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Rubbish problems improving, but there’s still a long way to go

Raindrops on snowdrops and warm swollen mittens, etc. etc. may have been some of Julie Andrews favourite things but rubbish and recycling, street litter and fly-tipping are some of West Hampstead’s least favourite.

When the Neighbourhood Development Forum was drawing up its plans a few years ago, the issue of rubbish generally came up as having a significant impact on the quality of life for locals, but it falls outside the scope of the NDF as it is not strictly a planning issue.

Then, as you all know, in April this year the council introduced a new rubbish and recycling collection contract with Veolia. Not surprisingly there were what the responsible councillor, Meric Apak, optimistcally called ‘teething issues’. In reality there was a massive spike in complaints. True, these have subsided but there continues to be a constant stream of tweets and photos of fly-tipped waste in the area, and not all from Conservative activists out to make political capital from the issue.

Against this backdrop, local amenity group WHAT held a meeting about rubbish and recycling earlier in the year before the contract was introduced. In July and August it followed up with a survey, mainly of their members (but also WHL readers) on how the new contract was working. It may not be the most representative slice of the local population, but nevertheless it still gives a sense of where we stand.

WHAT summarised the survey findings and held another public meeting last week to present the results to both Camden and Veolia. The meeting was pleasingly well attended – this is clearly still a hot local issue – though if everyone who vociferously complains on Twitter had turned up the room would barely have had capacity.

West Hampstead giving Camden and Veolia a grilling

In summary, the issues raised in the report based on the survey are:

  • Overall there is a willingness to recycle
  • Fly-tipping and the state of the local streets was an issue
  • Fly-tipping hot spots
  • Bins being left on streets is a problem, who puts them back?
  • Garden waste collection was a bit unclear
  • More detailed info on what can and can’t be recycled
  • A lot of the problems are focused on houses divided into flats
  • Why don’t the Veolia team report back problems?
  • Attaching notices to ‘contaminated’ recycling bins
  • More enforcement

Richard Bradbury, who is responsible for the contract responded on behalf of Camden, backed up by Chris Burrows from Veolia. There has been a 10% improvement in recycling (by tonnage), but that only takes Camden from near the bottom of table to a bit below average. Richard reminded us that not all of Camden has switched to fortnightly collections as much of the south of the borough continues to get weekly collections.

Camden pays £40/tonne less for recycled waste than for landfill; perhaps they should make more of this to encourage those who gripe about costs generally to do their part to reduce Camden’s spending here so it can be reallocated elsewhere.

Chris from Veolia pointed out that they collect from 1,500 properties a day in the area, and now have on-board technology to start feeding back problem collections. He is already aware of many of these problems and the plan is to approach problem households in the Autumn.

The early problems with getting the right bins to the right people seem to have largely been cleared up, and anecdotal evidence suggests that the online ordering system works fairly well.

Garden waste collections can be shared but only from one address. Their systems can’t cope with changing addresses. This is for up to three bags per week.

Richard agreed that engagement with estate agents was a good idea in order to pass on the most up-to-date information to new residents, especially tenants. There are already plans to contact landlords registered with Camden (though of course this is only a small fraction of them). Local litter hound Agnes pointed out that Camden did have control over Council owned properties and some leeway over Housing Association ones, which is where a large number of the problems are (as these properties are divided into flats).

Richard Bradbury from Camden on the spot.

As for West End Lane (and KHR, Fortune Green Road and Mill Lane) all of which have flats above shops, both the businesses and flats are supposed to have time-banded collections. This means rubbish should be left outside at very specific times and is collected much more frequently. It’s true that for some people those times are not practical, and thus the problem of dumped rubbish can seem worse than it really is. Generally on West End Lane the system works quite well – but there is little evidence of recycling on these streets (recognisable by the use of clear bags).

Next came discussion on the vexing question of where people should leave bins on collection day, and where they should be returned. If the bins are within one metre of your gate, the original leaflets stated that ‘all containers will be returned to where you placed them for collection.’ However, this is not happening. Cllr Flick Rea cited an example of a neighbour who actually built a bin store for their two bins adjacent to the street and they are still not being returned.

Indeed, some bins seem to be permanently left on the street. There is a property on Hillfield Road, which since April 1st has permanently left the bins on the street. Less than half the bin capacity is used so there is no need for any bins to be left on the street. Yet in six months of weekly recycling collection and fortnightly regular collection, plus weekly visits by the street sweepers no action had been taken.

Next we heard from a woman who is not only a local resident but also a landlord of an HMO (House for Multiple Occupation as opposed to separate flats). She expressed extreme frustration at problems with collection saying there had been times when rubbish hadn’t been collected for weeks, and at being allocated bins that were too big for the space.

