'We have responded to the people of Bolton and brought back the weekly grey bin service, because we see it as a right to residents. But, with all rights comes responsibilities. We all must continue to recycle more of our household waste and regularly use the green box; white bag and green bin. If people don't recycle there will be a cost which will have to be met, and we will have to look at alternative ways of enforcing this.' -- Councillor Elaine Sherrington, Executive Member for Recycling and Waste Management, Bolton
Recycling and waste reduction is being used by many councils as the excuse to cut services. Weekly waste collection services are being cut to fortnightly with no pro-rata cuts in local taxes.
A consequence of the cut in services in Oxford is overflowing wheelie bins and rubbish dumped in the streets. One lady in Oxford is so appalled and disgusted at the cut in service, that she has made an appropriate pro-rata deduction in the Council Tax she pays.
Typical of councils cutting services is the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, where recycling and waste reduction is being used as the excuse to cut services.
By imposing a cut in services on the local community, all it is doing is alienating and antagonising the support of the very people whose support we need to cut waste, increase recycling.
Two honourable councillors have voiced their concerns, and as a result been subjected to vicious and childish attacks.
Fortnightly waste collection has many problems, including smell, maggots, flies. Waste operatives are finding their health is being put at risk by being forced to handle two-week-old putrescent waste.
Scandinavian scientists have found that the organic waste was causing problems as the fortnightly collections allowed it to degrade and putrefy. They noticed that during the working week the respiratory tracts (windpipe) of the refuse collectors were much more inflamed than after they had rested for the weekend. They concluded it could indicate serious health problems developing over the longer term.
Scientists from the Norwegian National Institute of Occupational Health, in Oslo, the University of Oslo and the Department of Environmental Medicine of Gutenberg University in Sweden, found that the waste had begun to degrade and putrefy after two weeks, releasing potentially dangerous discharges. These discharges, called 'bioaerosols', contain numerous bacteria and fungus.
Wijnand Eduard, of the Norwegian Institute of Occupational Health said the study had produced some important research:
'This study is probably the first using induced sputum that found signs of an inflammatory response in the lower airways among waste handlers.'
'Even though bioaerosol exposure remains moderate during collection of organic household waste, it unquestionably leads to bronchial inflammation.'
'... chronic inflammation of the airways, as occurs in chronic exposed workers in other fields, may subsequently result in chronic respiratory symptoms and chronic loss of lung function.'
The Local Government Association said at the time of the Scandinavian study that it would not apply to the UK as most collections were weekly. With many councils now trying to force fortnightly collections, it now does apply. The situation would be worse in England than Scandinavian counties as the climate is warmer. And it is getting warmer!
'Bioaerosols are not the only health hazards facing bin men. In Aldershot, bin men, being at the front line of this daft policy, are facing the anger of local residents, this includes threats and abuse and being pelted with rubbish.
This dumb policy, with all its health implications, is being pushed by central government. What therefore is the policy on waste collection in the constituencies of some of the key players, or for that matter Westminster?
Sedgefield (Tony Blair): Weekly collection of refuse. Very good promotion of home composting, including a compost bin for eight pounds (subsidised by a government quango).
'The Council normally collects household refuse from all domestic properties within the Borough on a weekly basis. If however the Council do change or delay your collection (eg on days with severe weather conditions such as ice or heavy snow), every effort will be made to collect additional refuse on the next available collection day.'
Hull (John Prescott): Weekly collection of refuse.
Bolton (Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State Communities and Local Government): Weekly collection of refuse.
'The weekly grey bin collection is being reinstated with the roll back taking place between July and October 2006.'
'The rest of the borough will be organised in the same way and will be completed by October 2006. Residents are urged to start putting their grey bins out weekly only once they have received the white sticker notifying them of the change. The change in service is in response to public demand. But, returning to weekly collections does not mean people do not need to carry on recycling. It is vital and must continue. Bolton's recycling efforts have made a huge difference to the recycling rate over the last year, increasing the amount of total waste recycled from 13 per cent in 2004/05 to nearly 25 per cent in 2005/06, which is above the 20 per cent recycling target for Bolton imposed by Central Government.'
Westminster (where Parliament resides): At least twice weekly collection of refuse!
Hull, Sedgefield and Westminster, are in the national league tables, down with the worst performing councils in the country, even worse than the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor.
We are being given the impression that fortnightly collection of refuse is like globalisation, set in stone.
It is not. Around a a dozen councils have been forced by public pressure to abandon fortnightly collection and revert back to weekly refuse collection. This includes Bolton, in which Ruth Kelly has her Bolton West constituency!
- Southampton City Council
- London Borough of Sutton
- Leeds City Council
- Plymouth City Council
- Chelmsford Borough Council
- Nuneaton and Bedworth District Council (3 weeks!)
- North Lanarkshire Council
- Bury Metropolitan Borough Council
- Kirklees Council
- Scarborough Borough Council
- Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council
The Local Government Association (LGA) recommends to all its members, to heed what local communities are saying, to not impose a collection service but to implement the collection service which local residents say they want.
Bolton has increased its performance on recycling, cut down waste, by listening to what its residents are telling it.
