Recycling – Why people have given up

Residents anger at failing waste collections are understandable
Residents anger at failing waste collections are understandable

Recycling – Why people have given up and who can blame them?

Why is it that Northampton Borough Council are so determined to make recycling as difficult and confusing as possible with the inevitable result that people stop doing it which in turn leads to an increase in fly tipping across the Borough?

They will of course deny it but the evidence and more importantly the experience of residents across Northampton demonstrates why recycling targets aren’t being met and why people are having to suffer from living in unacceptable conditions.

The whole issue of the change to ‘two green sacks’ a week for those residents who don’t have wheelie bins is the latest in a long list of service failures.

How an earth is it that some residents still haven’t been issued with their sacks whereas in other areas they have been issued with two lots?

The Conservatives are claiming that the change was always in the ‘contract’, but noticeably any request for a copy of the contract is rejected out of hand claiming that it runs into many volumes and so is difficult provide.

Or, are they trying to cover something up?

The argument that the Northampton Conservatives give for limiting residents to two green sacks a week is that this is four sacks a fortnight ( so at least we know they can count to four) which is the amount of sacks that can fit into ‘black wheelie bins’.

In fact as those of us who have them know between 6 and 8 black sacks can be placed in a wheelie bin which means that those who don’t have them are being discriminated against and aren’t getting the same level of service for the Council Tax they pay.

It is interesting perhaps that those who have to use ‘green sacks’ live in areas where the Conservatives don’t actively campaign!!!

What very understandably has angered residents and especially those from Mushroom Field Road in Ecton Brook who came to see me at my surgery last week and this is that they have been issued with Section 46 notices.

For those who don’t know what a Section 46 notice is, it’s defined as

Section 46 Receptacles for household waste.

(1)Where a waste collection authority has a duty by virtue of section 45(1)(a) above to arrange for the collection of household waste from any premises, the authority may, by notice served on him, require the occupier to place the waste for collection in receptacles of a kind and number specified.

In effect having failed to roll out the new system in anything like a professional or sensible way the Council has now got Neighbourhood Wardens visiting different areas of the town issuing what residents consider to be threatening notices.

Whether it is good use of the Neighbourhood Wardens is another issue but I suppose it’s better than having them painting lamp posts in the town centre.

What has annoyed residents in Mushroom Field Road, and is echoed across the town is the method being used to collect the ‘green sacks’.

Residents shouldn't have to put up with this environment
Residents shouldn’t have to put up with this environment

I am told that the collection teams are taking the ‘green sacks’ and leaving any ‘black sacks’ for 24 hours to allow Borough Council staff time to go through them to see if they can identify who has put them out.

Residents have been told that if they find they have to use more than the two ‘green sacks’ a week they should retain them until the following week of take them to the recycling centre.

The flaws in the system as I pointed out to the residents are obvious and so perhaps is the solution.

Disregarding the fact that two trips by Enterprise to collect the different coloured sacks is not only expensive and inefficient but also calls into question the Councils carbon footprint policy or the advice that residents should take their own rubbish to the ‘tip’, advice which presuppose that they have access to a car,

If for example residents in Ecton Brook use three sacks a week then by the end of the year having used the 104 bags they are issued with, they will have accumulated 52 full sacks of household rubbish.

The photographs which we’re take this morning (Wednesday 27 November) illustrate the problem more than words can, and with collection day in the area being Saturday highlights the plight of those living in the area.

The solution of course from the residents point of view is simple,

Anything that can identify who they are, (I did warn about putting anything in the waste that reveals their identify) if put in ‘green sacks’ will be taken away without examination or question.

So what happens if they put all other waste in the ‘black sacks’ which would result on the second collection in their household rubbish being collected with the added bonus that residents will be contributing to the reduction in the Northampton carbon footprint by not using their cars to go to the tip.

Problem solved, or is it?

Collection day Saturday, all photographs taken on Wednesday 27 November 2013.
Collection day Saturday, all photographs taken on Wednesday 27 November 2013 in Ecton Brook. Failing Council Failing Service

The other issue for many residents and communities is the issue of fly tipping which is blighting the areas they live in.

I know from personal experience just how ludicrous the Enterprise contract is, having in common with many residents having received a ‘naughty notice’ stick to a cardboard box I put out for collection.

Let me explain and it is a common story,

I flattened, folded and tied the box up and stood it up in the ‘green recycling box’ only to watch the collection team remove it from the box, empty the other contents into their lorry, stock a ‘naughty notice’ on the cardboard telling me it was too large to be collected and then putting it back in the ‘green recycling box’!!!

Bizarre isn’t the word for it, and in fairness to the team they would have been happy to take it but had been told they weren’t allowed to and would be in trouble if they returned to the depot with it.

What was bizarre is that I put the cardboard in my ‘black wheelie bin’ which was emptied and take away without question?

Begging the question, “if you have a wheelie bin why not throw everything in it”?

Having discussed the incident with friends and neighbours it turns out that they put the majority of household waste in their black bins, the main exception being glass, for the simple reason that they are fed up of the recycling service and having to clean up after the collections.

In the past fortnight we have seen the residents in Abington and elsewhere complaining about the failure of the Enterprise contract which after almost three years is totally unacceptable.

The continuing failure of the contract is symptomatic of the Northampton Conservative lack of political will to get a grip of the issue preferring instead to concentrate their energy and tax payers’ money on promoting self-serving pet projects.

If ever there was an example of whole neighbourhoods and communities from Blackthorn to Rectory Farm, Ecton Brook to Bellinge, Standens Barn to Abington and throughout Northampton being abandoned by the Conservatives the continuing failure of the rubbish collections is it.

What is amazing is that when challenged their argument is that the taxpayer has to accept the situation because it would be too expensive to bring the service back under the control of the Borough Council.

What nonsense?

It is the Northampton taxpayers who are paying for the Enterprise contract and I would argue that if they aren’t delivering the level of service and achieving the targets then they are in breach of the contract and any expense of transferring it back to the Council should be down to them.

It may of course be that the problem is that the level of service within the contract is being delivered?

Which raise a whole different set of issues, the main one being who an earth agreed the contract and especially what professional advice that it was acceptable was given to Councillors?

If residents aren’t already confused already then wait until they receive their copy of the Waste and Recycling Calendar 2013/14.

I received mine this morning and two things stood out,

Firstly the statement, “Remember that recycling and food waste is collected every week and we will collect unlimited amounts of recycling” and, “Please recycle as much as possible. There is NO LIMIT to the amount of recycling or food waste we will collect”

Presumably then the policy has changed and residents can leave as many ‘green and/or black’ sacks out as long they contain food waste or recycling?

Does this also mean that recycling that doesn’t fit into the recycling boxes will also be taken away including oversize cardboard?

It isn’t after all that oversize cardboard can’t be removed or fit into the recycling lorries because the second point in the latest calendar is the statement that,

“We collect large cardboard between 23 December and 4 January (inclusive). Simply flatten and stack next to your recycling boxes”

So if at Christmas why not for the rest of the year?

At the very least it will save recycling collection teams having to issue ‘naughty notices’ and release our Neighbourhood Wardens to concentrate on those who are really responsible for fly tipping.

Do have confidence that it will happen.

Of course I don’t.

What I do expect is that in the next 12 months we will see a continuation of a failing service and rehash of the excuses and promises that the people of Northampton have had to put up with for the past two years.