Tag: troglodytes

Passing the wheelie

I’m not overly interested in what the reasons may be for Mr Wren’s decision to prematurely leave his post as cabinet member for local environment on Swindon Borough Council. (Whatever the reason, I’m sure any formal announcement will include an attempt at humour of the ‘following the successful introduction of borough-wide kerbside recycling…’ variety.) Let’s just hope that his proposed successor, Mr Mattock starts with a little humility by admitting that the introduction of wheelie bins and blue bags for non-recyclable waste has poorly implemented.

The first step to improving services is admitting that they are not as good as they could, or should, be. The first step to learning how to make those improvements is admitting that mistakes were made.


It is with sadness that we note today the passing of weekly rubbish collections. Born in the Victorian era as a health measure, weekly rubbish collections had an honourable, if un-noted, life maintaining the general sanitation of Swindon’s streets. Weekly rubbish collections leaves three younger siblings (weekly recycling collection, fortnightly garden waste collection and fortnightly plastic bottle collection) and two children (fortnightly wheelie bin collection and his exclusive brother weekly blue bag collection).

Weekly rubbish collections’ funeral was held early this evening at a landfill site in Wiltshire. At the request of his ‘guardian’ Mr Wren, no flowers please.


I arrived home today to find my new wheelie bin waiting for me. Now I’m content enough with the small wheelie bin that, as I requested, I have received. It’s a little difficult to manœuvre around the narrow space between my gate and the front of my house (how I would have managed with a full size bin I’m not sure), but apart from that it’s fine. What annoys me is the nonsense contained in the leaflet that came with it.

Where and when should my bin be left for collection?
Your wheelie bin should be put at a point on your own property that is nearest the public highway,

That’ll be right in by my front door then.

where it is visible and accessible to to the collection crews.

As the bin is about twice the height of my front wall, it should be pretty difficult to miss, though given the record so far of the bin-men emptying my orange recycling boxes, I may need to train it to do a song and dance routine to get them to notice it. As to being accessible, at the moment the binmen hoick a black bag out of my dustbin ove the brick wall, without coming through the gate. WIth the wheelie bin, it is too deep for them to reach in and it will be difficult for them to manœuvre out of my gate.

Why change to a wheelie bin?
It reduces the amount of rubbish that is sent to costly and environmentally-damaging landfill by encouraging recycling

What? Just where did that demonstrable bit of nonsense come from? A wheelie bin does not of itself have any impact on the level of recycling, as anyone who lived (as I did) in a city where wheelie bins were introduced over eighteen years ago, way before doorstep recycling was introduced, would know. In fact, as the standard size wheelie bin is about four times the size of an old fashioned dustbin, if anything it could be said to encourage the throw-away society. By Mr Wren’s own admission, the biggest impact on the level of recycling in Swindon has been the introduction of separate doorstep collection of plastic bottles. The main influences on the level of recycling are making recycling easier by providing separate doorstep collection, and restricting the amount of ‘non-recyclable’ waste that the council will collect. The means by which that ‘non-recyclable’ waste is collected (be it by wheelie bin or for the anointed few by blue bag) is an irrelevance. It is bad enough that the council have foisted this change upon the residents of central Swindon with a sham consultation: it is an insult to the intelligence of the Swindon electorate that councillors and council officers continue to attempt to confuse the two issues of increasing recycling and the method of waste collection.

Bottling it

From the latest comments from Mr Wren, it would seem that the most significant factor in increasing the level of recycling in Swindon is nothing to do with the frequency with which ‘non-recyclable’ rubbish is collected, nor is it related to the introduction of wheelie bins. What matters is the council making it easy to recycle what wasn’t recycled before.

Since introducing the new plastic bottle recycling scheme we have experienced a surge in the amount of waste being recycled rather than just sent to landfill.

Lets hope that the success of this ‘carrot’ influences future policy in this area, so that their is rather less emphasis on the ‘stick’. It’s nice too to see that Mr Montaut has finally finally caught-up on the primary issue of concern to his electorate in relation to the new waste collections.

However, the biggest concern is the blanket view taken over which residents will be required to have wheelie bins.

I see that wheelie bins have even arrived in the back-alleys of the railway village now.

A star lesson

Given how bad a mess the council has been making of the the changes to its waste and recycling service, it is, perhaps, not surprising that they have received a one star rating for them in an Audit Commission report on Swindon’s waste management services. The report notes the dissatisfaction of residents.

The waste collection service is variable with different parts of the Borough receiving different services and there are low levels of residents’ satisfaction with recycling and waste collection.