The Clean Camden App for reporting fly-tipping was also mentioned. If you don’t use it already then it’s worth installing but although it deals with the issue it doesn’t tackle the underlying problem of flytipping in the first place. There are now six enforcement officers spread across the borough, who between tham have issued 50 fixed penalty notices in the past two weeks.

It seemed that both Camden and Veolia were surprised at the extent of the problems and the barrage of questions from what was a largely pro-recycling and mild-mannered audience. Local elections are six months away, and there were five sitting councillors in the room. If, somehow, they had yet to appreciate the scale of the problem they left the meeting in no doubt that there is much work still to be done before anyone can consider the new arrangement a true success.

Labour leader visits West Hampstead

Cllr Georgia Gould, the relatively new leader of Camden Council, was out and about in West Hampstead this week. She’s visiting each ward across the borough specifically to meet the groups that make Camden tick.

She was in our ‘hood with Cllr Phil Rosenberg visiting the Sherriff Centre, which impressed her. “It’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like quite like it before,” she said. She also met with the Friends of West Hampstead Library, the Maygrove & Iverson Road residents assocation, Sidings Community centre, the NDF and WHAT (to jointly discuss step-free access at the tube station), JW3 and West Hampstead Life.

Cllr Gould grew up in Kentish Town and now lives in Regent’s Park – so she’s Camden through and through – but she confessed she didn’t actually know West Hampstead that well although “by virtue of it being a marginal ward I’ve done a lot of door knocking!”

Georgia Gould being shown round sunny West Hampstead by Cllr Phil Rosenberg.

Keith Moffitt, co-chair of the NDF and himself a former leader of the council, already knows Georgia and was encouraged by her interest in the tube station, adding that “she has a young friendly manner, but is highly competent”. This was echoed by Sue Measures from Sidings who said “she seems very genuine,”  and enjoyed having the opportunity to openly discuss some issues affecting Sidings.

Over at that Library, Jennie Cohen, FoWHL secretary, said that “in all the years that the Friends group has existed – we’re celebrating their 20th anniversary next year – we have never before been visited by a leader of Camden Council, so it gave us all a real boost.” Monica Regli, chair of MILAM was also impressed; “It felt like she was listening, was interested – and took notes(!)’.

Regarding the proposals for the tube station, which needs expanding, Georgia said that “Residents had some very interesting ideas about step-free access at West Hampstead tube station so that’s a lobbying thing for me to help on. We want to have a discussion with TfL about that.”

Of course the issue of rubbish has been the biggest concern for many residents over recent months – and could be a stumbling block for Labour locally in May’s council elections. The contract with Veolia is six months old and most people would agree that it isn’t running 100% smoothly yet. In response to some specific examples of local problems, Georgia said, “we kept our resources in-house to monitor the contract and educate. I appreciate it’s about behavour change; it will take time but we have resources to work with people”. She is still asking people to let them council know where there are issues. Which it seems is all some people who live in the worst-affected areas ever do.

“There are still individual properties where we need to act,” said Phil, to which Georgia added, “You have to be proactive. There were clearly issues when it first was introduced, things have got better but there is still a way to go”.

Although a lot of groups in the area cover both Fortune Green and West Hampstead (and sometimes the boundary between them is a bit unclear) Cllr Gould will be returning to look specifically at Fortune Green in the company of Camden’s only Lib Dem councillor, Flick Rea.

Getting down and dirty on Kilburn High Road

Amid all the grumbling about filth on West End Lane, it’s always worth casting an eye elsewhere to see whether we can learn from others. Or to put our own woes into perspective. Recently, there have been some despairing tweets about the clutter, litter and, general grime on Kilburn High Road (this includes responses from one of the local councillors). We went to take a closer look down the Camden side of the road.

We started up by the railway bridge near the junction with Maygrove Road. And it didn’t take long to see the first of many (illegal) A-boards. At this point I’m going to introduce the word “curtilage“. This means the defined area of a property’s land. Within your curtilage you can do what you want (within reason) – build a deck, put out goods or an A-board etc.. Beyond is the public highway and you cannot do what you want, whether it’s within reason or not.

If the public highway is narrow then it is particularly important to keep it clear for pedestrian flow, buggies, wheelchairs and so on. It is the council’s responsibility to enforce that it is kept clear.

A-board

Further down, more A-boards appearing and furniture for sale.

More A-boards

It gets worse along the really narrow stretch of pavement from 334 to 328 ; although most of the businesses have built out on their curtilage they then obstruct the remaining narrow pavement with A-boards and allow their chairs to spill off their land (and bins too). Adding to the confusion of where responsibility lies, this stretch is actually part of West Hampstead ward, not Kilburn.

