Keith Parkins | 11.08.2008 16:28
Guildford recycling information stall at local farmers market
'The recycling mania now among us is creating a serious knock-on problem. Household refuse stored in black plastic bags and overflowing wheelie bins causes a 24/7 source of rodent food.' -- National Pest Technicians Association
'Waste collection is the key service provided by the Borough, and we mess with it at our peril. We should be improving cleanliness in the Borough not compromising it. I want to live, first and foremost, in a clean environment.' -- Councillor David Clifford, Rotten Borough of Rushmoor
'For me, this is heck of a good policy that is really good news for the residents. Our residents are going to get brand new bins.' -- Andrew Lloyd, chief executive, Rotten Borough of Rushmoor
'I urge you to keep the stick in the box. I won't get the stick out and beat people with it unless I really have to.' -- David Quirk, head of environment, Rotten Borough of Rushmoor
'To suggest new smaller bins are to be issued to encourage recycling is an insult to the intelligence of rats, never mind the rest of us.' - Dean Mansfield, Aldershot resident
At 22-26%, the performance by the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor on recycling is abysmal.
No one though is surprised. To get good recycling figures, to be up among the best performing local authorities, you have to work with the public. Rushmoor does the opposite, threatens and antagonises the public.
Lessons have still not be learnt from the disastrous fortnightly waste collection implemented last year.
Against very strong opposition from the local community, the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor put several thousands households in Aldershot and Farnborough on fortnightly waste collection. It was an unmitigated disaster – overflowing bins, rats, maggots, bad smells, fly-tipping. Eventually Rushmoor was forced into a humiliating climbdown and weekly waste collection was reintroduced.
Rushmoor is not the only council forced into a climbdown on fortnightly waste collection, many other councils have been forced by public pressure to revert back to weekly waste collection.
How David Quirk, Rushmoor Head of the Environment, retained his job is a mystery, as it was he who pushed this disastrous policy. He blatantly lied, claiming there was no problem with maggots, rats, fly-tipping, even though reports from across the country said the opposite and these problems were all too apparent within the borough. Were he employed in the private sector, how would have been fired.
The net result of the failed policy was that it gave recycling a bad name. The very people the council needed cooperation from to up its pathetic recycling record, the council had gone out of its way to annoy and antagonise. The council even rigged a questionnaire to try and get the right answers.
Contrast the piss-poor recycling record of the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor with that of neighbouring Guildford. Guildford residents lack the convenience of a wheelie bin in which to put their recycled rubbish, instead have to put it in a basket, and yet their performance far exceeds that of Rushmoor. As does North Kesteven, the best performing local authority in the country. The important difference is that these local authorities work with their local communities, not against.
At the monthly farmers market in the High Street, Guildford has a stall encouraging people to recycle, help and advice is on hand. People are encouraged to compost in their back gardens. Rushmoor on the other hand encourages people to put all their green waste out to be collected by the council. The reason for this is that it helps to artificially inflate their recycling figures. Green waste that is then trucked half way across Hampshire to Basingstoke to be recycled!
The Rushmoor 6-month experiment with fortnightly waste collection came out of a Council policy document. The emphasis was on cutting services, with mere lip service paid to recycling. Hidden within the report was another stupid idea, cut the size of the wheelie bins. This was at the time abandoned on grounds of cost.
The dumb idea of cutting the size of the wheelie bins has been resurrected. Last month the council agreed to provide everyone with a half-size wheelie bin, at a cost to the local taxpayer of £750,000! Recalcitrant households will be criminalised taken to court and prosecuted if they fail to comply with council diktats on rubbish collection. This will take us right back where we were last year, overflowing wheelie bins, maggots, bad smells, fly-tipping. Quite what households are supposed to do with their surplus rubbish has been left unsaid.
Fortnightly waste collection led to overfilling bins and several other problems. As night follows day, halving the size of the wheelie bins will lead to the same problems of overflowing bins, fly-tipping, rats etc.
