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EVER BIN HAD?

24-04-2007

Sandwell Council is doing its utmost to be a clean, green local authority. And that’s whether or not it’s suitable for local residents like Lynn Hawthorne.

I am a big fan of recycling. I cannot bear waste and I feel that the future of this planet urgently needs some help from us, after all the damage we humans have inflicted.

I think it is right that the European Union pressurises the British Government into meeting stringent recycling in targets, similar to those that have been in existence on the Continent for years.

But what does the good old British Government do in response? Does it establish a coherent nationwide policy? No, it forces cash-strapped local government, in disparate areas of the country, to muddle along. And let’s face it, muddling along is what Sandwell Council is extraordinarily good at.

The latest furore in Sandwell is the arrival of the green wheelie bin for garden waste. Excellent! My own two compost bins are full, so that means no more trips to the tip on the other side of the borough, with smelly rotting vegetation seeping into the upholstery of your car, steaming slightly as you wait in the ridiculously long queueat Shidas Lane in Oldbury.

No more £11 bills for Special Collections, where they tell you ‘it could be any time in the next 6 weeks’ and 10 weeks later the bin bags are still there under your front window.

A great improvement, then? Er, no.

Sandwell decided to “roll out” its programme of garden bins over several months, as they couldn’t do the whole borough at once. Fair enough, except there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the streets that got them and those who didn’t.

Take the Golflinks Estate in Wednesbury, for example. A self-contained estate, with defined borders. Easy! But half the estate got green bins and half did not.

Recently, my street received its green bins. We knew we’d get them eventually, but didn’t know when. They arrived at the end of March, unannounced, and were left outside houses, advertising to every member of the criminal fraternity which homes were unoccupied that day.

Where the furore erupted was that in my area, most of the houses are terraced. Where do they go, these huge bins?

I’m lucky in that I have a small foregarden and a side alley, but not everyone is so fortunate.

Humping a heavy, awkward object full of waste through the house, down the entry, etc is not easy nor ideal and some residents have, reasonably, objected.

The Council’s response to these objections is to take umbrage and threaten to remove the bins altogether and refuse to collect garden waste in future. Not quite the ‘working in partnership’ that Sandwell is keen to promote.

And they’re expecting some households with minimal frontages to share bins. How’s that going to work?

The next problem is the actual collection.

Setting off for work the other morning, I noticed some of my neighbours hauling these bins onto the pavement. I hadn’t been notified of a collection date and needed to get going, so went off to work. How did they know and not me or was it a guess?

On my return, I discovered that these bins had been emptied - but not mine.

Apparently, the Council expects you to put these bins on the edge of the pavement with the handles facing roadwards and I hadn’t done that. My green bin, however, was in the little alleyway at the side of my front garden, easily-visible and with its handles facing roadwards.

I couldn’t haul it up any higher because of the slope, as my street is on a steep hill. And I have a back problem which makes it difficult for me to lift/pull/carry anything of weight.

So let me get this right: the Council will not let its physically-strong, male operatives, trained in manual handling and employed for the purpose, haul these bins even relatively short distances in case of injury and protect these said operatives with lifting gear on the back of the wagons, but expect ordinary members of the public - including little old ladies and those with physical disabilities - to do so?

And they expect residents to place these bins on narrow, broken pavements, blocking access to pedestrians for up to several hours? Whatever happened to compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act?

How are people with either wheelchairs or pushchairs supposed to navigate the footpaths if they have to slalom around these huge non-recyclable plastic monstrosities?

And where do we stand on public liability? Whose property are these bins? Do they belong to the Council or the householder? Who owns the pavement in this scenario?

Is the householder responsible for any injury or accident on the bit of pavement outside their house or does it belong to the Council? And what happens if a resident injures himself enough to take time off work when shunting these bins about?

Can they sue the Council because the Council is requiring compliance with its recycling targets?

At the moment, I have a wheelie green bin for garden waste, a grotty black dustbin for domestic refuse and a recycling bin all under my front window by my front door. Goodness knows what I’ll do when the black wheelie bin for rubbish arrives. That’s going to be pleasant in the summer if the current weather forecast holds out.

In the meantime, I have more garden waste mounting up and I have to remember when the next fortnightly collection is.

As I said at the beginning, I am a fan of recycling. I think it’s important and should be supported by the public. What I am objecting to is the ill-thought out, piecemeal operation of the Council and its failure to appreciate the nature of its housing stock.

Ok, Sandwell, it’s your turn………

Sandwell Council have been invited to reply, and we’ll post their response just as soon as we get it. In the meantime, how does recycling work (or not) in your part of the West Midlands? Leave a comment in our messageboard

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