The Wheelie Bin Issue

The Wheelie Bin issue has been curiously absent from the local government election campaign. Almost a conspiracy of silence, some might say!

The fact is that the "fortnightly" bin collection was voted through the City Council by the Labour/Liberal coalition while in power and then presided over, following the taking of  political control, by the Conservative group that had voted against it.

True, the £300,000 or so of savings arising from the "improved" collection programme had already been committed to other Government-approved projects by the time that the current administration got to look in the till, leaving little or no room for manoeuvre, but the result has generated considerable public hostility.

The Daily Mail, a newspaper adept at creating a bandwagon and then jumping on it, has for once clearly struck a chord with public opinion that reaches out beyond its own, shall we say `specialised`, readership and local and national governments are going to have to listen to the growing rumble of discontent.

"Fortnightly" collections are not, of course, that at all. The collections are still weekly but only one of two bins is emptied during each week. This has led, we are told, to a massive and applauded increase in re-cycling and Canterbury City Council proudly claims to be up there with the best of the recyclists.  So far so good.

But what about the large families generating larger quantities of what has to be sent to landfill sites?  You can have a larger bin, we are told. Or you can buy a second bin.  Well, can you?  And if you do will the Waste Disposal Operatives collect and empty the second receptacle?  The answer appears to be that larger bins are not, in fact, readily available and that second bins remain unemptied.

There is a parochial and Clochmerle element to all of this that scarcely seems to be the stuff of national comment.  The fault does lie, though, as it so often lies, in Whitehall. Local authorities strapped for cash by Central Government and with an increasing burden of statutory duties to pay for, are bound to look for savings and waste collection, as parking charges, are a natural target.

How those very many local authorities, including Canterbury, that have moved to fortnightly collections of non-recyclable waste are, with the money saved now spent, going to solve the problem is another matter.

But problem there is and problem there will be.  Setting aside the very real difficulties experienced by some elderly when putting out or retrieving even the smallest of bins (a difficulty that will no doubt lead soon to the first case of hospitalisation arising from "bin-injury") there is the matter of The Stink.  Yes, I know that occasionally a Stink Wagon follows behind the Dustcart to spray the bins but when the promised long hot summer arrives that is scarcely likely to be adequate.

The likelihood of tons of rotting waste lying in wheelie bins for two weeks while attracting flies and rats will make the previous "seagull difficulty" seem like the pure joy of a bygone era. Scent sales could rise but I cannot see that this odour is likely to make our heritage tourism sites and seaside holiday towns more attractive to either domestic or overseas visitors.  Having a third-world facility on the doorstep may save a few polluting air-miles for those desperate to visit squalor but for the majority the prospect is distinctly unappealing!

Those councils that have embarked upon this exercise are going to have to come up with some answers fast and before a heat wave,  If they fail to do so then it is likely to take more that the Pied Pipers of Town, City or White Halls to rid the nation of vermin

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