'We have been told by Bolton's residents that the issues of reducing waste; increasing recycling and being tougher on litter are important to them. Listening to their feedback has helped us to develop our ‘Let’s talk rubbish’ campaign.'
'Bolton’s residents have played an integral part in the implementation and success of our efforts so far. It is such support that made it possible to:
- Help Bolton win the ‘Race to recycle’ award two years in an row
- Reduce waste to landfill by 18,000 tonnes
- Double recycling rates
'Through the ‘Let’s talk rubbish’ campaign we are recognising this good citizenship and we look forward to the continued support of our residents in reaching the goals set by current and future initiatives.'
Basingstoke tried tried to go down the same route as Rushmoor and many other local authorities, force the local community down the the fortnightly collection route. And let's be clear what that means, your rubbish, if you are lucky, will only be collected 26 times a year.
The local residents of Basingstoke were having none of it. They said no, they gave the proposals a resounding no. Basingstoke was forced to back down before the cut in services was introduced. This was not before refusing to publish a survey of residents views until after the May local elections, a survey that was due to have been published in January.
A newspaper poll in the Basingstoke Gazette, saw 1,792 readers voting, with 1,674 against the proposal to cut weekly refuse collection to fortnightly, ie 93% of residents were against the scheme.
I would expect a poll in the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor to provide similar results, as I have yet to meet a single person in favour.
Basingstoke is now having to talk to local residents to see how its abysmal recycling performance, even worse than Rushmoor, can be improved. The head of environment has even been forced to invite keen recyclers to a meeting, to see what can be done.
This would be unheard of in the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor. Critics of Rushmoor head of environment David Quirk are told in no uncertain terms that he has no intention of entering into a dialogue. Councillor Roland Dibbs, with responsibility for rubbish collection, does not even bother to respond.
Recycling tips included giving out recycling information through estate agents and letting agents when people move into the borough, educating people more about what to put in the green bins and encouraging businesses to do more recycling.
In North Kesteven, all households are given a very clear leaflet on what rubbish to put in each bin. In the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, a landlord unable to get any help from the council, drew up her own leaflet to give to her tenants.
In Sedgefield, residents are encouraged to home compost, helpful advice is given, good solid compost bins are available at eight pounds. In the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, in a crude attempt to artificially inflate recycling figures, residents are encourage to put their green waste out to be composted. This green waste is then carted from Aldershot and Farnborough halfway across Hampshire to be composted in Basingstoke.
Around 60% of household waste is green waste, the remaining 40% is mainly packaging. Packaging has increased by 12% since 1999.
If we compost at home, we have immediately cut down on 60% of our waste output. If we are growing our own food, we will cut down on packaging, cut down on on food miles. If we grow traditional varieties, not only will we be growing some very tasty produce, we will also be helping to protect our genetic heritage.
Paper and card can be added added to a compost heap. Not only does this reduce still further our household waste, it also improves the quality of the compost. All shredded paper should go onto the compost heap, as its fibres are too short for recycled paper.
HDRA Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening:
'Recycling, one of the basic tenets of organic growing, reduces the need to bring in outside inputs, and also cuts down on the volume of 'waste' to be disposed off. It is rarely possible to be totally self-sufficient in a garden situation, but all bulky organic organic materials from the house and garden should be recycled for use in the garden.'
In a Europe-wide survey carried out by Ipsos Mori, 75% of those questioned in the UK said they wished to see a reduction in packaging.
At 51.5% recycling, North Kesteven is the top performing council in the country on recycling. It has achieved this pole position by having a longterm commitment to recycling, by having a simple three-bin system with clear instructions as to what goes into each bin, but above all by listening to local residents and heeding what they say.
Why are so few councils following the advice of the LGA, listening to local residents and implementing the refuse collection service they say they want?
It is called, local democracy.
Bin swap to boost recycling, Basingstoke Gazette, 30 January 2007
Collect Refuse in Oxford Weekly, Indymedia UK, 13 February 2007
Adam Hooker, Local newspaper poll kills Basingstoke collection scheme, Local Authority News, Letsrecycle.com, 24 October 2006
Kate Martin, Bin collection set for public debate, Basingstoke Gazette, 2 October 2006
Kate Martin, Rubbish survey delayed until after local election, Basingstoke Gazette, 16 October 2006
Kate Martin, Plans to boost recycling rates, Basingstoke Gazette, 21 November 2006
Kate Martin, Hundreds take part in wheelie bin exchange, Basingstoke Gazette, 1 February 2007
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Keith Parkins, Curitiba – Designing a sustainable city, www.heureka.clara.net, April 2006
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Keith Parkins, Rushmoor fortnightly bin collection, Indymedia UK, 17 November 2006
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Keith Parkins, A load of rubbish, Indymedia UK, 12 December 2006
Keith Parkins, Failing councils are creating gravy trains for consultants, Indymedia UK, 12 December 2006
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Keith Parkins, Recycling – the good, the bad and the ugly, Indymedia UK, 7 February 2007
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Keith Parkins, Green waste recycling, Indymedia UK, 12 February 2007
Pauline Pears (Ed), HDRA Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, Dorling Kindersley, 2001
Recycling 'risks binmen's lungs', BBC News on-line, 29 March 2003