Political Promise

Sort it out or pay the price

In David Brownsey-Joyce on March 23, 2011 at 7:29 am

David Brownsey-Joyce was shocked to hear of plans by one London council to fine its own residents up to £1,000 if they fail to recycle properly and fears that his council may introduce this policy next.

Lambeth Council has announced plans to fine its residents if they fail to sort their recycling fully with penalties of up to £1,000 for repeat offenders as it adopts a compulsory recycling policy.

Talk about an economic gun to the head at a time when we are all tightening our belts, this is either one of the most ill-conceived ideas ever made or one of the smartest. Whilst recycling is essential and we should encourage it by providing appropriate facilities with better education, telling people that they must do this or face the wrath of the council’s enforcement team is generally not a wise idea.

Mainly because this is London, and London is dominated by flats, and has a large number of bed-sits. How do you establish who dumps what, especially if they have communal bins?

“Excuse me sir, did you throw away a can of beans in the recycling without rinsing the leftover residue, therefore contaminating all other products within your recycling and by extension everything else we have collected?” (CLEARLY an exaggeration)

Lambeth says that through their stick rather than carrot technique they could save the taxpayers in their area in the region of £400,000 a year. That should be quite a comfort to those that receive a fine of £1,000 and should really dent the £15 million it currently spends per year on waste disposal. Ok this is going to knock a whole 2.66% off that big figure so Lambeth are well on their way to securing their financial future.

Forgetting the technical problems and that it isn’t going to really cut their costs much what is the real reason behind this? If it is about educating people about waste and recycling then I’m all in favour of it and this policy did start off with a nice council leaflet, something to get you started on recycling; but if it’s just a quick way of making a few quid then I think those councillors who approved this ideas should watch themselves at the next round of local elections.

What’s worse is that Lambeth are not the first to introduce compulsory recycling, Barnet, Brent and Waltham Forest already do it, my neighbouring borough Islington starts the policy soon and depending on how that goes my own borough of Camden will surely not be far behind.

If councils want to get us recycling then they need to make it worth our while, as you see we are rather lazy. I don’t know that many people who will sort everything into different piles and put it outside on the correct day, in most cases before 7am because leaving anything out overnight, which has any smell associated with it is just asking for trouble. In fact I know some people who don’t believe at all in recycling, they think it’s just asking for trouble and we should just bin everything.

Before anyone asks, I’m not one of those people. I take my recycling to collection bins on a weekly basis. So if this is introduced in Camden I might end up being asked where my recycling is, as I don’t put it out for a weekly collection.

What we need to see are council recycling targets, that when a borough reaches a target they get a bonus on their council tax, that bonus being a price cut, reflective of the difference in cost to the council for its waste costs.

A carrot rather than a stick, just remember to eat it all or else you might get fined.

Click here to visit Lambeth Council’s waste and recycling homepage

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