Oval Road’s three years of misery over a failed bin bag trial

When councillor Stuart Collins and Veolia imposed Binmageddon on Croydon, they did so with little proper consideration for the practicalities of plonking multiple large wheely-bins outside the borough’s often small, terraced housing. Whole streets have been taken over by Veolia’s bins.

Binmageddon: the ranks of wheelie bins – some three to a household, taking over the pavement. But on Oval Road, the council managed to replace this with something far worse

But for one street in Addiscombe, that nightmare has been made even worse, with their road now constantly smeared in rubbish and attracting vermin as a result of a failing council bin bag ‘trial’.

Here’s one resident’s account of life on Oval Road

It was one morning that homes on Oval Road had large blue recycling bins delivered. Some households got as many as three. These were meant to replace the small recycling boxes. But many residents couldn’t accommodate them in our gardens. So some time later, the large bins were all taken away. No one bothered telling me or my neighbours.

It turns out the councillors for Addiscombe West had done a consultation. But none of the neighbours I have spoken to knew anything about it. The councillors managed to keep the consultation very quiet.

Rubbish road: this is the state of Oval Road on a typical weekday morning, with waste strewn across the street

Just a handful of people had shown up for a meeting with the councillors held in the latter part of 2019. The meeting was called due to concerns that many of the new bins were placed on the path all week round. Some houses did not have any space for the bins: they are mostly converted flats in terraced houses with stairs in narrow front gardens. Others, however, did have more spacious front gardens and the room for a bin.

But that did not seem to matter to the councillors. They were concerned because they had heard that parents with pushchairs and people with luggage were forced to walk on the road because the pavement was crowded with bins. The bins that their own council had put there.

The councillors had an idea, which involved just using bin bags. Not all the residents were convinced, even some among the few that attended the councillors’ “consultation” meeting pointed out the potential flaws with this idea.

Nevertheless, one morning in March 2020, all the bins were taken away from us.

Some of us wrote to the councillors to ask for our bins back. Others, though, were told that they would be placed on a “bag trial”, initially for six months. It was early in 2020.

The council distributed colour-coded bags, but coloured differently from the bins they were supposed to replace. Oval Road was to get general waste collected weekly under this trial, instead of fortnightly as applies to the rest of the borough with bins.

Residents were told to put their bags out on the morning of the weekly collection day, but definitely not to put them out overnight. The bags were not to be tied together for whatever reason.

Rubbish service: not all households on Oval Road wait until the morning of the collection round to put out their bin bags, with messy results

The bags provided by the council and Veolia are very big. A single household probably won’t fill a whole bag in a week. And they probably also don’t want to keep their smelly waste bag inside their flat until the next recycling collection.

And besides, there was another obvious practical flaw in the bag trial logic: which residents were really going to set their alarms for some time before dawn in order to take out their rubbish on the morning of a waste collection?

So some just started putting their waste bags outside when they didn’t want them inside their homes any longer. It was an open invitation to foxes, and rats, who came along, ripped the bags open and scattered all sorts of rubbish over the pavements.

But at least the pavement was clear of bins now.

Because of lockdown, some residents ran out of bags and couldn’t get new ones from the council. So they started using regular black bin bags. But Veolia would leave the black bags behind on collection day, because they were not the right bags.

It was clear that this bag trial wasn’t working. Some residents went around to take photos and email and report, to let the council know. But the council persisted with the “trial”.

Then, at some point last year, residents received a letter from council threatening action for “non-compliance”. For not complying with the trial that had been imposed, with barely any consultation, and which was obviously flawed even before it began.

Veolia was told to just collect all the bags every week, regardless of whether this was the week for plastic recycling or paper recycling. Residents could just put anything on the road and it would get collected.

Trial by rubbish: the letter distributed to residents in March 2021, announcing the latest extension of the bag trial

So now we also have a big issue with fly-tipping that we didn’t have before. Old furniture, electrical items, suitcases, toilet pans, radiators, and large piles of end-of-tenancy waste, all regularly appear on the pavements now, waiting for the weekly collection. The lines are getting a bit blurry here. Perhaps others were coming to the road to fly tip?

But this was a bag trial. We had to keep trialling it to see whether it worked…

We’ve been told that Veolia had also come to the conclusion that the bag trial wasn’t working. They wanted to have the more-easily-stored recycling boxes back for the residents.

As covid dragged on, along came the HGV driver shortage, and delays for many streets in getting their rubbish collected. Sometimes, the whole of Oval Road’s collection was missed. The mess was getting ever messier.

The bag trial was extended multiple times, the council claiming that, because of covid, they could not gather sufficient evidence during that time. It ought to be pretty obvious: we have gone nearly three years now with litter and bags all over the road on most days of the week, not only on collection day.

The bag trial was meant to end in May 2022. We all know the councillors were busy at that time, knocking on doors and canvassing ahead of the local elections. But I’ve not seen any of them – councillors Patricia Hay-Justice, Clive Fraser and Sean Fitzsimons – since May. Not a word from any of them, and certainly no response to the emails sent to them about the state of our street.

Did they read their emails with the pictures? The council is claiming they cannot decide on the future of the bag trail without our councillors’ involvement. I remember reading that the trial “can stop at any time if found unsuitable”.

Many residents have had to spend considerable amounts on pest control to deal with the rodent problem. Many have lived on Oval Road for many years, but now there are rats running around front gardens between the children’s toys. When one rat was run over by a car in August, its corpse was left in the middle of the road during the heatwave for days. The scent on the road this August was a special one.

