BINMAGEDDON! Why can’t the council engage with residents?

CROYDON COMMENTARY: So just how might Croydon’s householders cope with the invasion of wheelie bins we have been told to expect over the coming weeks? KIRSTIE SMITH, right, has some suggestions

Inside Croydon’s coverage of Binmageddon coincided with the day we opened information from the council about the changes to our bins and recycling.  “Change is coming!” it exclaimed.  “Join us in helping make Croydon one of the cleanest, greenest boroughs in London!”  Excellent, how do we do that?  New bins, more bins, recycle more, it told us.

On closer inspection, the leaflet delivered to us had a reference in the top right hand corner “ref: Houses”.

We don’t live in a house, but a purpose-built maisonette, so it seemed we had been sent the wrong leaflet.

Online I went, to find the correct one, but alas, we don’t exist.

We are neither a house nor a purpose-built flat nor a flat over a shop, so we don’t count.

We have shared access with three other properties to our gardens and our bins. Under the new plans we’ll have to find space for 12 bins (excluding anyone who might also have a garden waste bin). TWELVE?

There will soon be an invasion of wheelie bins throughout the borough

At best, it’ll be a receiving line of bins, at worst, it will be a monstrosity. I’m not sure where they are all going to go.

But it’s ok, the council carried out a survey and decided we have room. We don’t need plants in the front garden anyway, or access to the back garden.

Don’t get me wrong, we are all for recycling. We do our bit and the council currently has provision if the current box isn’t big enough; just order another – we have two boxes for plastics and glass and one for paper and they serve us well.

The idea is that by providing us with bigger bins we will recycle more and it will save the council £5million per year.  How?  Just by providing bigger – and more – bins does not mean it is possible to recycle more. Many of the residents in Croydon do recycle all they can and of course, there is a responsibility on us all to do so.

For many it’s just the way of life, but not everything can be recycled. Until the way we buy things changes there will still be general waste; it doesn’t reduce just because the bin has less capacity.

The proposed changes are likely to mean overflowing bins, which as well as being unsightly will attract vermin. This certainly won’t fulfil the council’s pledge to make Croydon one of the cleanest and greenest boroughs.

What provision has Croydon Council made for changes to the way people receive and view information in 2018?  Much of it is now digital; news is read on phones, tablets and laptops, meaning a natural reduction in paper, so why on earth do we need a great big wheelie bin for paper and card (except at Christmas, then it might be handy)?

How will these changes save the council £5million per year? We haven’t been given a breakdown and the new plethora of bins will be expensive. More bins will also take more time to empty, so collection rounds are likely to be slower rather than more efficient, unless more staff are employed, but that’s going to cost.

There are problems with the current service; we’ve had missed collections, the contents of the bins strewn across the front of the property where little care has been taken, and a broken front gate – thanks for that, Veolia.

Prepare to say farewell to the old-style recycling boxes

Textile recycling, placed in carrier bags on top of recycling boxes, often gets ignored, until a note in big letters saying “TEXTILES” is added. The local recycling point is often a mess, it’s not emptied often enough and the council knows this is a problem as they have installed cameras to catch anyone who leaves anything next to an overflowing bin, or fly tips.

One good thing that might come from this change might be that these recycling points are used less. But I doubt it.  The reason people use these points is not because they don’t have enough room in their box (you could order another, remember), but because they don’t want recycling sitting outside their property, potentially for two weeks. It’s called “kerb appeal” and not unreasonably many residents like their property to like nice outside as well as in.

Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and Veolia can do better, but one size does not fit all. If (when?) this doesn’t work, who will pick up the tab? That’ll be us, the residents through increased Council Tax, and by that time we could be drowning in general waste.

So what of our current boxes? “Could you re-use them around the house?” the council asks in its leaflet. Erm… No.

They are bins. They have been outside for years, are dirty and even with a good clean they are not coming inside the property.

“A garden planter perhaps?” No thanks, they’re not attractive (though more attractive than a wheelie bin), I don’t think there are drainage holes for the water and I’m not handy with a drill.

Then take them to the dump is the council’s answer. Excellent. I really want a trip to the dump. That’s exactly where I want to go on my day off with young children in tow. And what of those who can’t drive? How do they dispose of (return) theirs?

Many of Croydon’s new builds are flats that don’t have parking spaces for each flat. Many people don’t need cars as they are relying on public transport given that Croydon boasts a great transport network. Croydon’s dumps don’t allow the public to access them without being in a car. So how can they return theirs for recycling? They can’t.

It would make more sense for the council to collect the current boxes at the same time as delivering the new bins. Not being able to return the boxes will lead to an increase in fly tipping, but it’s not an immediate problem anyway, because though you might get your new bins as soon as this week, you can’t use them till September. Find somewhere to store them and look at them for now, deciding how you are going to fill them.

So, Croydon Council, how about this for a plan?

  • Conduct a proper survey – and I don’t mean one where you just look at stats on the computer – survey the different types of properties in your borough because different properties have different requirements. Get out there on the streets and get to know your borough.
  • Survey the residents. Engage with us. Ask us about their current recycling, how we recycle (doorstep, dump or recycling point).
  • Ask us what changes they would like to see. Some people will have great ideas.
  • Analyse the results, including the comments.
  • Conduct a trial, which includes different types of properties in different parts of the borough, to see if what you are suggesting works.
  • Review the results and determine the impact on us, the residents, on you, the council and on Veolia as refuse collectors.
  • And then make a decision on the best plan of action and what change should be implemented. This would be based on the trial results, bearing in mind that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work in such a diverse borough.