Alton, which went over to fortnightly waste collection a couple of years ago has seen a marked increase in back yard burning of rubbish. Ireland suffered deteriorating air quality due to back garden rubbish burning.
Local residents who are otherwise law abiding citizens are going to receive a criminal record for a minor misdemeanor. This will effect their future job prospects, could lead to their being sacked on the spot or kicked off a university course. In clear breach of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (1974) and Data Protection Act (1998), many employers are doing unlawful criminal records checks with the Criminal Records Bureau then misusing the information obtained.
Local residents see the replacement of existing wheelie bins with half-size bins as sour grapes, punishment for the decisive rejection last year of fortnightly waste collection.
Andrew Lloyd, borough chief executive, sees it as 'really good news' that local residents will get brand new bins. Well I have news for him, they think the council is off its collective head and living on another planet. For himself it is 'heck of a good policy'. Why, is he getting a backhander for placing the contract? Or is it as he said last year, this was not the end of the matter and he sees it as getting one back on local residents? If that is how he feels, then he has very seriously miscalculated. As it is, David Quirk, borough head of environment, is foaming at the mouth at the thought of having a big stick with which to beat local residents.
The figure of £750,000 for new bins may already be well out of date. Across Europe, there is an acute shortage of wheelie bins. Reminiscent of the share a bath with friend during the 1976 drought, some London boroughs are encouraging neighbours to share bins. Wheelie bins are an oil-based product, the price of oil has doubled.
In Derbyshire, thousands of households awaiting the arrival of new wheelie bins, have been told in the meantime to stack their rubbish in black bags in the garden, an open invitation to foxes and fly littering. In Lancashire, families moving into new homes face an eight-month wait for wheelie bins. Sixty are stolen every week, according to local media in Preston
On the other hand, Wear Valley District Council in County Durham has been paying a farmer £1,000 a week since last year to store 15,000 wheelie bins in a field whilst councillors make up their minds what to do with them. The bins cost the local taxpayer over half a million pounds.
Giving new households a choice of wheelie bins is one thing, or replacing a bin with a smaller one if a household requests it, but unnecessarily replacing all existing wheelie bins at a huge environmental cost is totally unacceptable.
Households are being punished for something that is out of their control. Households do not generate rubbish, it passes through their hands. The main culprits are the supermarkets with their over-packaging. The focus recently on plastic bags has been classic greenwash to distract from over packaging.
Recycling has nothing to do with how often the rubbish is collected or the size of the wheelie bins. It is educating people to put the right rubbish in the right bin, even more important, to cut down on waste produced, and to re-use what you have or find alternative uses.
In Rushmoor, when households sort their rubbish, bag books and clothes for charity shops, they get a visit from environmental health and a threat of court action for harbouring rats and other vermin. When it is pointed out there are no rats, no evidence of rats, the tale becomes there may be a potential for rats. The households are then told to put all their carefully sorted rubbish in the wheelie bins!
Rushmoor is not the only local authority exhibiting crass stupidity when it comes to domestic waste collection, nor is it restricted to local councils. Town hall jobsworths seem to forget that they are public servants paid out of the public purse to perform a public service. Too often the useless jobsworths are little more than bullying thugs and it is the weak and vulnerable who suffer.
One lady literally got two fingers from her local council when it came to getting her rubbish collected. If the bin men could not pull her wheelie bin with two fingers, then it was too heavy for them to cart to the lorry.
An elderly lady has to carry her rubbish half way down a hill, because it was more than the bin men could cope with.
A 96-year-old almost blind veteran of the Desert Rats campaign of World War Two, has had his council refuse to empty his bins because he accidentally put an empty ketchup bottle and coffee jar in the wrong bin. The bins were eventually emptied following intervention by the local press.
In Bolton, following the recent local government strike, when bins were not emptied, the bin men then refused to empty the bins because they were too heavy.
Households in Kirklees have experienced the same problem, bin men who the previous week had been on strike, refusing to empty bins they claim are too heavy.