Clutter

And they've even pinned an ad to the tree...

There is even an ad pinned to the tree…

A bit further on we come to the Hilal Food Centre.  It’s a popular store – I shop there too – but it still has to obey the same planning rules as everyone else. It has ‘allegedly’ spread way over it’s curtilage and keeps creeping forward across the public highway. Their gain at our loss.

Hilal2Next up is popular pizza joint Quartieri, which had tested the limit by putting out chairs on the pavement and an A-board. However, it was slapped down pretty quickly and with a reputation to keep has been playing by rules since then.

The Black Lion has been around for longer than most businesses on the High Road. It has a nice outdoor space at the side – on its own curtilage – but has recently started putting out chairs and tables on the public pavement. Without planning permission, apparently. The pavement here is wide enough to take it, but it still needs permission guys.

BlackLion

Next up, another pub. The Sir Colin Campbell has tables outside too, but – and here’s the important bit – these are on its own curtilage. And the A-boards are on it too. Cheers to the SCC for being a responsible business.

ColinCampbell

I have spared you yet more photos of fly tipping thus far – there was certainly plenty of it, but at this point we reached a particularly egregious case, some of which appeared to have come from the other side of the road. Why did the fly-tipper cross the road? Because enforcement is tougher on the Brent side.

Cllr John Duffy, a Labour Councillor in Brent, ensures that fly-tipping (and planning breaches) are dealt with and followed up. This doesn’t seem to happen as effectively on the Camden side of the road, although the local councillors tweet the tweet!

Fly-tip

Credit where it’s due

Camden can however take credit for the physical state of the pavements and for the state of the road. Any cycling readers will know that the northern end of Kilburn High Road is in a terrible state, with potholes big enough to cause an accident. But once you pass Quex Road, the surface improves and it’s fine from then on. The reason: in an effort to do some of that famed joined-up thinking, Camden is responsible for the road on the lower section below Willesden Lane and Brent for the upper section.  Camden has met its responsibilities, while the potholes suggest Brent has not.

Pothole number one (of many)

Pothole number one (of many)

And pothole number two.

And pothole number two.

The road surface is vastly better south of Quex Road

The road surface is vastly better south of Quex Road

There is a noticeable difference in the pavements too. On what I understand is the part Brent is responsible for, but in ‘Camden’, there clearly potential trip hazards. WHL checked with Camden on this as it sounds a bit odd and even they weren’t sure.

Clearly a trip hazard. Damages in case of injury would be a lot more than 10p!

Clearly a trip hazard. Damages in case of injury would be a lot more than 10p!

Kilburn High Road marks the boundary between Camden and Kilburn (with Westminster and Barnet also getting involved at the southern and northern ends) and somewhere that’s on the periphery for all councils is always likely to struggle to get the attention of borough heartlands. There are added complications that even within one borough, the road passes through multiple wards, but that shouldn’t have an impact on enforcement.

Aside from aesthetics, why should this be of such a concern? For a start there’s the ‘broken windows‘ theory (general deterioration leads to bigger problems), and certainly the deterioration of our streets has coincided with a rise in crime. And as if that wasn’t enough, living in a cleaner more pleasant environment is less stressful, which given that Camden has some of the highest rates of mental illness across the country – with almost 50,000 adults in Camden experiencing anxiety and depression (20% higher than national levels), would be one more reason to strive for cleaner streets and a decent public realm.

Finally, WHL has been getting flack from local Labour activists about the number of tweets on the state of our local streets (don’t worry we get flack from the Tories too, about different issues – so we must be doing something right). They have said we should mention the Clean Camden App, and this we are happy to do. Just done it. WHL is a regular user but there are some things it can’t do (e.g. report those broken flagstones, or bins left on the pavement). Nor have we heard from Camden about how effective it is. In a nutshell – to paraphrase a former Prime Minister; we need to not only be tough on grime, but tough on the causes of grime.

WHAT about the new recycling regime?

At local amenity group WHAT’s AGM last week, the thorny topic of rubbish was the theme. Following the departure of WHAT’s founder and long-time chair, Virigina Berridge, this was the first blooding of new co-chairs John Saynor and Mary Tucker.

John opened the presentation by saying that most attendees were keen recyclers (hopefully true). Therefore, is Camden’s main challenge to persuade those who don’t or won’t recycle to do a better job? Particularly in West Hampstead with a high turnover of renters.

Richard Bradbury, Camden’s head of recycling, gave a fast, well-rehearsed presentation with many slides. He emphasised that 85% of the contents of a Camden bin could be recycled, yet residents only manage 25%, which is pretty feeble whatever your political persuasion.

