Fortnightly waste collections for West Hampstead

At last night’s public Area Action Group meeting in West Hampstead, the council gave plenty of stats on Camden’s waste and recycling. But the numbers that will have stuck in most people’s minds were “once” and “every two weeks”, as councillor Meric Apak confirmed what we reported in August; namely that much (though not all) of West Hampstead will move to fortnightly residual waste collections from April 1st. No joke.

Recycling and food waste will still be collected weekly, and this is a clear attempt by Camden to both save money and boost dwindling recycling rates. On top of that, residents who want green waste collection will have to pay £75/year.

Although the turnout last night was down on previous meetings (perhaps due to the tube strike),  there was still a useful and lively discussion though there seemed little chance of the council and unenthused residents – at least those present – finding common ground.

The facts are stark: Camden deals with 46,000 tonnes of domestic residual waste a year but only 26% of waste is recycled – a proportion that’s actually fallen over time. Yet Camden’s estimate is that 85% of household waste is recyclable.

To prove a point, earlier in the day, Richard Bradbury, head of Camden’s Environmental Services, had collected 17 bags of domestic waste from West Hampstead properties. He didn’t go so far as to bring them with him to the meeting, but he had sorted these 17 bags into 5 bags of recyclable material, 4 bags of food waste and just 3 of residual waste. Five bags fewer in total, and only three of the 17 should have been heading to landfill (an 82% recycling rate).

In 2011/12, Camden residents recycled 33% of their waste, so why has this fallen to just 26% today (about the same level as in 2004), especially after the new green wheelie bin regime was introduced in 2012 to make recycling easier? Camden’s target for 2020 is 40%, but to reach this, the council is relying on an awful lot of stick and not much carrot. Camden is not alone – just over half of London boroughs have seen a decline in recycling rates over recent years.

The hope is that fortnightly collections will encourage people to recycle more as recycling will still be collected once a week. We shall see if that happens. Importantly, not all streets will move to fortnightly collections – only existing kerbside collections are affected. The maps below will help most people, but for precise details, contractor Veolia has a very useful and clear search function so you can see how you’ll be affected.

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In West Hampstead and Fortune Green, some streets will still keep weekly collections. This is usually related to housing density and availability of space for bins. On the commercial strip of West End Lane, rubbish will still be collected daily, with residents being given enough bags for up to two collections a week.

fortune-green-rubbish

All the streets in South Hampstead will move to fortnightly collections.

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Commercial rubbish is collected daily on West End Lane - though it's not always left correctly. Photo @Superfast72

Commercial rubbish is collected daily on West End Lane – though it’s not always left correctly. Photo @Superfast72

Alongside the change to fortnighly collections, there will be (yet another) crackdown on fly-tipping with more investigation. The council clears 2,000 tonnes of fly-tipped waste a year (of which surely at least 1,990 tonnes comes from West Hampstead). The bin men won’t take black bags that don’t fit into your bin (in fact they’ll photograph them for evidence so when you ring up to complain they’ll tell you you exceeded your allowance), and apparently there’ll be a lot of ‘education’.

Fortune Green councillor Flick Rea wondered what will happen when Christmas comes around, or a birthday party, or someone moving, all of which generate extra waste. Residents will also receive new black bins.

There are a tonne of caveats and other minor changes. For example, there’ll be a free weekly nappy collection service available to households with children under the age of 2 1/2 who wear nappies. Read all about them on Camden’s website.

Egregious fly tipping on Mill Lane from August 2016. Photo @damawa42

Egregious fly tipping on Mill Lane from August 2016. Photo @damawa42

Questions from the public included whether Camden would be checking our waste (Camden wearily said “no” several times) and under what legislation we are required to recycle, the answer appeared to be none, though frankly – economics aside – it shouldn’t take legislation to get people to want to help minimize landfill. Some residents also pointed out that if Camden wanted to increase recycling it would help if it made it easier. There is also a contradiction between Camden’s policy of reducing car ownership and car use and the regular refrain of ‘you can take it to the Regis Road recycling centre’, when anyone enquires about recycling something slightly out of the ordinary… like a toaster.

What are your thoughts on this? Good incentive? Unworkable? Open to abuse? Time for people to take some responsibility for the environment? Let us know in the comments.

  • Danielle

    So if I opt out of receiving a wheelie bin (I already have bins), then camden say “If you opt out of receiving a wheelie bin, you will be given orange Camden branded rubbish bags every six months instead. You can use up to two a week (equal to the volume of a wheelie bin).”
    Which basically acknowledges that a wheelie bin will probably be full every week. But they will only collect it once a fortnight…. Am I missing something?

    • Here’s the relevant text: “All properties that have been allocated a new bin will have the option to opt out of this service by 18 February and instead use Camden branded rubbish bags in a weekly or fortnightly bag collection service, depending on your street. You will be provided with a roll of orange Camden branded rubbish bags which will allow you to use two bags weekly or four bags every two weeks, depending on your location. This is equivalent to the amount of rubbish which can be contained over two weeks in a wheelie bin. ”

      I read that as one wheelie bin = four orange bags = two weeks?

      • Danielle

        Ah. But that’s not what they say on the bit where you click to opt out of a wheelie bin. So there are different size wheelie bins and different bag allocations depending on my location? I’m going to opt out anyway as if I have more bins I won’t actually be able to get out of my house! I’ll see what happens.

      • Keep us posted!

  • MrFrisbee

    Utter fiasco! What Cllr Apak announced at his last meeting with us about 12 months ago was that the real problem was that local estates recycle almost nothing (I have no idea if this is really true but he did say it). His “interactive” presentation this time was the stuff of primary school assemblies.

    This new policy does nothing to address that and I believe the local estates will remain on weekly collections. For those of us that do not want to literally fall over our rubbish we have to “comply” with what are going to be unintelligible rules.

    Who is to say how much non recyclable rubbish is too much? Since when has there been a finite limit on that (and where is this information outlined) and how can my home with a family of 5 be given the same space allocation for rubbish as the flat above me with 2 adult residents?

    A bunch of idiots not thinking it through, just trying to save money and hiding it all behind increasing the recycling rates.

    Anyway, creative fly tipping here we come!

    • James

      I believe many estates actually have rubbish collections more than once per week because the bins fill up so quickly. I think the main reason recycling levels are low on estates is probably because they have rubbish chutes (but no recycling chutes), so recycling takes a lot more effort as it has to be carried down stairs and taken to a recycling bin that may be at the other end of the estate. Perhaps the council should switch it around so the chutes are for recycling and the disposal of other waste takes more effort. I’m not sure how the council will enforce the new two bag limits on estates. Can’t see that working.

      It’s ridiculous that large households will have the same rubbish allocation as single occupants. Large dwellings pay more council tax but are now getting a restricted service. It’s also unfair that people in parts of Camden with fortnightly collections will be getting only half the services compared to residents who still get weekly collections.

      I didn’t even know there was a meeting. I wonder why Camden Council hasn’t written to residents about these important changes.

  • MS

    I’m not surprised there is a fly-tpping issue in this borough when you have to pay £25 for each bulky waste collection. We recently moved to Camden from Southwark where this service is free, and Hackney residents have 5 free bulky waste collections a year. Getting rid of moving and packing materials has been a really expensive exercise, especially since we are now on a higher council tax band:at £40 more p/m for a very similar sized flat!