Dumping site: this small plot of privately-owned land has become a public health hazard, but the council has failed to act effectively

There are other issues with neglect and the council failing in its duties, areas full of rubbish, pests and Japanese knotweed. A public path near Ark Oval Primary School between Oval Road and Cherry Orchard Road was left unattended for many months. The council was very sure it is the school’s responsibility. It turns out, when they checked, that it is the council’s responsibility.

There’s also a patch of private land owned by a developer, whose scheme for a four-storey block of flats between Oval Road and Cedar Road was thwarted earlier this year. It’s a great spot for a squatter or drug dealer, or both. It also works as a public toilet.

What was once a pleasant place to live, Oval Road has been allowed to become a right mess.

We still don’t know when the bag trial will end, and Oval Road’s inflicted misery brought to an end. Nor what waste collection system will be imposed to replace the failed bags system.

The councillors don’t respond to emails and have left residents in despair. We are left to feel helpless without any support. We might get to see the councillors again before the next local elections – but that isn’t until 2026. Representation is a strange thing, isn’t it?

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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Addiscombe West, Business, Clive Fraser, Croydon Council, Environment, Fly tipping, Patricia Hay-Justice, Refuse collection, Sean Fitzsimons, Veolia and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Oval Road’s three years of misery over a failed bin bag trial

  1. CentralCroydon says:

    It’s handy that the text in bold in the council letter only refers to keeping bins and/or boxes within the boundary of the property. No mention of bags, so residents can’t be done for fly tipping when leaving bags out. Another example of incompetence by Croydon Council.

    Can someone remind me of who the director in charge of refuse collection is.

  2. Paul Harper says:

    I live above a shop and was told I would be given special bags as we could not have bins. Did I get special bags? No. Have to use black bags. I will admit Veolia do collect on the day of collection.

  3. Lewis White says:

    In Margate, basement and step-access homes without street-level front areas suitable for wheely bins get heavy duty “anti seagull bags” which hang from the basement or front garden railings.

    These are in a woven plastic material like mailbags, but chunkier.
    Still, they are manky, as they get dirty and smeared with sticky waste.
    Vermin and seagulls still raid them.

    At Oval Road, why can’t the council revert to the previous “easy to lift and safe to walk up a few steps” green or blue recycling boxes, which can be stacked 3 high in many a basement “area” .

    As to the non-recyclable waste, surely they could each be given a “small or medium” wheely, to be placed 24/7 on the footway. (perhaps not the very wide jumbo mega wheely). These would not block the footway for pushchairs and wheelchairs, judging by the photos above.

    One wheely per flat, on the footway, would not be too bad visually, far from Binmaggedon. OK, there would be wheelies, but not 3 per flat. Just 1.

    Why are the councillors seemingly unconcerned about the need for rubbish and vermin free footways ?. They should be concerned about wheelchairs pushchairs, and about achieving rubbish and vermin free streets.

    The right design solution can’t be that hard to find. Give it a fair trial . Talk to residents and check with an access advisor .

    Oval road could do with some TLC–why not have troughs of flowers on the railings. That doesn’t mean ” gentrification”. Just residents reclaiming the street for decent people to live in. The fly tippers, (other than the few anti-social local residents who sadly will even dump stuff on their neighbours’ doorstep), will disappear if the place looks neat and tidy and loved.

  4. Ian Kierans says:

    Here is a thought why not have communal bins. There are not many spaces on Oval road but there are a few that could house Biffa Bins. The Council sticks them in it’s own rented houses even in areas that can accommodate the 9 binmageddon bins.

    Sealed box units. – maybe ensure that all ”perfectly legal developments” have effective and efficient waste storage areas that are safe?

    Come on Council provide the solutions that work not some fart bag!

  5. Lewis White says:

    In response Ian’s post above, having spent quite a surprising amount of my landscape design career designing robust, workable and attractive bulk refuse areas, domestic refuse storage, and recycling areas on council and housing association estates, with respect I would submit an observation gained over over the years, that communal bins (“Euro Bins”) might work in certain locations set some distance back from the highway, sufficiently away to be regarded as “private to residents”, such as a small block of 2 storey flats, in a quiet close or side road.. The only people using the bins would be the people living there. Other people would feel exposed if they walked that far , under the gaze of windows, and people, to dump rubbish in and around the bin. With luck, such locations would not tend to get abused by opportunist dumpers from “off the estate” or even other parts of the same estate. The term often used is “defensible space”.

    Attractive brick wall enclosures containing Euro bins, with bars to stop the lids being opened and thrown backwards, even with pergolas over the top, side screens and ramp and step access,( if well sited, where they are convenient for the residents), can be acceptable parts of the landscape of housing, but they still need regular cleaning and emptying.

    Oval Road is very different — it’s a place where there are many passers-by. It is a very public public highway, open to all. Just a metre and a bit, from kerb to bin. My gut feeling is that communal bins in such a place will just get abused–people would drive up and do a quick fly tip of their own rubbish, into or next to the bins. By day and by night. So easy.

    The big lids of the bins would get thrown or blow open, and the rubbish exposed to vermin birds and flies. The lids would soon get broken off, and people would just chuck bags and unbagged rubbish in “willy nilly”. They just become “dumping centres”. It all gets out of control, very quickly.

    The joy of wheely bins (or “wheelies”) is that if the lids get thrown open, it is easy to shut them. Even fly-tippers tend to respect that a bin belongs to a person.

    The plastic bags were always going to be a disaster for people, and destroy the propsect of having a clean street, but a dining opportunity for urban foxes, gulls and rats.

    I hope that the council has design expertise to bring to bear on dealing with this unsightly, smelly, sticky, very messy scar on the face of Oval Road.

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