Richard proposed a outcome-focused plan to make the new rubbish contract a success: increased recycling, less fly-tipping, less contamination of recycling bins/better technology, educating the public, and flexible responses to specific problems. He handed out an update on what can be recycled.

Camden's latest recycling info

Camden’s latest recycling info

Then came a lively and productive Q&A session. From which we found out some of the details. We’ll get a leaflet telling us our fortnightly area dates for a whole year. People with babies need to pre-book extra nappy collections. We can now recycle black food trays. Shredded paper is acceptable, even though its fibres have been broken down. And there will be one-off collections for textiles and batteries (as well as large items), to be ordered via the website.

You can recycle so much that it goes onto two pages!

You can recycle so much that it goes onto two pages!

Technology to the rescue! There’ll be an app from which you can take photos of any problems and send to them to Veolia, the contractor. Vans will also have CCTV to check accuracy of collections with the footage saved for 3 months and to spot fly-tipping hotspots. The fly tipping penalty will be a fixed charge of £200 if Camden can actually get the right evidence. The whole thing sounded a bit “shop your neighbour”, though everyone at the meeting was too polite to say so – and maybe some neighbours deserve to be shopped?

The representatives from Veolia were surprised by all the exceptions residents raised. For instance, they could only say they’d ‘look at ways to contain the waste’ in response to Solent Road’s bag-ripping foxes. If you can’t get your recycling – or any – bin on or next to your pavement you’ll have to ring up and ask for an ‘assisted service’. This will presumably mean Veolia would exeed its allotted 15.6 seconds per property – which translates as “one step in”. If you currently have green or brown wheelie bins you’ll have to get stickers if you want to use your bins.

Green/garden waste will be collected weekly, but it’s £75 for a year or £60 for the nine months from spring to autumn. These collections (three sacks a week) can be shared with neighbours, but only if you pre-register. Pensioners will get a discount, though the details are still being decided.

Still ‘no’ to soft plastics like dry cleaners’ coverings and junk mail wrappers. Caddy liners? ‘They don’t last a fortnight. Change them weekly.’ Light bulbs won’t be collected. Rats? ’Keep your receptacle clean.’ (And ‘No comment’ to query about new commercial rubbish collectors springing up across Camden.)

It’s strange to think that it was only a few years ago that we were getting bi-weekly rubbish collections, and soon we will have only fortnightly. West Hampstead already has a rubbish problem, with regular fly tipping, although time banded collections on West End have improved things. We will have to see how things change with the new contract from – and you couldn’t make this up – 1st April.

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.

west-hampstead-rubbish

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.

swiss-cottage-rubbish

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.

Will fortnightly rubbish collection make us cleaner and greener?

It’s the middle of the summer holidays and Camden Council has announced (controversial) changes to waste collection. It’s yet another change after several over the past few years (e.g. switching from multi-stream to single stream recycling). But despite all these changes recent performance in terms of recycling has been poor.

In 2005 Camden beat the target of 25%, achieving… 25.2%! Woo hoo. Ten years later by 2015 this had crept up to… 26.3%, still well short of the 2020 target of 50%. That target is, however, an EU target so perhaps we should expect revised targets at some stage? However, at the current rate of improvement, 1% per decade, Camden is on course to reach the 50% target by 2255!

Changes to waste collection and recycling?

Changes to waste collection and recycling?

Camden ranks 333rd out of 352 councils across the country and 25th out of 32 among London councils for recycling. The councils at the top recycle 65% or more of their waste and even in London the best manage more than 40% (Ealing: 40.1%, Harrow: 45% and Bexley with an impressive 54%). At least Camden is doing better than Newham and Lewisham, both on 17%.

To up recycling rates – and to save money – Camden is proposing that ‘some households’ will switch to fortnightly rubbish collections of ‘residual’ waste. It is yet to specify which households this will affect, though it is understood that the south of the borough will still have weekly collections. Houses that have the space will be given a black wheelie bin and those that don’t will be given branded sacks. The Council will maintain weekly collections of food waste and dry recyclables across the borough. The theory is that this will encourage more recycling.

For those locals with gardens, Camden is introducing a charge (or tax as the local Tories have labelled it) for collecting garden waste: £60 for a nine-month ‘service’ and £75 for a 12-month ‘service’. It seems odd to discriminate against green waste; people are doing the right thing, flats and houses with gardens could well be in higher council tax bands already, and charging to dispose of green waste is likely to lead to more people simply disposing of the waste in the black bags (this will apparently be penalised, but it’s hard to see how). It could even lead to more gardens being paved over – not exactly part of the Green agenda.

Residents can take garden waste free of charge to Regis Road in Kentish Town or Hornsey Street (in Islington) but neither are local to West Hampstead and more car journeys is hardly environmentally friendly either.