Just how low is only apparent from page 16 of the full report.

Satisfaction with both the waste collection and waste disposal service in 2005/06 was poor and in the worst 25 per cent of national performance with 74 per cent of residents’ satisfied with the waste collection service and 72 per cent of residents’ satisfied with the waste disposal service.

That’s over a quarter of the population dissatisfied with a service that most people ordinarily take for granted. The Commission also confirms my own experience.

The free garden waste collections service is also variable with some residents not having received a regular or reliable service.

The commission recommends that the council sets targets for improving residents’ level of satisfaction with the service. The council’s response, from our old friend, Mr Wren? Complacent.

I am delighted that the Audit Commission has recognised the council’s commitment and enthusiasm to continue to improve our waste services and increase the level of recycling and composting that our residents help us to achieve. If they were to come back this time next year, I think they would be totally impressed.

Perhaps they should first try to impress their local residents.

Wheelie illogical

Swindon Borough Council has now published a list of which streets will not have to use wheelie bins and will instead have fortnightly blue bag collections. There’s several things that are irritating about this. Looking at the list, it’s mainly of roads where the houses front straight onto the pavement. But streets such as The Mall, Faringdon Road and Park Lane, where the houses all have reasonably sized front gardens and the roads are level, are also reprieved, whereas the many terraces with a mere 3 ft front yard (Tennyson Street, for example) will receive wheelie bins, despite the difficulties of manœuvring them in such a confined space. This is inconsistent with both the council’s published basis of assessment of wheelie-suitability and that the slightly more generous criteria that councillors were told. Not surprisingly some people in Broadgreen are not impressed. According to the council’s director of environment and health

The survey was done by an expert refuse driver who walked the streets around the town assessing the road and properties to see which would be suitable. It has been done by someone who knows how the system works and understands the service and its needs.

He seems to be forgetting something. Services are there to serve the people and it is the people’s needs that are being forgotten. Also Councillor Wren is back spouting, appropriately for his council responsibilities, utter rubbish.

We mustn’t lose sight of the two key reasons why we’re making these changes. Firstly, we have to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill, otherwise each and every one of us will be hit in the pocket. And secondly, it’s damaging to the environment to bury re-usable materials.

All of which is totally irrelevant to the issue of blue bag versus wheelie bin.

It’s not all sweetness and light for those receiving blue bags either. The blue bags will be twice the size of ordinary black refuse sacks. That’ll make them easy to carry when full!

Fighting over the rubbish

I see that whilst I have been away, quite a fight has broken out over waste and recycling collections in central Swindon.

Now that a quango has changed its guidance on alternate weekly collections, particularly in relation to food waste, Councillor Montaut has written an open letter to Mr Wren, the councillor in charge of waste and recycling, questioning the decision to collect ‘non-recyclable’ waste once per fortnight, and has then gone on to play petty politics with the issue. It is also worth noting that Mr Montaut is rather selecive in which parts of said quango’s guidance he chooses to take note of, with some of his points (e.g. about the effect of fortnightly collections on recycling rates) totally contradicting the same guidance document that he quotes elsewhere.

What Mr Montaut hasn’t questioned are the rules about who does and who does not get a wheelie bin, which seem to have been applied differently in the vicinity of the council leader’s home than the rest of central Swindon. But then, frequency of collection is, to some extent, an issue for all of Swindon, whereas the problem of where to put a wheelie bin is only an issue in the cramped terraces of central Swindon, so, as he lives in Moredon (oddly enough the ward of Councillor Wren), Mr Montaut is not personally affected.

(I note in passing that, according to the August edition of Swindon News, the start date for fortnightly wheelie bin collections has been put back from September to November, though they will be introduced over just two weeks from 5th November rather than over six months as originally advertised.)

Wheelie bombs

I’m not particularly interested in the arguments over weekly vs fortnightly non-recyclable rubbish collections, nor convinced either way on the arguments. However, I am worried about the sanity of one of our local councillors, if he actually said what he’s reported to have said.

Mr Wren said that new wheelie bins being rolled out across Swindon in September will be airtight so smells cannot escape and animals cannot get in.

Airtight? If no smells could escape, then as waste rots and decomposes, the gas that’s given off would have nowhere to go. The bins would build up a little bit of pressure. Leave them long enough and they might explode (and before anyone accuses me of being alarmist, we’re talking little ‘pop’ type explosions here, not big bangs). It would certainly make the dustmen’s job exciting.