Croydon’s a bit rubbish and it’s getting worse

A typical street scene in Croydon in 2012: dumped rubbish, someone else's problem

Croydon’s streets are a fast becoming a grubby, rat-infested example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

When Croydon’s council opted to change its collection schedule for wheelie bins and recycling, the aim was presented two-fold: to improve recycling rates (laudable) and cost-cutting.

Since October, we have reported on the haphazard nature of the implementation of these changes. The failures are wide-ranging:

  • Illogical planning, having the final green waste collection of 2011 before the leaves had dropped from trees
  • Poor communication, misinformation and confusing public notices
  • Widespread missed collections
  • Undelivered new recycling boxes and lids

More than two months on and the council has claimed initial success for recycling rates (something which will be worth monitoring closely in future), but there is growing evidence, right under our feet, that the new fortnightly bin collection scheme is going to turn out more costly in a whole range of ways.

For a start, the dirty streets will surely become costly in reputation terms at this difficult time as Croydon tries to establish itself as a place to attract business. Over-flowing street bins and black bin bags spilling all sorts of rubbish – from part-eaten fast food to used nappies – do nothing to win over new visitors.

Anecdotally, we receive updates from our regular reader frequently of rubbish-strewn streets, both before and after the council’s contractors have made their fortnightly collections. Also anecdotally, it does seem that the problems are more common in the north part of the borough (an apparent and growing theme of the divisive manner in which our reducing levels of services are being dealt with in Croydon), and affect those properties with multiple occupation – flats.

To assist with this, we are running a poll on the site, and would ask that you take the time to click on the option that is most applicable to you and your neighbourhood.

Here at Inside Croydon Towers, we monitored carefully the service we received from the council’s contractors over the first eight weeks of the new system, and found that six times out of eight, there were boxes of rubbish or for recycling – all ready on the appropriate day – left uncollected.

A 25 per cent success rate. Frankly, Croydon Council, that’s rubbish.

Two into one won't go: doubling the period between wheelie bin collections creates an obvious problem for many Croydon households

Notably, the post-Christmas collection – conducted at the weekend – was done with commendable efficiency. Hmmm – no chance that generous overtime payments were involved?

But among the more troubling unintended consequences of the changes have been the ability of many Croydon residents and businesses to ignore the collection days and simply push their overflowing wheelie bins out on to the pavement, or dump their bin bags and carrier bags on the streets whenever it suits them.

Not only is this an eyesore and health hazard – feral foxes and other vermin have never had it so good – but it has a cost to the council and, therefore, to Council Tax-payers.

The council won’t furnish us with figures, but there is a strong suspicion that, since the Town Hall’s redundancy round last year, there are fewer roadsweepers employed by Croydon in 2012 than in 2010.

For the majority of the borough’s streets, those staff cuts means that they remain unswept for longer than in the past. And because of the policy change over bin collections, there is now more rubbish being strewn across the streets than before.

The council does have a department which will take reports of fly-tipping and bin bags left on the streets, and – when there’s a member of staff free and able to take a phone call – they have been found to be quite reliable at getting a van out to clear up other people’s mess. But that clearly has some cost implication. And if they are being called out more often than in the past, that will be an increased cost.

In the past, council officers who attended scenes of fly tipping would investigate – ie rummage through someone else’s crap – to try to discover the source of the rubbish. We have been told that – again because of the cuts – this may no longer be done to the same levels of the past.

And of course, the rubbish that is casually, selfishly, dumped on the roadside in the expectation that someone else will come along and clear it up, will usually go straight to landfill. Thus one of the new rubbish collection scheme’s principle goals is fatefully undermined.

And the savings? Well, while we’re spending increasing amounts sending out vans and carts to collect bin bags and other rubbish left festering on the pavements and roads, maybe the projected figures lovingly prepared at the Town Hall might prove to be less worthwhile than first thought. That is soooo Croydon.

Send Inside Croydon your rubbish pictures, and we will post them on a Garbage Gallery. Just email your images to, detailing the location and time when your pictures were taken.


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
This entry was posted in Council Tax, Croydon Council, Croydon Greens, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Croydon’s a bit rubbish and it’s getting worse

  1. A hard look must be taken at the useless lids provided with the recycling boxes: most are now broken and the wind scatters them around until they eventually vanish.
    A paper box without a lid is a nightmare.

  2. Arfur Towcrate says:

    A lack of enforcement is indeed a problem.

    Croydon town centre is very often littered with flyers, yet those who thrust these into shoppers’ hands or take them and promptly drop them do so with impunity.

    Residents who don’t recycle but overstuff their wheely bin are rewarded by the Council taking their stuff away rather than told to do the right thing.

