Veolia accused of ‘cheap PR stunt’ as their bins break the law

BELLE MONT, our Sutton reporter, on the latest bit of rubbish from the borough’s bin contractors

Veolia, the bin contractors who helped to create #SuttonBinShame and chaos when they started working in Sutton earlier this year, have been accused of using visually impaired residents for a “cheap PR stunt”.

After #SuttonBinShame, Veolia have work to do to restore public confidence in their service

Veolia, who have had the outsourced residential bin collections and street cleaning contract in Croydon since 2003, moved in on Sutton in April following a tendering process through the South London Waste Partnership, the four-borough grouping that is about to inflict the Beddington incinerator environmental disaster on the area.

Suffice to say, Veolia’s takeover in Sutton was less-than-smooth, with some homes not having their bins emptied for almost two months, while confusion was created among residents over a multi-coloured bin refuse sorting system.

And Veolia completely forgot to do anything on its colour-coded bins for Sutton residents with impaired vision.

This week, as the company desperately tries to restore a bit of corporate goodwill, it issued a feeble press release to announce that some of their staff had drilled holes in their wheelie bins to aid some blind residents.

“Different coloured wheelie bins for waste and recycling can work for most people,” Veolia’s public relations machine smarmed, “but they are not an effective aid for people with a visual impairment.”

Virtue-signalling that they had fixed a problem of their own creation, Veolia’s press release continued: “Two visually impaired sisters from Sutton are now able to easily identify their wheelie bins and recycle as much as they can after holes were drilled into their containers for easy identification by the waste collection service-provider, Veolia.”

Veolia describe the hole-drilling as “a simple but effective approach”, but a former Labour parliamentary candidate in Sutton, Emily Brothers, regards the hole-drilling and the publicity around it with more than a little contempt.

Emily Brothers: Veolia was breaking the law over its bins

Brothers, who is herself blind and uses a guide dog to get around, said that Veolia’s emergency hole-drilling “only happened because I kicked off earlier in the year when more bins arrived with the new system. It was in discussion with the guys from Veolia that we came up with the idea of holes to mark which is what bin.

“This is simply a reasonable adjustment that they are required to apply under the Equality Act (2010). So why they are trumpeting a new friendly persona to local people is down to cheap PR and nothing substantive. If they hadn’t done anything to distinguish between coloured bins for blind people, they would have been in breach of the goods and services section of the Act. Veolia are doing nothing more than they have to do.”

Brothers has also discovered that Veolia’s bins could have proper Braile markings on them, if only the company had bothered to consider this before ordering them.

“Some of the bins distributed by Veolia have a Braille marking of ‘240L’, presumably to indicate how much it holds. Why would I need to know that, opposed to it being for garden waste, landfill or paper and cardboard? So they clearly have the facility to emboss Braille, but fail to give useful information to blind people.”

And Brothers highlights continuing complaints about an aspect of Veolia’s service which affects all residents, has been encountered for years in Croydon, and now in Sutton, after their rubbish trucks have visited an area.

“The other problem for blind people is that Veolia’s workers chuck bins around the roads, so you struggle to locate your bins. On bin day my guide dog, Truffle, has to work extra hard to weave in and out of the bins chaotically slung around, sometimes having to go into the road to make progress.

“So Veolia have a long way to go before they can claim to be disability friendly.”

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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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