queue, had had to wait 20 minutes, so I hung up.

“If my wheelie bin is not collected for another two weeks it will be full of food waste which should have gone into a food caddie. Therefore I will have extra black bags of rubbish which should go in the wheelie bin but can’t because the wheelie bin will be full to overflowing with a fortnights normal waste for landfill and the additional food waste.”

So something smells, and it is not necessarily Croydon people’s refuse.

Shasha Khan, from Croydon & Sutton Greens, outlined the party’s position for Inside Croydon, and makes an important point about what may be the real reason behind the council’s changes: “The direction of travel must be towards reducing, reusing and recycling everything possible. Waste should be seen as a resource.

“The incentives are there to do this because failure to divert waste away from landfill will result in a hefty landfill tax bill.

“However, I would argue that the Tory council have rolled out food collections to justify a reduced service rather than a genuine attempt to reduce landfill or to cut greenhouse gas emissions.The Tory councillors also stand accused of breaking an election promise,” Khan said, referring to the Conservative manifesto pledge last year not to introduce fortnightly bin collections.

“We would now like to see councillors to push forward and do as much as possible to support businesses to recycle. The Tories must embrace the environmental principle behind food waste collections and not see at as a cost-cutting measure. Some of the £600,000 saving should be used to promote, inform and help residents with the new system.”

Incidentally, the £600,000 annual saving expected to be made by going to fortnightly “landfill bin” collections happens to be less than Croydon Council spends each year on its Ministry of Truth.

Read more from the Greens on recycling policy by clicking here.

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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8 Responses to Rubbish? Greens smell a rat over this recycling scheme

  1. Saif Bonar says:

    Hmm.. interesting take on my comments and nicely done on the amalgamation of comments from the original article and my obviously tongue-in-cheek comment regarding the cats kill count and disposing of rats! In case it wasn’t obvious the comment I made on twitter about the cat kill count and rat disposal, was a joke they will go in the bin as usual. (or should they be recycled with food waste? I don’t mind either way.

    So the crux of the issue by your admittance is the mismanagement of the rollout.. not all 340,000 residents got their bin on time, or bothered to read the instructions on use which were delivered a few months back and then again in the actual caddie when it was delivered. How much instructing does one need to put food scraps in a bin? Seriously. If residents need to be educated on how to put food in a plastic bucket and leave it outside their front door – god help us!

    Much ado about nothing. Get over it people, there really are more pressing issues in Croydon and the wider world.

  2. Anne Smith says:

    I received my bin and used it. I have no problem at all with the scheme and the food wasted did not smell inside the house or outside when I put it out for collection. This is a sensible scheme and not a worsening of our position; I overheard someone saying that she would not participate before the bins were even delivered – and she clearly had no idea what it was all about. This is not a party political issue; it is common snese.

  3. cr7green says:

    As a Croydon Green Party member I think we are miffed about the fact that Croydon Council has managed to make a pigs ear out of a silk purse. I would expect Inside Croydon to make “disparaging comment” where required, that’s what you’re here for. We just wanted to make sure the negative publicy was directed at the right people and not the right policy. I’m not so sure the first article quite got that balance right.

    When this story broke in early June we called for the Tories to prove their green credentials by using the savings to raise public awareness, to increase the amount of plastics recyled, to promote the Croydon Real Nappy Network and to collect tetrapacks and batteries also. We were pleased to see the plastic issue improved but dismayed to find the garden waste collection end just as Autumn began. Americans call it “the fall” for a reason. Another massive recycling own goal by the Council.

  4. Arfur Towcrate says:

    The roll-out is a shambles. In my part of Waddon, we haven’t had our bins and paper collected this week – nor have we had our compost boxes or the revised schedules delivered.

    Mrs Towcrate tried to call the Council yesterday and managed to negotiate the new “proud to serve” customer service centre call system. However, after being told (all this by a recording) that she was in number 15 in a queue, that number 1 was waiting 13 minutes to be served, the large volume of calls was down to issues with the new collection service, and waiting 20 minutes – she hung up. Having called again five minutes later to find out that she was now number 13 in the queue she gave up completely and filled out an online complaint form – which won’t be replied to until Monday.

    A visit to the Council’s website to find out what the collection schedules are doesn’t provide that information – but gives you, yes, that’s right – their phone number for their customer service centre.

    Our experience hardly lives up to the lofty ideals in Cllr Sara Bashford’s Customer Service Strategy 2010-2015 – – “Croydon Council’s aim is to be known as an outstanding local authority when it comes to customer service”. There’s a long way to go.

    Fortnightly collections of un-recyclable waste are not a problem as far as our household is concerned – it’s what we have done for some years now, since most of our stuff is either recycled or composted. Recycling, composting, reusing and reducing waste are all good things. It’s just a shame that, under the Conservatives, Croydon Council appear to be making a complete hash of both customer service and greener waste management.

  5. ndavies144 says:

    At least the council’s website now sort of acknowledges it’s all something of a ballsup: ‘any localised issues’ are generating ‘more calls than usual.’

    I guess I’ll put out the whole lot tomorrow night (minus the missing ‘caddie’) and see what gets emptied. At least we’ll then know what week it is. A lot of people round here now leave the whole ensemble out the front permanently, giving the area the look of a third world shanty town.

  6. I am one of those who will not have a caddy in the kitchen and will not use the bucket. Why? Not because I do not know what it is all about but because we eat what we buy and do not have any food to throw away. The banana skins and fruit/vegetable peeling go into a neighbour’s compost bin. (and any shredded paper goes to my neighbour’s wormery). I am a veggie and buy boneless meat for the carnivores in the family. I have always reused and recycled. I do not need lectures from born again neophytes.
    We, the public and Council Tax payers, were not consulted neither were we allowed to put any suggestions forward. There was embarrassment when, at a Question Time, I asked about disposal of sanitary towels and incontinence pads because there was no mention of such matters in the official literature. This is what happens when people are out of touch with real life. There will be people who will say that I am negative or that there are more important things in the world. They are most welcome to think whatever they like. I will say my bit and move on.
    Now about contents of various bins: canvassing twice a week, I see a lot of open bins in front gardens. I sometimes wonder where all the lids disappear to. It is quite a depressing spectacle. Much of the content, of the green bins in particular, is not ‘allowed’ as contaminated or non recyclable. How is the authority dealing with the matter? Moreover, washing jars/tins/bottles in detergents will add more pollutants to our environment and waste a lot of water. Not many people have water meters but if one has, one knows it costs money. However, it is our duty to use water sparingly.
    I hear nothing about making supermarkets remove excessive/unnecessary packing. Why?
    More substance and less hot air, please. If we all used less of everything, we would have fewer bins.

  7. gracepomonal says:

    i can reduce Croydon domestic landfill waste by half and pick the bin up weekly, with this suggestion, take away the current bins and give all residents bins which are half as big, size based on number of residents. cost well had those charged with planning done some planning we wouldn’t have a problem. charge me in my council tax another 35 quid i won’t notice it amongst the constant rises.

  8. ndavies144 says:

    After e-mailing the council I did get my “caddy” about a week later.

    What is odd is that another one appeared on our doorstep yesterday, three weeks or so from my initial request. But I wouldn’t be very surprised if they just kept turning up.

    Suppose it means I won’t need to get any more special bags for a while.

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