Fortnightly collection of residual waste - a glimpse of the future

Fortnightly collection of residual waste – a glimpse of the future

Moving to fortnightly collections of general waste could lead to more fly-tipping – it’s certainly unlikely to lead to less. Fly-tipping and the poor state of our streets is already a serious problem in West Hampstead and was the number one issue raised in research for the NDP. There is a petition about the changes, but it has only had a few people sign it so far.

As the recent improvements to rubbish collection on West End Lane have shown, some parts of Camden Council are making progress and are effective at keeping the area cleaner. But if the challenge is to raise recycling levels and make Camden a greener, cleaner borough, it’s hard to see how these changes will achieve that.

A really rubbish article

West Hampstead street rubbish

No, not a slipping of standards, but an article on something dear to your hearts: rubbish on West End Lane. The amount of rubbish on our busy commercial streets was an issue raised repeatedly at Neighbourhood Development Forum meeting, but fell outside its scope. And the saga of the Sainsbury’s bin, remember that?, also captured the strength of local feelings. In a bid to clean up West Hampstead, Camden Council is introducing time-banded collections on the commercial parts of West End Lane and Fortune Green Road (but not Mill Lane, yet).

From the 6th June, commercial and residential waste can be put out only at certain times and will be collected shortly after. Twice a day on West End Lane and three times day on Fortune Green Road. Camden has told businesses and residents this is happening and has liaised with private contractors about it. The hope is that this education campaign, and the fact that it is their own best interests, will persuade businesses and residents to get in the habit of disposing of their waste correctly. Camden is taking a zero-tolerance approach and will issue fixed penalty notices to offenders but really hope that this is not necessary.

Time-banded collections are used elsewhere across the borough (Camden High Street, Kentish Town Road, Hampstead) to manage the problem of litter on busy commercial/retail areas, which are also residential areas (particularly with flats above shops). It seems to work elsewhere, so we are hopeful that introducing it on West End Lane and Fortune Green Road will improve the litter and fly tipping situation.

Blackburn Road has its own  problems. Will Camden extend the scheme?

Blackburn Road has its own problems. Will Camden extend the scheme?

The cause of the rubbish problem on our main streets is two fold, firstly commercial waste, which is generated by local shops and businesses. This can be collected by a number of contractors, not just Camden Council, which has little control over when other licensed waste collection companies collect their waste. So it could be there all day. It is also possible that some businesses are trying to avoid paying for waste collection and are just dumping their waste. That said you would think there was a fairly strong incentive for businesses, as they would presumably prefer their customers didn’t have to wade across mountains of trash – it is not really conducive to a pleasant retail environment.

Second problem, flats above shops generally lack any outside bin to store waste until a regular weekly collection (unlike those who live in purely residential streets). Residents therefore tend to leave tied-up supermarket bags of rubbish at random times of the day, seven days a week. These bags also seem to contain a large proportion of potentially and easily recyclable waste (bottles, can and plastic) which if recycled at, for example, the West End Green recycling centre, would reduced the amount of rubbish. Camden recycles 26% of its waste (by which of course I mean our waste) which is well short of the target of 40% by 2020. The North West London Waste authority NWLA, of which Camden is part, has an even higher target of 50% by 2020.

Here’s hoping for a cleaner and greener West Hampstead Life.

Veolia truck

Netherwood Street: Residents take rubbish into their own hands

If you’ve ever had cause to walk from West End Lane to Kilburn High Road via Sherriff Road, you will have been on Netherwood Street. You probably hurried by trying not to notice the unsightly dump between the pavement and the railway line. All manner of refuse, including builders waste and evidence of rough sleeping, combine to give this otherwise pleasant area a distinctly grotty feel.

WHGARA, the local residents association for that part of West Hampstead, has decided to reclaim this abandoned council-owned site, and turn it into a small park.

Cllr Phil Rosenberg, who ran a very informal consultation on rubbish hotspots in the area via West Hampstead Life, took Cllr Sally Gimson, who’s responsible for such things in Camden, on a walkabout to see the worst offending places – including Netherwood Street.

Phil Rosenberg: "being knee deep in muck is the best thing I've been able to do"

Phil Rosenberg: “being knee deep in muck is the best thing I’ve been able to do”

Camden was able to bring WHGARA together with local charity, Camden Green Gym, and national campaign CleanUpUK to make a difference to the area. The three groups joined volunteers from the Webheath estate, and the two councillors to clear the site earlier this month. Working for three hours, the 20+ volunteers moved heavy debris including mattresses and discarded builders’ material, and more than 50 bags of flytipped waste.