Last month, Ian Margetts received a criminal record for emptying his wheelie bin on the floor of Cleckheaton town hall in Kirklees in protest at the council's failure to collect his rubbish. He was convicted of dumping controlled waste without a licence and given a conditional discharge but ordered to pay court costs.
Gareth Corkhill got fined and received a criminal record because his bin lid was left open by four inches. He refused to pay a £110 on-the-spot fine to the council bin police and got taken to court where he was ordered to pay £210 for refusing to pay the on-the-spot fine.
As Gareth Corkhill remarked at the time: "It's only an £80 fine for fly-tipping. I would have been better off doing that."
And why was his bin ajar by four inches? Because his council only collects once a fortnight.
For this father of four, the fine amounts to a week's wages. A fine his family can ill afford, plus he collects a criminal record.
Government guidelines with the Orwellian title of Flycapture Enforcement recommends an on-the-spot fine of no less than £75 and up to £110 (with standard fine of £100) for overflowing bins. This is potentially a more severe penalty than the £80 fine that police officers can hand out to those they deem guilty of drunk and disorderly conduct or shoplifting. Other 'offences' for which the spot fines can be imposed include leaving a wheelie bin lid ajar, putting the bin out on the wrong night or leaving it in the wrong place.
In the 12 months up to April last year, nearly 44,000 were fined because they failed to close bin lids, put their rubbish out on the wrong day, or left extra black bags alongside their bins.
The underlying problem is waste or the concept of waste. In the natural world there is no concept of waste, waste does not accumulate in time or space, the output of one process is the input of another process. We have to learn to mimic nature, close the loops, adapt a network approach. This means more imaginative thinking, lifestyle changes.
No one summed up better the need for lifestyle changes than American poet, novelist, essayist, philosopher, deep ecologist and farmer Wendell Berry in his Recollected Essays:
'We have lived by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives, so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption that what is good for the world will be good for us.'
Products have to be better designed, last longer, lack built in obsolescence, are easy to disassemble and repair. Recycling to be the last option, not the first. To throw away not an option.
Farmers markets reduce food miles, reduce waste. Farnborough and Aldershot used both to have farmers markets, but alas no more thanks to lack of support from the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor. Senior officials and councillors would rather get into bed with developers, than give support to local farmers and traders, then have the gall to call it 'regeneration'.
For the good folk of Farnborough and Aldershot, the nearest farmers markets are at Guildford, Farnham or Alton.
Mobile phone contracts have to change from monthly contracts with a free phone every six months to pay as you go where you pay explicitly for the phone. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Monthly contract users pay several time over for their 'free' phones, which help to fill otherwise empty drawers or cupboards or go to contaminate landfill sites.
Builders are reluctant to design and build environmentally sound houses because of cost implications. It should be mandatory and conditional on grant aid for all social housing to be built to the best environmental standards within minimal ecological footprints. This would be paid for with rent increases which would be more than compensated for by lower running costs and lower fuel bills.
We don't need eco-towns, we need eco-houses in every town which set the standard for others to follow.
Money that councils like Rushmoor seem to be all too willing to spend on new wheelie bins and bin police should instead be spent on providing 'free' or heavily subsidised compost bins and water butts and education. If households have the wrong rubbish in the wrong bins, is it not better to educate them than criminalise them?
There should be more space allocated to allotments and parks and playing fields, a moratorium on back garden infill, gardens no longer classed as brownfield sites. Households encouraged to grow their own food, shown how to cook, waste less food. A very high proportion of the domestic waste we throw away is food waste.
The consumer society, like drinking and driving, made socially unacceptable.
Publishers of unwanted free newspapers forced to pay their environmental costs.
Neighbourhoods should be socially cohesive not socially divisive.
Instead of plundering the natural world, invest capital in the natural world. Re-afforestation pays dividends in terms of cleaner air quality, climate control, reduction in carbon emissions, cleaner water, flood prevention. Nothing should be taken from the natural world that is not replaced at the same rate of extraction.
