CROYDON COMMENTARY: The first week of Veolia’s new bin collection schedule has been and gone, with varying reports of successful, and less successful, experiences, of still-missing new wheelies, and wheelie bins that have come, and then gone again.
Here, South Croydon resident KIRSTIE SMITH, pictured right, relates how she has got through this week’s #CroydonBinChaos and lived to tell the tale
I let Croydon Council know, via its multiple social media accounts, that our “special collection” that was due to happen on the Saturday of the bank holiday weekend never did as it was supposed to.
I thought it odd, as I was sure I heard the bin lorry while I was half asleep in the early hours, but our bins (ours and our neighbours) weren’t emptied, so I concluded it was a dream. I tried to report it via “My Account”, the council’s online system, but this wasn’t possible. The council computer system was offline all over the bank holiday, for “essential maintenance”.
Then, yesterday, the bin lorry was in our road. The refuse collectors were collecting. Hurrah!
“Here for general waste?” I asked.
“No, plastics today,” was the response.
I had a conversation with the guy, while he was emptying the plastic bins.
He was doing this not by attaching them to the lorry and the hydraulics doing the work, but by lifting the big wheelie bins manually and tipping them into a bigger wheelie bin.
That surely cannot be good health and safety. I foresee a lot of back problems. I digress.
I explained our special collection did not happen and did he know when it would be? It turns out that they were here at the weekend, he remembered being on the round. He was very apologetic that ours was missed. “We all make mistakes.”
We do indeed. His apology, and his general customer service were a credit to Veolia.
During a scene which had all the look of a sketch from the Benny Hill Show, the bin lorry was now round the corner and I realised that as I was talking, our plastic bins were not emptied but passed by.
I hurried my child to put his shoes on and we scuttled down the road after them.
Then an epiphany.
The road we live in has a high population of elderly. The properties are such that there is shared communal access between each set of four maisonettes, with a couple of steps up to properties and then down to the bins, which are often stored behind the communal gate which leads to the gardens.
A special arrangement has been in place for longer than we have lived here, where Veolia would collect the bins from behind the gate. This was for ease of the elderly residents who could not put their bins “out”, as they wouldn’t mange it. It applies to the whole road though and not just individual properties.
So I asked if this is why our bin wasn’t emptied, because it was behind the gate?
It wasn’t “presented”, so it wasn’t emptied.
I explained how it had always been, until now, and that if we need to put the bins out the front, that’s fine, but we need to know. This needs communicating to all residents in the road. Engagement.
Our recycling has always been by our front entrance, with the general waste behind the gate. But as it’s now big, ugly, wheelie bins, it has been moved to the communal area that leads to the gardens. It’s a mess, with bins everywhere and the kids struggle to get their bikes out. But from other pictures I’ve seen, we are lucky.
I ran back (more of a jog to another bit of Benny Hill) to pull mine and the neighbours’ plastic bins out as the collector had offered to come back for them. They are heavy and clunky and I will admit that I struggled, and I’m in my prime (supposedly).
This led to a further conversation with another collector about bins in or out. And me saying it’s fine, but we need to know and I’ll pass the message to the neighbours. But wait! An interruption!
A third collector then joined in to say that yes, the bins are collected from behind the gates. This is a long-standing agreement for this street and this is how it is. Another apology and a realisation that information is not being passed on from “The Office” to the team on the ground, some of whom are new to certain rounds, or agency staff.
All of the collectors that engaged with me yesterday were a credit to Veolia. They were polite, offered great customer service and were doing a great job.
They are being let down by the Decision Makers and those working in The Office, as they are not being provided with the correct information to do their jobs. I worry about their backs, having to lift the heavy wheelie bins, and wonder if Veolia’s sickness rate will increase and the impact that that might be having on the service residents receive, too.
I also wonder, out of all the Decision Makers and those in The Office, how many started on the ground, doing the actual job?
Anyone can be a manager and make decisions, but to be a good manager and fully understand the implications of any decision, rather than just those on a balance sheet, requires sight of how the role works. Was there any input or feedback sought from those out collecting before the changes were imposed upon us and them?
I doubt it, and it would explain why the refuse collectors I have spoken to don’t think the new system is working either. Their comments echoed similar reactions from their colleagues when trying to implement the system in Sutton last year.
So we are left with full wheelie bins, some of which include nappies, and yes, it’ll have been three weeks between collections by the time they are emptied. Why? Lack of communication and engagement. Which is what got the borough into this sorry mess in the first place.
I’ll be passing my feedback on to the council – if I can get through to them.
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