Netherwood St Group Photo

WHGARA secretary Brigid Shaughnessy said, “It was a real success. The community really rallied behind it and we are hopeful that it can be restored as a creative new green space for residents”.

Netherwood Street clean-up before...

Netherwood Street clean-up before…

... and after

… and after

Once the space is cleared of waste, campaigners hope to turn the plot in to a micro-park, and the possibility of new allotments is being discussed. Ms Shaughnessy paid tribute to the “sustained and positive support” of the councillors, which had helped get the clean-up off the ground.

Netherwood St Litter Pick

Phil Rosenberg said, “It sounds strange to say it, but being knee-deep in muck is the best thing I have been able to do since becoming a local councillor. It just shows that when the community, council and local charities come together, we can achieve amazing things.”

The campaigners are hoping to do another round on the weekend of May 9th/10th, which we’ll publicise on these pages – do get involved in what’s a great community initiative. However, Camden has a long way to go to win over residents who are dissatisified with the rubbish on our streets (especially the Kilburn High Road end of Netherwood) and the performance of contractors. This feels like a step in the right direction, though hopefully not every initiative will require residents to become quite so closely acquainted with the problem they want solved!

Hole new approach to litter

Camden council, clearly stumped by how to solve the continuing problem of litter in our streets, appears to have decided to combine its tree-removal program with an increase in the number of bins. Tree stump bin

Maybe this Broadhurst Gardens “bin” is the solution to this:

Fly-tipping crackdown, but what about the bins?

Whether it’s due to all the local twitter and website activity, or whether our councillors have managed to put the squeeze on Camden, we finally have some action from the council on the fly-tipping blight. But what about the problems being caused by the normal rubbish and recycling collection (or lack of it)?

Here’s what the council says about “Clean Camden”, its new campaign:

We’re taking a tough approach to those people who continue to litter, dump their waste or do not clear up after their dog.

We know that you find littering, dog fouling and fly-tipping disgusting and anti-social.

Through our Clean Camden campaign we want to change this bad behaviour through education and enforcement. We need you to help by being our eyes and ears and reporting issues to us so that we can crack down on these filthy enviro-crimes.

Ignoring the crime against language that is the phrase “filthy enviro-crimes”, lets think this through.

Some have already dismissed the scheme as Camden passing the buck onto residents, expecting us to be on constant alert for someone carrying a mattress down Mill Lane, or surreptitiously dumping bags of construction waste on Minster Road. Oddly enough, quite a lot of these activities seem to happen under cover of darkness – almost as if the perpetrators didn’t want to be seen? I know, right?

@camdentalking @WHampstead So basically you’re just asking for us to grass people up, which we’re already doing. You need to be proactive!
— Daniel W (@damawa42) November 4, 2013

It’s not unreasonable to ask for some cooperation from Joe Whamper; we understand the budget constraints (even if Labour’s political opponents argue the council has its priorities wrong) and enforcement teams can’t be everywhere.

However, realistically, catching the big offenders is going to take more targeted action. Is that more expensive? Yes. That’s why it has to be targeted. But we all know where the stuff is being dumped; and as dumping is illegal and comes with a fine, there’s even some way to recoup some of the cash – sort of how parking enforcement works.

The Camden Clean website continues:

Our education and enforcement team are patrolling at hotspot areas and will catch and fine those offenders who:

  • drop litter
  • don’t clear up their dog’s mess
  • dump rubbish on our streets

We are also getting tough on businesses who don’t pay to dispose of their business waste properly

I’m not clear what the education element is here – yes, maybe there are some people who don’t realise they shouldn’t put a mattress out in the street, but the biggest “fithy enviro-crimes” [shudder] are committed by people who surely know all too well what they’re doing. Less education, more enforcement please.

The fine for littering and for not clearing up after your dog is £80. The maximum fine for fly-tipping is a slightly staggering £50,000, though as I reported, Camden very rarely prosecutes.

If you do happen to see someone furtively leaving an armchair lying around or, as Camden puts it, “if you spot a place or person that is undermining our attempts to rid the borough of dog fouling, littering or fly-tipping”, then you can ring 020 7974 4444 (that’s the standard Camden contact number) or report them online.

Camden’s also going to be “calling on residents to take part in and organise clean up events.” I think many people will be telling Camden into which bin they can stick their clean-up events.

Business waste
Residents may not be aware that businesses have to make separate arrangements for waste collection – their business rates don’t cover this in the way that council tax does for domestic waste.

Instead they have to make their own arrangements (and pay for them) with registered waste collection companies.They must also “stop waste escaping from [their] control, by storing it safely and securely.” There have certainly been examples of waste around West Hampstead that is clearly business waste – either from construction projects or restaurants. The latter should be reasonably easy to identify (and they are unlikely to dump it outside their own premises).