But that’s not what the council is going to do.

So instead, keep your eyes as from September, you might see any returned or fly-tipped no-longer-required recycling boxes pop up on a roundabout near you, full of flowers.

They make excellent planters. Honest.

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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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5 Responses to BINMAGEDDON! Why can’t the council engage with residents?

  1. My household already recycles everything possible, and probably more than most, and compost just about everything else. Very little actual ‘rubbish’ goes in our wheelie bin and everything we recycle could fit in that one wheelie bin if it was collected once a week. This means I will have to split up what I recycle or throw away into three wheelie bins rather than the one which I now have. Adding extra bins does not increase what I can recycle it just adds to clutter and takes away our entire front garden, and means removing the pot plants we currently have there. Therefore switching from green plants to plastic bins, hardly benefiting the environment.
    It would be far better to have a single collection each week with the food waste contained and everything else in the one wheelie bin for sorting and separating at the waste transfer station.

  2. dickb4925 says:

    Excellent article by Kirstie. I completely endorse her suggested plan. It’s what the council should have done in the first place. The only thing I’d add is that I don’t think it’s just the old recycling crates that will be turning up in odd places. There will be many for whom the crates are the ideal recycling solution and who will find the new bins surplus to requirements.

    Me for one. I have told the council that I don’t have room for wheelie bins and asked them not to deliver anything to my property that will not fit in my dustbin cupboard, the only outside storage space I have. I will take no responsibility for any other bins that are delivered, which will have to sit out on the pavement or in the roadway until they are removed.

    For the moment, it all seem to have gone quiet down at Katharine Street. I’m assuming no one who has contacted or written to the council on this (I’m sure it wasn’t just me) has had a reply or even an acknowledgement. I’m hoping that it is dawning on them that they have a massive problem, and they are looking for a solution. But I’m not optimistic.

  3. Lewis White says:

    The new bins have landed in West Coulsdon yesterday.
    Well, the ones being trundled out along the streets, fresh from the wheely bin manufaturers, were the new black “non recyclable waste wheelies” which are the old fashioned “small” wheely, and the new blue topped paper bins, which are enormous.

    My guess is that most houses will not fill the paper bin up, but that the waste bins will prove too small for most households, and that the streets will be disfigured with black bags and shredded bags and litter. The foxes are going to have a field day ripping up bags to see what is inside.

    I would guess that the new “paper” wheely would take more than 4 recycling boxes full of paper.
    I have 2 blue boxes (paper) and 2 green (cans and bottles), and I am going to do a trial to see what we generate each fortnight.

    Is there a hidden agenda?— would the big blue bin actually be big enough to take my cans and bottles too?. In a few years, will the council co-mingle the recycling, leaving ius with one black non-recyclables bn, and one “all recyclables” bin?.

    The ever-changing world of waste is a long-term human companion.
    Archaeogists learn a huge amount from waste pits from ancient civilisations worldwide.
    Future alien arrivals from the planet Xarg will no doubt delight when they uncover a historic 21st Century wheely, and scrarmble to see what treasures lie therein.
    Ah! Five plastic pens with the name “Red Cross” on the side! …….. A child’s puzzle ! ….. A resin figurine of a shepherd and shepherdess! A punctured “spacehopper” . A pill container of aluminium foil and plastic (unrecyclable)

    Yes, we humans have this connection with rubbish. Our existences shall be measured by those things that we throw away.

  4. dickb4925 says:

    Well, I have received a response from the council in the form of a pro forma letter, most of which reiterates the reasons why recycling is such a good idea and how the council are saving us all money. It does, however, state that “a council officer” will assess my property “to determine whether or not the bins can be accommodated”.

    I’m not sure what form this assessment will take. I hope the officer will pay me a personal visit to understand my recycling requirements. We will see… .

  5. veeanne2015 says:

    Blue paper Wheelie Bins are already being delivered.
    The leaflet says ‘if you’re genuinely struggling to find space to store the bins, get in touch with us and we’ll visit your property to assess and, if necessary, make alternative arrangements’.
    What alternative do they suggest ?

    If everyone with steps up or down, non-existent or minimal front gardens with scarcely enough room for the one bin, those houses converted to several flats who’d end up with nine or more bins taking up their small gardens, those with off-street parking who won’t be able to get into their cars with three bins, all those who recycle all the paper/cardboard they can but still don’t fill up the recycling box, and more, refused them, what a mess this ill-thought out plan would cause !

    As for ‘saving money’, and ‘good for the environment’, can anyone explain to me how the dustmen taking (say) six or more wheelie bins from 6 (or more when converted to flats) houses along the street to a space between parked cars, wait for six (or more) bins to be INDIVIDUALLY mechanically emptied, with six times as much traffic fumes being churned out from the lorry’s exhaust, six times the petrol used, and six times the dustmen waste their time having to take them all back again, not forgetting six times the pollution from the vehicles stuck behind them, how is this cheaper that the dustmen’s one journey to the lorry with the six recycling boxes’ contents in their wheelie bin, and then onwards for both man and lorry ?

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