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Bonkers Blog February 2019

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17 February - Recycling. The choice is between “significantly worse” and “marginally worse”

Bryce-SmithThe recycling options presented to the Places sub-group and their recommendations to Cabinet have already been reported here. What you may not know is what individual Councillors had to say about the forthcoming changes.

Not a lot as it turned out, they spent only 20 minutes talking about changes which will affect every one of us. The Chairman said the report “was the most important bit of work he had ever been involved in. There had been a lot of disagreement between Members and Officers”.

Maybe I should declare an interest; my use of the recycling services is minimal, I could easily go four weeks between residual waste collections but accept that for families that is probably not practical.

Deputy Director David Bryce-Smith said “the chief conclusion was that staying as we are is not an option but there were two key options that Members felt we should look at. One of them which we called the 123 option involved moving to two weekly dry recycling, three weekly residual waste [and it] delivers the highest financial saving and had the most benefit in terms of improving recycling [rates]. The other main option was moving to two weekly dry recycling but not moving to three weekly residual waste collection”. One must assume that Mr. Bryce-Smith intends to retain weekly waste food collection but strangely he failed to say so. Nothing sinister I am sure.

“In terms of objective scoring against the key principles the three weekly residual and two weekly dry recycling scored highest, however the public consultation, the overwhelming majority of residents did not support moving to three weekly residual waste collection but they did support moving to wheelie bins.”

Councillor John Davey said “the issue of bin collection is probably uppermost on peoples’ minds. When you speak to people on the doorstep they say the only thing the Council does for me is to collect the rubbish. That’s not true at all but it is the one thing they are aware of. It’s a highly sensitive issue and we must take account of what the residents think. It is the one thing they care about. We want to make a saving but we are here to serve the public”

BaconCouncillor Gareth Bacon who was the responsible Cabinet Member when the existing waste system was introduced said he “was not at all surprised that residents are in favour of wheelie bins, the boxes break and rubbish gets blown down the street”.

He referred also to the proposed choice of wheelie bin size “based on evidence”. What was that?

David Bryce-Smith said "there was no such thing as a one size fits all and some parts of the borough have very limited space out front. In some parts we will potentially have to maintain weekly collections in boxes”.

Councillor Bacon didn’t think that answered his question. He was then told that there would be a choice of 140 litre or 240 litre bins but people who asked for a 360 litre bin would be visited. “They are quite large.”

Councillor Bacon said he was “very nervous indeed” about the proposal “for stronger enforcement against households who make no effort to recycle or do not use their boxes appropriately”. He wanted “to understand exactly what you mean by that.”

Mr. Bryce-Smith said “it was the view of some Councillors” but changes in the law meant that fines were only appropriate when the lack of recycling was “causing a nuisance. It is quite a high bar to prove but I would like to see more informal warnings. Anything more would be challenging under current legislation”.

Councillor Bacon said that “whichever option is adopted you are going to be downgrading, it will be either significantly worse than now or marginally worse than now and at the same time brown bins have been taken away from being weekly and are now fortnightly and chargeable. On top of that we are talking about taking enforcement action, I think we are taking a bit of a step too far there. I think people’s tolerance for that would be very very limited. If we provide the tools for them to do the job it is a matter for them what they do with their waste. I would be very very reluctant to have Council officers going around handing out penalty notices We should approach that with extreme caution.”

Councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis took a similar view.

If I may inject a personal note here, nearly two decades ago when the need to recycle first came to the fore I was very much against it based mainly on the fact that some Councils, mainly up north, were taking draconian action against residents who made even the simplest of mistakes. My rebellious streak came out and there was no way I was going to cooperate with such a system in Bexley.

However the system that Councillor Bacon wisely chose was so simple and so far removed from the big brother practices I had read about elsewhere that there was no reason not to cooperate fully and he completely won me over to his cause. Bexley Council will bugger that up at their peril. I suspect they won’t dare to and the Deputy Director appeared to strongly recommend the same. His main concern is that very nearly 50% of residual waste could be recycled and most of it is food waste. “Some residents just don’t recycle food waste at all.” I know I know, every Friday the footpaths along Abbey Road are strewn with the evidence.

He said some fox proof food bins were coming.

Councillor Stefano Borella said there were many complaints about Serco and recommended the Council set up its own trading company for waste services. The Chairman agreed with him.

If I might go personal again, the Serco blokes in my road do a pretty fine job. Sometimes they wheel my bins all the way back from the road to my preferred bin parking spot.

A decision will be made by the Cabinet Member at the end of the month. Maybe this will influence him? - Or this?


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