In Europe, with the exception of Sundays, rubbish is collected every day or every alternate day.
We receive very little for the local taxes we pay. The absolute minimum we expect to receive is a regular and efficient collection of our rubbish
reference and background
Vanessa Allen, Now dustmen won't take your rubbish away if wheelie bin is too heavy to pull with two fingers, Mail on-line, 7 June 2008
John Bingham, Wheelie bin 'too full to empty' because of dustmen's strike, Telegraph, 30 July 2008
J Brough, Scheme wastes our money, letters, Surrey-Hants Star, 7 August 2008
Lester R Brown, Plan B 2.0, Norton, 2006
Lester R. Brown, Throwaway economy in trouble, Earth Policy Institute, 30 November 2006
Pete Castle, New bin scheme unveiled, Farnborough News, 1 August 2008
David Clifford, Alternate week waste collection survey, 18 July 2007
David Clifford, Rushmoor's Waste Management Panel's recommendations, 10 June 2008
Lawrence Conway, European trend to recycling leads to mass shortage of wheelie bins in UK, The Independent, 4 August 2008
Do They Wheelie Expect Us To Share?, Londonist, 4 August 2008
D Humphreys, Rubbish plans, letters, Surrey-Hants Star, 7 August 2008
Paul Hawken, Amory B Lovins & L Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism, Earthscan, 1999
Nick Lakeman, 'Too heavy' bins not being collected, The Bolton News, 27 July 2008
Andrew Levy, War veteran, 96, has rubbish uncollected for two weeks for 'crime' of putting two jars in wrong bin, Mail on-line, 14 May 2008
Dean Mansfield, Intelligence of rats insulted, let alone people, letters, Aldershot News, 8 August 2008
Jaya Narain, Frail pensioner told she must drag her wheelie bin half a mile to get it emptied, Mail on-line, 5 June 2008
Neighbours to share wheelie bins, BBC news on-line, 4 August 2008
Keith Parkins, Natural Capitalism, October 2000
Keith Parkins, Curitiba – Designing a sustainable city, April 2006
Keith Parkins, Allotments at risk, Indymedia UK, 20 October 2006
Keith Parkins, No more farmers markets in Farnborough, Indymedia UK, 22 October 2006
Keith Parkins, Alternate Bin Collections, Indymedia UK, 13 November 2006
Keith Parkins, Rushmoor fortnightly bin collection, Indymedia UK, 17 November 2006
Keith Parkins, Shredded paper not recyclable, Indymedia UK, 21 November 2006
Keith Parkins, A load of rubbish, Indymedia UK, 12 December 2006
Keith Parkins, Recycling – a tale of two councils, Indymedia UK, 5 January 2007
Keith Parkins, Fortnightly rubbish collection creating a plague of rats, Indymedia UK, 8 January 2007
Keith Parkins, Gardens under threat, Indymedia UK, 26 March 2007
Keith Parkins, Council rigs questionnaire on fortnightly waste collection, Indymedia UK, 14 July 2007
Keith Parkins, Bad Food Britain, to be published
Tom Peterkin, The £110 fine for overfilling your bin, Telegraph, 3 August 2008
Tom Peterkin, Eastern European recycling leads to British wheelie bin shortage, Telegraph, 5 August 2008
Bob Roberts, Families who overfill bins set to face bigger fines than shoplifters, Mirror, 4 August 2008
Paul Sims and Steve Doughty, Father of four taken to court and fined ... because he overfilled his wheelie-bin by just four inches, Mail on-line, 21 April 2008
Smaller bins on way, Surrey-Hants Star, 31 July 2007
Bryan Styles, Small bins will bring misery, letters, Surrey-Hants Star, 7 July 2008
Ernst von Weizsåcker, Amory B Lovins and L Hunter Lovins, Factor Four: Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use, Earthscan, 1997