    Walk around Croydon and you can see that most of the litter is ‘sponsored’ by the likes of McDonalds and KFC. The council could issue Street Litter Control Notices against these trans-national corporations – but they don’t. Instead, we have to put up with seeing it blight our town and paying for it to be swept up.

    Margaret Thatcher’s government introduced the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and its Litter Code of Practice to allow people living under Labour councils to legally force them to clean up their neighbourhood. It is ironic that under the Tories, littering and flytipping has got worse in the borough, rather than better.

    I suggest that Inside Croydon set up a gallery of local litter, which readers can contribute to – perhaps we can embarrass the Town Hall into doing something about cleaning up their act.

  3. I really did hope fortnightly pick-ups would work, as we needed a cheaper option. But in my heart of hearts I knew it wouldn’t. I knew the mess would start to build up.

    Much as my area seems to be ok other areas are obviously suffering already. I doubt this will be pretty.

  4. ndavies144 says:

    It’s not too bad down our end. Emptying all of the contents of a wheelie bin into a dustcart is obviously challenging, and there are fewer food remnants and packaging strewn around on a Monday morning.

    However remembering which week is which is also challenging, and many people have taken to leaving the whole lot out all the time and leaving the dustmen to decide which to pick up. All those bins and boxes in front gardens and drives are a real eyesore.

    The garden waste system is a total nonsense. Whoever thought of the plastic bag system is from another planet. When they do decide to collect them, we end up with plastic bags blowing up and down if it’s a windy day, people pinch each other’s bags and it is all a right pain. In many areas you can buy another wheelie bin a different colour for a nominal charge for garden waste – far more sensible.

    When it started I grumbled here about not being issued our food ‘caddy’. After much persistence we ended up with two, one of which now serves as an excellent coal scuttle.

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  6. firegut says:

    I’m on Southbridge Road which I believe is close to Inside Croydon Towers… well if Google is to be believed anyway! Southbridge Road, Parker Road, Keens Road are all examples of streets that can look a bit down at heel which is at least in part due to overspilling boxes of rubbish sitting outside everyone’s front door. There’s about one foot between most front doors and the pavement, in some cases the front doors are on the pavement, and you’ve got food containers, nappies and who knows what piling up all over the place.

    We’ve had two missed collections and twice our bin has been stolen.

  7. Casework is increasing regarding street litter and specific complaints that the contractor is not actually doing what they are paid for. A recent case has described how the operative picks up very little and was seen pushing litter under a parked car. Officers tell me that each road is swept to a certain standard. I just don’t see the evidence!

    From my own experience, the contractor came down my road with a sweeping vehicle today. Don’t see the point of this, since it is always heavily parked, so basically the sweeping vehicle just drove down the middle of the road and touched the kerb stones on the corner of the road.

    My pavement and road needs an operative with a broom to actually do the work and take the litter away from the gutter.

    I have also requested two litter bins for the nearby takeaways. Despite being a Councillor, I have never got a reply to this request! In my book, if you offer an easy way to dispose of litter, most people will probably use it. That then helps keep an area clean and tidy. Win Win?

  8. It’s clear to me that Croydon council do THE MINIMUM required in terms of waste collection and recycling. They don’t really care if we recycle or not. Just like they don’t care about fly-tipping – it’s cheaper for them to send a van round to collect fly-tipped rubbish than to investigate it, or prevent it.

    The council’s apathy is clear to see.

    I live in Thornton Heath and quite frankly it can be awful. Litter-strewn pavements, bins overflowing, black bags in every nook and cranny, builders’ waste along the edge of the park, dog mess on the pavements.

    An unfortunate effect of the council’s apathy is that it has spread to residents. People seem ambivalent – resigned to living among the mess. Having said that, I believe there is also a lack of knowledge among residents that the council can (and will according to its website) come and clean up dog mess, fly-tipped rubbish etc.

    By keeping quiet about its responsibilities the council has inadvertently created an atmosphere of “you don’t care, I don’t care”, “they drop litter, so I drop litter”. The classic broken-window effect.

  9. Linda Margaret Bialous says:

    The pavements are actually filfthy, rubbish has collected in the doorways of closed down shops and the Beehive Pub. As more take away shops become the norm, the litter spreads to Woodside Green, including broken glass. It is a popular dog walking area, but quickly becoming unsafe for animals and a unsightly area for humans.
    I have not seen the area so mucky for a while and feel the council should clean up Woodside before we have a plague of rats.
    Also young children use this area to walk to school, let’s improve the area for the local families and help prevent filfth and disease from developing in our neighbourhood.

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