Sunday, 8 February 2015

Recycled Out Of Existence

Back in July readers may remember the recycling bins being removed from the 'island' where Central Road does a dogleg and becomes Cheam Common Road. 

This was followed around six month later (about a month ago) by the public recycling bins being removed from Stone Place next to the library.

For a council that years ago used to tell us how great they were at recycling (although apparently not in reality), this left many people scratching their heads as to why they would do this.

On the positive side the 'island' at the top of the high street does look much nicer without the bins there and stone place has an extra 3 (or is it 4) parking spaces which is all good for the local area. However the obvious negative is that there is now less opportunity for people who want to recycle to actually do so.

There had been a debate ongoing about this for a while. Back in January last year at the CNWP (Cheam North and Worcester Park) Council Local Committee (which is responsible for the decision) a report was presented by Amy Harris, the Council Waste Strategy and Community Engagement Manager, which made the following points:

  • 31% of people use the recycling bins but not very often (they actually phrased as "69% of people didn't use it at all.")
  • 96% of people had recycling facilities at home anyway. (Meaning 1 home in 25 didn't have them.)
  • At the Central Road facility only 8 people used it during one 4 day period it was under observation (it was not stated if this observation was 24 hour.)
  • Stone Place is a much more popular recycling site.
  • At the Central Road facility the majority of people questioned want to keep the book and textiles bank but didn't feel the other facilities were really necessary.
  • People wanted the recycling at Stone Place to stay as it was.
  • Fly tipping and overflowing bins is a problem.
  • The council receive one complaint a month about the state of the Stone Place site.
  • Bins are quite often contaminated meaning the material inside can't be recycled.

The Lib Dem Chair (Cllr Kirsty Jerome) was clearly keen to remove all of the recycling facilities. She went as far as making the point that: "Most people are able to take it to the reuse and recycling centre." However the following points were raised by others:

  • Many flats don't have any recycling facilities and many others don't have adequate recycling facilities - Graham Jarvis.
  • They're overflowing means there's a demand for them - Cllr Eric Allen.
  • The proposed recycling bags for flats without proper facilities aren't very good for large items like cardboard boxes. - Cllr Stuart Gordon Bullock.
Cllr Roger Roberts tried to raise a similar point but was cut off by the chair (Kirsty Jerome). You can hear all of this for yourself in the 15 minute report and debate here. (For those interested you can hear recordings of all these meetings here.) It was decided at this meeting to put the decision on hold. 

The issue doesn't then appear on the agenda of any subsequent meeting until the 23rd October, long after the Central Road facilities have already been removed. (One can only assume the decision on the Central Road facility was taken behind closed doors.)

The meeting on the 23rd October only dealt with the Stone Place recycling centre (as the Central Road one had already gone) and consisted only of a report by Amy Harris. The report made the following points:
  • The bins attract fly-tipping.
  • Bins are often contaminated so can't be sent for recycling.
  • Businesses use them more than residents (termed 'abuse by businesses'.)
  • The council receive one complaint per month about the state of the bins.
  • Most residents only used them occasionally.
  • The borough had received £100,000 to help with recycling - which was used to provide reusable bags for recycling for flats (i.e. the same bags that Cllr Stuart Gordon Bullock said were inadequate back in January.)
  • A flats survey confirmed all flats now have recycling facilities. (See point above)
  • Residents now have a comprehensive kerbside recycling service - both in homes and in flats (see above two points).
  • Council should retain books and textiles recycling but find a different location for them, and remove the other recycling facilities.
There was no debate or discussion allowed after hearing the report (which was eerily similar to the report back in January). The committee then voted unanimously to accept the recommendations and remove the recycling facilities from Stone Place. This time there were no opposition flies in the Lib Dem ointment to raise a challenge as since last year's election there are no opposition councillors in Worcester Park to ask difficult or embarrassing questions. Anyone in the audience who may have had an alternative view (like some did back in January) were given no opportunity to voice such concerns either. You can hear all of this for yourself here.

The council then invested quite a bit of money in public notices telling the local community that they had done what the community had asked, using the slogan "You Said - We did"). This large banner can't have been cheap. 

These notices appeared all over Worcester Park. This one on a lamp post was at the other end of Longfellow Road.

The only thing is... The claim that 'this is what people asked for' is completely untrue. In her report in January 2014, regarding the removal of recycling facilities at Stone Place, Amy Harris clearly makes the statement: 
"This does differ from what residents as a whole said they wanted."
You can hear it yourself in the January 2014 CNWP meeting (at 6:01) referred to above (find it also here).

Now just because the council may have spent a lot of money misrepresenting what was actually reported in order to make themselves look good, doesn't necessarily mean that the final outcome is bad for the community. I would like to ask readers what their thoughts are on the now missing recycling facilities.

In particular if you live in a flat and used to use the facilities, are the reusable bags adequate for your recycling needs? Are the extra car parking spaces in Stone Place a better use of the space than the recycling facilities? And has anyone actually seen where the book and textile recycling facilities have got to which were only supposed to be moved to somewhere else?

The council are of course trying to save a huge sum of money so it is fair that saving money on under-appreciated recycling facilities might make more sense than cutting other things. However does the local committee seem to be little more than a rubber stamping exercise? (I should point out that I sit on the local committee but only as a non voting member - and have been stopped from raising inconvenient points in the past.) What do you think dear reader...