Croydon bin collections: It really is a load of old rubbish

One month in, and Inside Croydon‘s initial scepticism about the council’s new refuse collection system is appearing to be well-founded.

The state of Croydon: this picture, from the Croydon Greens blog, shows rubbish strewn across Princess Road, in the area just behind Mayday Hospital - clear evidence that the new rubbish collection scheme is failing

The principle of greater re-cycling is fine. The implementation has been, even if we are to be charitable, chaotic.

The council line is that any missed collections or other issues are merely “teething problems”. Much of the blame appears to be shifted to the residents for not having read the various bits of (waste) paper thrust through their doors.

A week ago, Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central, took the role of cheer-leader-in-chief for the council, writing on his own website: “I have been passed figures by Croydon Council which show that, in the first month of the food waste recycling service, the council collected nearly 800 tonnes – and that’s before the service has been rolled out to blocks of flats.

“Even if no one in flats took up the service, this would mean that over the course of a year, nearly 10,000 [10,000 what, Gav? We take it you meant tonnes?] of food waste that would previously have been sent to landfill will now be recycled. Not only is that great for the environment but it will save the council something like half a million pounds in landfill tax.”

That was posted on November 4, with the first month of the new system barely over; some might think that it would be too soon to make such glowing judgements.

Others might find it curious that the local MP should be re-cycling press releases for the council. Why would a busy constituency MP bother himself in such a way? [PS. Gav: Now you have a job with the all-party Commons literacy group, you might want to use a spellcheck on tricky words on your blog such as “separate”]

It all raises an obvious question: could it be that Croydon Council has realised that it has a major PR problem on its hands – or rather, strewn all across the streets of Croydon?

Certainly, the new system seems not only to have caused some confusion among residents – largely created by misinformation from the council about its own altered waste collection schedule and the final green waste collection of the year (cunningly scheduled before the leaves had fallen off the trees #thatissocroydon). Because even the council’s rubbish contractors appear bemused about what boxes or bins they are supposed to be collecting on any given week.

This is not a recycling issue, but a council management issue.

In an entirely unscientific survey of a single household, Inside Croydon Towers, in four weeks under the new system, the bin men have failed to take the collect the correct boxes or bins every week. Four out of four. That’s a 100 per cent failure rate.

Under the old system, we had weekly collections of our wheelie bin (straight to landfill), and fortnightly collections of three recycling boxes: paper and cardboard; glass; and plastic. It all worked smoothly, with clockwork regularity. In almost nine years, we never had cause to call the council once.

The new system involves a food waste bin (“the caddie”) collected each week; and then on alternate weeks, the wheelie bin collected with our paper and card box; and the glass and plastic recycling collected on the other week in the schedule.

So far, the caddie has failed to be emptied on three out of four occasions (and boy, does two-week old food waste whiff!). We had no cardboard or paper recycling collection for a month. And on one due week, the wheelie bin was also bypassed.

This has meant we have called the council three times in the past month. The poor old officers on the other end of the line sound worn down by the whole situation. When we called last week, they told us, “Yes, we’re still getting loads of calls.” They have tried their best to be helpful. An extra recycling box was duly received within a day of one of our calls (did you know, Croydon Council has run out of lids for its recycling boxes?), and last week, after the food waste was left again, a truck came out the following day (at the weekend) and corrected the missed collection.

But this is all extra work, all at extra cost. It would be especially instructive if Croydon Council could identify how much additional spending had been incurred in the first quarter of its new waste and recycling collection system. A large chunk of that £500,000 landfill tax “saving” of which Barwell and the council boasts might well have been used up already just through inefficiency and mismanagement.

Croydon’s Green Party is on the case, too. After having to tip-toe around the rubbish on the pavement on Princess Road, close to Mayday Hospital, Shasha Khan’s blog puts it quite bluntly:

“The Tory council have just seen the fortnightly bin collections as a route to save money. In this instance an environmental solution has led to an environmental problem.

“The council must make this work.”

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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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