I think the waste collection service in Gloucester is
rubbish, pants. It is not user-friendly and is not fit for purpose. The city council would be reluctant to change it because it brings in much-needed revenue, but I would argue that the first duty is to have a service to residents that enables ease of recycling, to increase recycling rates. On the back of news this week that the contractor has been putting the beautifully sorted recycling into one pile and then mechanically sorting it later, you then ask the question why can’t we do this all the time? But this isn’t the only problem.
The real problem is having two separate organisations involved in the waste schemes. The districts picking up the waste, selling off the recycling elements to generate revenue and giving the rest to the county to dispose of in landfill and soon, the incinerator. That means we have potentially 6 different collection schemes across the county, feeding into one disposal scheme. Then to look bigger, there is no coordination of non-recyclable waste across the country, hence we have an incinerator being built, when we have an incinerator in Avonmouth that is burning waste from London.
I have been an advocate for a county-wide waste collection and disposal for a long time, but it is not local Labour Party Policy and some people have been quite resistant to the idea, preferring to support the local administration, therefore not something I could run with whilst a councillor. But fundamentally I think that the county (not necessarily the council, but a county-wide organisation) should pick up the waste in a consistent fashion and because it deals with everything, it could leverage the best value out of the recycling volumes. If needed, balanced payments could then be made to the districts to keep them happy, but as they don’t have to pay out for the contracts in the first place, then it makes their lives easier.
Having just moved back to Kingsway from a part of Hucclecote that fell into Tewkesbury BC, the difference from a user perspective is stark. Tewkesbury has a green bin and a black bin. One for recycling and one for waste. (Weirdly the blank bin for recycling and the green one for waste, but I’m not claiming its perfect). Moving back to Kingsway I get a black bin, green boxes a blue bag and the food recycling (which Tewks also has). Now, in the city, even a suburb, the garden space is somewhat of a premium, so storing the bins, bags and boxes is, quite frankly, a pain in the ass. And come bin day, having to make multiple trips to get all the bins, bags and boxes out is painful. That’s not including the time spent having to clean, sort, argue about categories, ram everything into the boxes, try to fit the bloody lids to the boxes and fail, and that’s assuming it’s not raining.
This then brings me onto the craziness that is ordering bins. We got in touch and asked for green boxes etc because they were not at the property when we moved in. Once we had navigated the frankly rubbish website (try telling Gloucester City that you have moved in online, very difficult) we then had to wait around 28 days for the boxes. If we wanted the garden waste bin, then we had to pay (something I still think is a rip off). The scheme works on an annual basis and the start of the green bin year is very soon. But rather than paying a pro-rata price for the remaining current year, we would have had to pay full price for it, and full price again the next year. Not only that, we couldn’t pay for that with the other bins, we had to go into the council offices. Once again, not user oriented at all.
So, whilst I fully appreciate that it makes life much easier for the council if the residents do most of the work, many residents simply don’t bother too much, and then to add insult to injury, to find out that those who to have wasted their time because the contractor is mechanically sorting it anyway (apparently a temporary measure and the cost being met by the contractor, but still proving it can and is being done), then we should be looking at a better solution. Also, kerbside recycling might be preferred, but it also ends up with the street looking like a dump on bin day, because it blows everywhere and the contractors do not have a contractual obligation to keep the streets clean whilst they work. (Personally I think they should, but that is probably another discussion).
So really what we should be doing is on a county-wide basis have a waste sorting facility built (perhaps right beside the bloody incinerator) that sorts all the recycling, meaning less frustration for residents and better recycling rates overall. It may mean less revenue for the districts, but the service should come first, not the revenue. There is a strong and fluctuating market for different waste products and having talked at length with experts in this field, then having the flexibility to look at the waste market and sell appropriately instead of a single solution for 30 years would also be useful. I think the argument for green bin and black bin is fine (and better for garden space) and the food waste is also good.
On a bigger and better scale, then we should be doing more coordination at a county, regional and national level. This is entirely possible, but we choose not to do it. (We have a joint waste group but I’m not exactly sure its does anything useful).
Fundamentally, as a friend pointed out, we should be doing what we can to reduce and re-use in the first place, I struggle to know how we can encourage people to do that right now, but they are absolutely right. This post however is squarely pointed at the service we pay for, and I don’t think its fit for purpose.