Larger items that do not form part of business’s day-to-day waste can be collected by the council for a charge.

But what about Veolia?
While the Clean Camden campaign is a small step in the right direction for countering littering and fly-tipping, there is another problem. At least in this part of the borough, the rubbish and recycling collection is far from perfect and this is creating problems too. When the bin men don’t collect the rubbish and bins or bags are left on the street, it’s both unsightly and unhygenic, but also gives the impression that this is acceptable behaviour.

@camdentalking, is this the way our streets should look after rubbish collection? pic.twitter.com/jp6y5KP38p
— Nicole Dunn (@_nicoledunn_) November 6, 2013

@camdentalking rubbish pile up on Hemstal Rd NW6. Been here for 3days & ignored by bin men this am!!!! #whamp pic.twitter.com/g2A0C4pnq7
— TAGC_85 (@TAGC_85) November 4, 2013

Sick of the bloody bin men they make more mess all this council tax for nothing @camdentalking @WHampstead pic.twitter.com/EUFC4uz48W
— Mr Blue™ (@allyrangers) November 3, 2013

Solving the area’s rubbish problem needs both action on the fly-tipping and action on Veolia (the contractor) to improve performance. I can imagine this is happening behind the scenes, but I think locals would like to hear a bit more about that – including what sort of penalties Camden can impose on Veolia if it misses targets (surely it has targets?).

Here’s what Camden cabinet member Phil Jones said about Veolia in response to queries by WHAT:

The introduction of the wheelie bins combined with changed collection days and new recycling arrangements (co-mingled recycling) impacted negatively on the service. Complaints rose significantly, as anticipated, in line with experience in other boroughs, as the Veolia staff didn’t know the rounds and were dealing with a new system. This should now have settled down. I can tell you that we are on track to make our anticipated financial savings and are already seeing increased levels of recycling.

Aside from the fact that it really shouldn’t take more than a couple of weeks to get familiar with new rounds, this doesn’t address the problems that locals are reporting every week about missed collections, or simply missed bins.

@WHampstead doesn’t explain why my recycling bin has only been emptied three times in the last six weeks though #sloppy
— Richard Milestone (@richardmileston) November 2, 2013

Worryingly, fly-tipping actually includes putting out a bag of rubbish when it’s not a refuse collection day. So, if you put your bin out and it’s not collected and you’re away, you may find yourself accused of fly-tipping!

To find out more about Camden’s new crack-down, come to the Area Action Group meeting next Wednesday when one of the street environment officers will be explaning more – and probably copping some flak.

Rubbish problems blamed on budget cuts

We’ve discussed the rubbish problems recently; here’s what Cllr Phil Jones, Camden cabinet member for the environment, wrote in response to WHAT‘s recent enquiries about the problems both with recycling and fly-tipping. He cited three issues and mentioned a new initiative starting next week to help tackle the fly-tipping:

The introduction of the wheelie bins combined with changed collection days and new recycling arrangements (co-mingled recycling) impacted negatively on the service. Complaints rose significantly, as anticipated, in line with experience in other boroughs, as the Veolia staff didn’t know the rounds and were dealing with a new system. This should now have settled down. I can tell you that we are on track to make our anticipated financial savings and are already seeing increased levels of recycling.

Street cleansing budgets were cut 40% due to the £83.5 million of cuts targeted at Camden by the coalition government (far higher than richer, rural areas). This means streets are swept less often that they used to be. Additional money for street cleansing must be taken from other services. The council is now expecting £70 million of additional cuts to be found over four years from 2014/15 due to further extra cuts targeted at Camden by the coalition government (again far higher than richer, rural areas). The extra cuts will be front loaded and will have a big impact on services from 2014 onwards.

Street environment services staffing has been revamped in the last few months. The objectives included a) creation of a new education and enforcement team, b) increasing the skill levels of staff, c) improving contract management of Veolia. This meant that some staff were made redundant, others were demotivated for a period, and new staff had to get used to their roles. This process also had a negative impact on the services provided but is also now nearing completion. Officers should be responsive to problems and respond when issues are identified.

We are launching a new ‘Clean Camden’ enforcement campaign on 6 November. This will target fly tipping, dog fouling, littering etc. Officers will be targeting hotspots to fine people caught doing any of these environmental crimes. It will not stop these problems from occurring, so it is important to be realistic. It should highlight the unacceptability of such actions and send a warning to those who flout the law. We also need to gain more evidence on who is committing these crimes so people will be encouraged to send information to the council.

This last point is encouraging for people who are sick of their streets being strewn with debris. I think it’s easy to understand that budget cuts will have an impact on all manner of services, but when there are already laws in place that are meant to prevent some of the resulting problems, it seems strange that it takes a special initiative to enact them.

