A Waste of a Blog Post

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The NLA’s own rubbish royalty, Gavin Dick explores the fascinating world of waste disposal

As a generous and generally easy-going sort of person, you might be mistaken in thinking that your local authority, in its approach to the collection of household waste, was doing you a favour. They kindly come to your house once a week (if you’re lucky) and empty your bins as an act of kindness, out of sheer altruism.

But you’d be completely wrong. They have a clear legal duty, as outlined in the Environmental protection Act (EPA) 1990.

It’s a dirty job, but……

Within England, two tier local authorities (such as counties and boroughs) divide the waste obligation between collection and disposal of the waste service to households, unitary authorities meanwhile undertake both. They now provide an array of bins, receptacles and bags for the waste to be collected and in different colours for the different week that the waste will be collected.

It’s all about the 3 R’s!

The waste hierarchy states remove, reuse and then recycle, but local authorities are apt to miss the first two and moved straight to the third as they cannot easily measure the first two – and after all recycling sounds sexier!

The collection authority will tell you how much – as a percentage – they are recycling and what an amazing job they are doing.  What they do not tell you is if there has been an overall reduction in total waste collection, whether the amount that is to be burnt or land-filled and recycled is in a going down or how much is being reused

As long as they empty my bin what do I care?

 With councils having to reduce costs, the waste service is one that has to make “savings” every year. This is done by limiting the service to wider and wider groups of residents. The service that many authorities are providing is being reduced year after year in the name of efficiency and savings. Even if the savings made in the waste department has a detrimental impact on another departments’ budgets.

Really what harm could it do?

We are now seeing councils not collect side waste (bin bags that won’t fit in the bin), or with bins that cannot be shut, or bins that have the wrong material in them, or bins called Steve. OK maybe not the last one, but the list is growing and the next on many areas list could be bins of rented homes.

The impact of this is rubbish on the streets, bins left for weeks and litter across our green and pleasant land – And did those feet, in ancient times…….

I digress. The NLA is hearing from landlords that some councils have refused to take away tenants’ waste and left it for weeks.  We have come across situations where a council has refused to take a bin and a tenant has emptied the bin in a back ally or down the street in the hope that street cleaners will dispose of the rubbish. In extreme cases they have set fire to it.

Tag you’re it?

The blame game then begins; it is the landlords fault for not telling the tenant how to deal with their household waste. It is the landlord for not managing the tenancy (read tenants’ life). It is the landlords fault, oh it does not really matter let’s just blame the landlord. It is never the local authorities, through different departments acting in separate ways that has caused the problems.

The problem is then made worse by the failure by local authorities to allow a landlord to use the waste facilities. A landlord who is willing to take a tenants’ waste to the local dump is blocked by the Council, on the basis that they are running a commercial business.

The more unscrupulous landlord will leave the waste on the street, as it is not their waste. The more responsible may  eventually bill the tenant for a professional waste provider to remove the waste.

The current approach of too many councils increases the chance of fly tipping and litter across their areas. The local authority will blame landlord and the tenants, but they will never look at the failed policy that they have implemented.

Death of  a thousand cuts?

The drive to salami slice budgets year after year – there is no magic money tree for local authorities in the future – will not solve the current problem. A pragmatic approach to managing the issues is required.

Working with landlords and tenants rather than demonising them, recognising waste as domestic in origin and allowing landlords to take their tenants’ waste to the tip, picking up side waste, especially at the end of university terms when the pressure is at its greatest, will significantly reduce the amount of litter and filth on our streets.

4 thoughts on “A Waste of a Blog Post

  1. Excellent post Gavin,
    But what I think is needed is not to try and get us all to work within the salami slice budget that our City Councils have been given but rather to get the City Councils to start to fight back against our oppressive government. Our City Councils are weak and by accepting the government policies they show no respect for the residents that are within their boundaries, there should be no compromise on services that they need to offer. If more money is needed they should demand it or SRIKE AND FIGHT BACK. Yes taxes will have to go up but at least the country will be decent and everyone in the country will have to pay it. Of course what our government want is to make the city council put the council tax up which means that actual tax across the country becomes distorted. This shameful government taxes people where it can in all odd ways that are unfair and not level across the country, our loss of interest relief being a typical example. We need to stop thinking of our government as being decent people. They are not decent people and we need to start to fight them. The wheelie bin war that is about to start is going to be very interesting and I think that its going to show the mood of the people again just like Brexit.

    1. The problem central and local governments have is that they have to reverse and undo “problems” created over a good few years – most notably, but definitely not exclusively, during the 10 years that the ocular challenged Scottish idiot was in number 11. It’s a bit like a superscale version of someone who’s gone on a several year long spending spree and finally realised that the credit cards need re-paying sooner or later and the partying and holidays have to stop. But I digress from the point I want to pick you up on …
      You say “The wheelie bin war that is about to start is going to be very interesting and I think that its going to show the mood of the people again …”
      I think the “mood of the people” will be shaped by the headlines from the tabloid press interested only in selling more papers, and soundbites from the politicians trying to divert attention from the real problems. The mood will continue to be “nasty, evil, exploitative landlords who deserve to be ‘punished’ for exploiting the poor and vulnerable and pricing people out of the market”. Until we can successfully change that mindset then we stand no chance of getting public support and politicians will be able to do pretty well what they like as long as they are seen to be tackling the “problem”.

  2. And presumably at the same time as refusing to take waste from these rented properties, they’ll be charging the tenant the same rates as they would for an owner occupier ?
    I remember decades ago when I had a small business, we had to go and buy bundles of commercial refuse sacks from the council office. We had to pay because there was an allocation of only one per week for the whole building – they had no problem charging each tenant in the building, separately, the full rates though.

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