Wednesday 16 September 2009

EasyCouncil wheelie bin shock. Residents to be given half size bins.

For the last two weeks, the mainstream media and blogosphere has been discussing Mike Freer’s proposal to model Barnet Council on budget airlines easyJet and Ryanair.

On Monday, Cllr Freer was interviewed on Radio 4’s You and Yours programme in which he gave an example of how his plans - dubbed easyCouncil - will actually work.

Cllr Freer denied that the council was looking to charge more for providing a premium service (which is what the budget airlines do). Rather, residents would pay less if they use less. Mr Freer cited refuse collection to demonstrate the point. He said:
“Mr Resident, that full wheelie bin is costing you, the taxpayer, £300 a year in landfill tax. Tell you what. Have a half size bin, recycle more and over the year if we find that you are not putting out side waste at the end of the year we’ll give you £100 or £200 back.”
There are two immediate problems with this proposition.

First, for residents to recycle more, the council has to substantially increase the range of materials which can be collected at the kerbside. At present, Barnet residents cannot recycle the following:
yoghurt pots
margarine tubs
plastic cups
plastic tubes
plastic food trays
sandwich packets
plastic wrapping
cling film
fruit juice/milk cartons
cardboard which has been contaminated with food waste (e.g. dirty pizza boxes)
all of which make up a significant proportion of our current domestic waste.

The second problem is the condition Cllr Freer proposes to impose before residents qualify for lower council tax: “…if we find that you are not putting out side waste…”

In other words, once you have filled your wheelie bin, do not leave out any surplus waste in bin bags.

The corollary of offering a lower charge for less waste is that you pay a higher charge if you have more. But how many families could realistically expect to get by with a half size wheelie bin each week?

It is not difficult to foresee what will happen. Once your own bin has been filled, residents will either put their waste in other people's bins or, worse still, just dump it in the street in order not to lose the discount.

Barnet Council made a pledge to maintain weekly refuse collection services in the borough. But by cutting the bin size in half, they will effectively be reneging on this pledge by stealth.


DarkKnight said...

Recycling is far too important to be left to the whim of local authorities and there are far too many inconsistencies between boroughs.

If the UK is serious about recycling, then it needs to set down an unambiguous policy that all Councils have to follow.

We already pay through the nose to have rubbish collected and recycling recycled. Councils should not be allowed to tax people extra for this service, or fine them for failing to understand complex instructions about what goes in which bin.

Legislation should be brought it to ensure that Councils that fail to collect rubbish and recycling on a weekly basis should themselves be fined.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again. A good Conservative approach is 'binned' and a wasteful, snooping, stalinist approach is gleefully adopted.

George Osbourne, in the speech that snubbed Barnet Council, praised (twice) Windsor and Maidenhead for an innovative market led solution where it PAYS people for recycling MORE. Simple to administer, uses the kind of economic incentives, that the bestseller, Freakonomics espouses.

The kind of approach that the Leader of the Council is advocating requires even more Council Officers to snoop in bins.

Who want a big padlock on their bins to prevent others from loading them up? What will happen if your neighbours put out black bags after you have left for work? There are endless other problems.

I understand that the bins being considered are 90l wheelie bins that can old just one black bag. When wheelie bins were introduced you could have a larger one, but now they have been phased out. I will wager £10 that a year or so after these 'toy' wheelie bins are introduced you will be unable to get the normal 240l ones replaced and slowly everyone will have to have the 90l. How long after that for the 'rebate' to be scrapped?

My bet is that by 2014 everyone will have a 90l wheelie bin and should you accidentally overfill it, or place black bags next to it, you will be slammed like RyanAir do with their £20/kilo excess baggage charges.

It is also a full frontal attack on the same 'hard working families' that Cameron and Osbourne have pledged to help.

This is less to do with RyanAir than copying the Poll Tax. This is Barnet's Bin Poll Tax. If you are a pensioner or single person you are quids in. If you are a family or in a shared house you will pay more. That was the principle of the Poll Tax. Why are those who snatched control of Barnet Council from it's elected Leader obsessed with reliving and repeating the biggest political mistakes of the 1980s when everyone else has moved on?

Time is running out for the Conservative Group Councillors to pull the plug on this nonsense. Our voters are reading this cr*p in their Daily Mail's and Telegraphs and are shaking their heads. Mike Freer will be fine, he'll be an MP. How will you feel knocking on door after door next May and being told they won't vote for you as they don't want to pay more for their trash?

Don't Call Me Dave said...


To prove your point, Kent County Council collects all the items in the list above, which Barnet does not. If Kent can, Barnet can!

Unless the council agrees to accept a wider range of materials for recycling, any attempt to reduce wheelie bin sizes is doomed to failure.

The whole thing seems like just another policy idea made on the hoof.

As for fining councils, they will only pass the cost onto council tax payers. Perhaps if the fines had to be paid from councillor allowances, it might just concentrate their minds!

Ex-Recycling Officer Emeritus said...

Barnet Council has developed an effective and reasonably efficient recycling collection service with the co-operative participation of Barnet residents. You will notice that most of the residual waste listed is plastic packaging. Of course, all that is needed is a reasonable market for these materials, and a way to compact them on collection. A compaction refuse vehicle would be able to collect this light material quite effectively -- which is what is happening at present! The problem is that the residue is not primarily these plastics alone, but also all of the other recyclables which are not being separated out by non-co-operative residents. If the recycling collection worked as it could, there would be so little residual waste that the residual waste could probably be collected once a month.

As for a scheme to reward people who effectively reduce their waste, Cllr Freer's is, in principle, very praiseworthy. Only when you consider how people would try to get around it do you find the weaknesses. Perhaps, as one commenter alluded, a poll tax would actually be a better solution -- if fairly applied (not as proposed by Maggie). If we all paid Council Tax according to the number of people in our family/houses, we would not only be paying fairly per capita for the amount of waste we produce, but also for other services.

Unfortunately too many people are quick to dismiss the idea of a poll tax without considering the waysin which it could work to everyone's advantage -- much like the horror of the thought of reducing the number of refuse collections (which is based on one off-the-cuff "promise" from one councillor a number of years ago).

At least Cllr Freer's suggestion should get people talking about the problems of waste again. Let's just hope that some of them are willing to think as well as talk.