West Hampstead’s rubbish

Over the past few months, rubbish has been the overriding issue in West Hampstead. First, there were teething problems with Camden’s new recycling and rubbish collection system.

@camdentalking just watched your bin lorry ignore some rubbish! Picked up some bags but not rest. No wonder @WHampstead reports bin problems
— Daniel W (@damawa42) August 27, 2013

Some problems remain with this, but the situation does seem to have improved. Not that everyone likes the new arrangement:

1 photo; 3 houses; 9 recycling bins – 5 in one garden! Unsightly. Glad I stuck with the boxes and bags. #WHampRubbish pic.twitter.com/8fbyZ1h2QP
— Steve (@SteveWHamp) August 2, 2013

The problem now – and what a problem – is fly-tipping. Camden has signs around the area threatening prosecution, but those seem to be idle threats and the problem’s getting worse.

Here’s what Minster Road’s recycling area is supposed to look like (taken 11am October 8th)

Photo via Richard Olszewski

Here’s what it’s looked like recently

Photo via Richard Olszewski

Photo via @mgscott

Photo via Richard Olszewski

This sort of “industrial-scale” waste is completely unacceptable. This looks like house clearance and builders’ waste material that they should be paying to have taken away, or drive to their nearest dump.

One might argue that at least this waste is being left by a recycling centre, and therefore it’s more likely that Camden will come along and collect it. There’s no such provision on Blackburn Road, however:

Photo via Bernadette Dear

Netherwood Street in Kilburn also suffers from business waste problems – this is nothing new, the day Kilburn flooded last summer, I took this photo on Netherwood Street.

Here’s a more recent picture:

Photo via Mr Wolf

Lib Dem council candidate James King has recently blogged about the problems in Kilburn ward. There’s one crucial paragraph:

Yet when a resident asked how many fines or prosecutions have been taken forward by Camden Council under the Environment Protection Act 1990 (as featured in the sorry ‘No Dumping’ sign), in Kilburn ward over the last few years, he was told ZERO.

One of the knock-on effects of the large-scale fly-tipping is that people… locals… start to think it’s acceptable to leave single items outside.

@Richard4FG @EugeneRegis @WHampstead yeah, leave it there, the council(-taxpayer) will dump it for you sir. Frognal pic.twitter.com/HVsppSmyV4
— John Mennis (@JfmJm) September 10, 2013

just dump it there – the council taxpayer @camdentalking will take it away. Saves you the bother #whampflytipping pic.twitter.com/UiUenGhEch
— John Mennis (@JfmJm) September 22, 2013

Very public convenience, Maygrove Road #westhampstead pic.twitter.com/n6TzDucRvQ
— Patrick (@rosanowski) October 10, 2013

The Guardian recently published an article and accompanying map of fly-tipping at the council level. Camden fared fairly badly placing 11th on the list of total incidents per 1,000 people, and 12th on the overall total (Newham and Southwark fare much worse). More interesting than the map is the data on actions taken. Nationwide, only 0.5% of incidents result in prosecutions, despite the fact that the success rate of those prosecutions is 99%.

Flick Rea, Fortune Green councillor, has written about the problem too. She concludes:

There are probably no easy answers – maybe the refuse people don’t care or they’re trying to do too much in too short a time, maybe they aren’t properly supervised either by their own bosses or by officers in Camden who are supposed to monitor the contract. Also it seems lots of people just don’t care where they leave their rubbish – smelly old mattresses, broken chairs etc. Whatever the reasons – our streets are definitely a mess!

There is though, she suggests, a light at the end of the rubbish-strewn tunnel:

Camden’s Street Environment Services have been re-organised, recruited new staff and hope that when they are all in place, things will improve and our streets will get to look a bit cleaner.

Lets hope so. Like all councils, Camden is strapped for cash at the moment, and street cleaning/refuse collections are often in the firing line for cuts. We should be thankful that we haven’t been reduced to fortnightly collections. Nevertheless, when there are so many flagrant fly-tipping abuses, it seems that a concerted effort to prosecute would help clear up the problem (and pay for itself in fines).

Meanwhile, if it’s all getting too much for you – never fear, Boris is here. The golden-haired mayor recently helpfully suggested we should all pitch in.

Problems with litter in your area? Try our free @CapitalCleanup kits http://t.co/rtknB6CARD @TeamLDN @projectdirt @GroundworkLON @McDonalds
— Boris Johnson (@MayorofLondon) September 27, 2013

I’m all for a bit of community involvement in clearing up after ourselves, but I don’t think I can lug 20 bags of building material off to the tip thanks all the same Boris.