Talking rubbish – Old Bamber spouts off


The other day I noticed the following press release on the Council’s website:

“Three south Leeds women were called to appear before magistrates last month having failed to heed the council’s advice and warnings.

“Leanne Gill, Claire Parle and Rozma Kauser, all from Beeston, were issued with legal notices after household rubbish, including rotting food and soiled nappies, were left in open bags in gardens or dumped on the street rather than in their black bins.

“The women were fined a total of £600 and ordered to pay combined costs of £1,873.68 at Leeds magistrates court.”

Beeston rubbish

I like living in Beeston but I do get fed up with the amount of rubbish lying around. I recently counted up how many different local authority areas I have lived in – I got  to eight – and wondered whether I thought there was a bigger problem in Leeds because:

  • People aren’t bothered
  • Times are hard for local authorities now so the refuse collection system is worse
  • It’s more complicated these days
  • I’m a grumpy old man

I have lived in a wide variety of areas including at least a couple where there were a whole range of deprivation issues where you might have expected rubbish left lying about to be as big a problem but it wasn’t.

It’s certainly true that councils have suffered very severe reductions in funding since the present government came to power in 2010 but I’m not sure the service was much better before then but no doubt the reductions in funding have made it more difficult to make improvements. You may recall the bin strike in Leeds in 2009 about proposals to reduce workers’ pay because of the implications of equal pay legislation when the possibility of contracting the service out to private contractors was mooted.

Since then the Council has made strenuous efforts to improve the service. One of the problems was that very little management time had been spent reviewing the service in the previous 20 years – I remember being told by a very reliable source that despite many other changes bin collection routes had remained largely unaltered since 1990. I suspect the refuse collectors were unhappy with the prospect of changes.

It’s undoubtedly true that refuse collection is more complicated these days. When I was a kid growing up in London we just had black bins, which got emptied twice a week. For a period after leaving school I worked as a bin man and lifting metal bins full of ashes was hard work. Now I have three bins: brown, green and black.  I’m quite a fan recycling – Mrs B is not a happy bunny that I compost food waste as not having a garden to speak of I can produce compost faster than I can use it – and it saddens me that I see a lot of green bins with non-recyclables in them. A lot of residents don’t seem to want to help themselves and there’s no doubt that’s the cause of a lot of the problem.

But I don’t believe the Council helps itself. Where I live we have three different collection days and cycles for each coloured bin. Over the past 12 months there have been at least three occasions my green bin has not been emptied on the designated day. My brown bin was recently missed on three consecutive occasions and on the fourth the bin men didn’t manage to empty it properly because it was so full the contents had become compacted. These missed collections didn’t just apply to me but to the rest of the terrace of houses as well but it seems no one else bothered to complain. Grumpy old man? No I’ve always been like this.

In the press release I started this story with, Councillor Mark Dobson, Executive member for the environment, is quoted as saying:

“While every person’s home is their castle, their garden or street certainly isn’t a rubbish tip.

“Litter and uncontained waste isn’t an issue that’s unique to south Leeds. We need to make sure that people across the city are doing their bit. We’d simply like to ask that all residents bag and bin their rubbish and use their wheeled bins appropriately.

“Paper, cardboard, cans, aerosols and plastic bottles should be put in green bins for recycling. Glass can be dropped off at recycling centres and points. Remaining waste should be placed in black bins.”

Well, that’s fine, Mark, but tricky if your staff don’t empty the bins when they should do…  My green bins was last emptied on 7 August 2013 – seven weeks ago and counting…

What’s your view of how the refuse collection service works where you live?

South Leeds Life would be interested in hearing – positive stories as well as negative…

4 Replies to “Talking rubbish – Old Bamber spouts off”

  1. In my new job I walk around the Cottingley Estate and Beeston and I have been astonished how some people have a blatant disregard for the area. It is obvious that some rubbish is dumped and rubbish is just l thrown away when finished with.

    Many houses with gardens full of rubbish are not just rented houses, but some are private houses.

    As for the bin collection’s we still have bags collection, and if they don’t leave us proper green bags with the LCC logo the crews do not take the recycling away away,

    I should point out that I do not live on the side of the estate which is having the communal bins.

    Back in August the crew didn’t leave any bags at all and I am still waiting for the ones they promised to send.

  2. Refuse collection is a universal service, one of the most important that the council provide. What I don’t understand is why the council try to provide the same service in the same way in all parts of the city – the leafy suburbs, the back-to-back terraces and the 70s “Radburn” estates.

    Surely they could design a service that fits each area. Smaller lorries for narrow streets clogged with parked cars. Smaller bins and more frequent collections if necessary. Some parts of the service might be more expensive, but that’s the advantage of a big city – we can spread the cost across all of us.

    1. That’s exactly what the council is doing in many areas (I work here: It began in some of the areas where the majority of students live in the North West, but we are now actively working on solutions for estates such as Cottingley Hall and looking to try out new ways of collecting bins that aren’t the ‘standard’ service.

      As Diane McHale-Fannon said, on Cottingley Hall we are piloting communal bins because of the Radburn layout and, if this works, we will be looking at whether it can be rolled out to the rest of the estate and (possibly) others. We are also looking at the Beeston Hill area where we are very conscious that the wheeled bin system and bin yards don’t necessarily ‘fit’ each other very well.

      There are limits to how far we can take this, largely due to cost and efficiency of services, but you’re absolutely right that we need more bespoke local services that meet residents needs.

      Bamber makes some good points about personal responsibility and (I think) shares my frustration that in some parts of Leeds residents look after their area, and in others they don’t, regardless of poverty levels. There may be all sorts of reasons for this, but changing this behaviour is now our focus hence the prosecutions publicised here, in the press and through our Facebook page.

      And finally, if Old Bamber wants to send me his address through our Facebook page, I’d be very happy to look into his green bin problem!

  3. Thanks, Tom for your comment and offer of help – much appreciated.

    My green bin was emptied today – 8 weeks since it was last emptied! You may have seen the celebratory fireworks… Given the Council’s determination to encourage recycling which I’m all in favour of – it is a bit ironic that my scheduled green bin collections are only monthly. Perhaps the Alternate Weekly Collection scheme will help although I have a sneaking suspicion that my part of south Leeds may be excluded…

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