Council: “Join our drive making Croydon cleaner and greener”

By - Thursday 22nd June, 2017

Our last print edition saw two contributors raise serious concerns about fly-tipping. Councillor Stuart Collins responds

Photo by Croydon Council, used with permission.

Editor’s note: On pages 6 and 7 of May 2017′s Croydon Citizen, Liz Sheppard-Jones and Stuart Millson wrote about the issue of fly-tipping in Croydon. Councillor Collins provided this article in response. 

It’s important that publications like the Citizen highlight issues which have a massive impact on everyone’s daily lives. As cabinet member for Clean & Green Croydon, I care deeply about refuse, recycling and fly-tipping. As a council we pledged to make cleaner streets a priority and in 2014 we launched our Don’t Mess With Croydon (DMWC) Take Pride campaign which – thanks to a fantastic community response – has been a huge success.

That community response is evidenced by the council recruiting 329 street champions who, working with the council, have carried out 147 clean-ups right across our borough to set the right example. Residents regularly tell us that these clean-ups make public spaces look tidier and instil a sense of community pride.

Through DMWC, we have cracked down on fly-tippers and litterers who dump rubbish illegally on our streets and public spaces. Any individual or business found to have committed these offences or used an unlicensed waste carrier faces fines and a possible court conviction. To date we have prosecuted a total of 150 fly-tippers and litterers and seized 23 vehicles, crushing 17 involved in fly-tipping.

This is not a Croydon problem – it costs the UK approximately £821m a year

This spring alone magistrates ordered 14 culprits to pay more than £5,000 in fines, court costs and charges for environmental offences carried out in our borough. This comes on top of a case we successfully brought in January against fly-tipper George Smith, who was jailed for using a truck to dump several tonnes of rubbish on our streets.

We have made huge progress and the campaign continues to go from strength to strength. However, there is still work to be done and I wanted to respond to some of the queries raised by your readers and let you know about the initiatives underway now and our planned actions for the future.

Let me deal first with the issue of fly-tipping and litter. This is not a Croydon problem – it costs the UK approximately £821m a year. We have written to the government urging them to give councils greater enforcement powers, be mindful of the impact of Government cuts and most importantly to run a mainstream media campaign like the campaign against drink-driving so fly-tipping and littering become a social stigma.

Photo by Croydon Council, used with permission.

In last month’s Citizen, an article asked whether fly-tipping has reduced. We have made it quicker and easier than ever before for residents to report fly-tips with our hotline and new smartphone app. We already use hidden cameras in fly-tipping hotspots and now carry out surveillance. As a result of these initiatives, the number of fly-tips reported and detected has increased significantly, making it impossible to judge whether there are fewer taking place. Before the DMWC campaign started only 3% were picked up off Croydon’s streets in forty-eight hours. Also, fly-tips added on top of other fly-tips were only counted as one. Our latest statistics show that now we have 85% of fly-tips cleaned up within forty-eight hours, which means rubbish is not left lying around on our streets as long as it was.

DMWC Take Pride is not only about enforcement action, though. We need to educate everyone about their responsibilities regarding waste. A good example of this is time-banded waste collections, which limit the amount of time businesses can leave commercial waste out on the pavement for collection. This ensures that commercial waste bags are not left on the street longer than necessary in a way that attracts fly-tipping. This initiative has been a clear success, and in the trial area of London Road it reduced the tonnage of rubbish removed from the pavement by 75%.

Another key element to keeping streets tidy is encouraging people to recycle. If people don’t recycle, their landfill bins are often overflowing which has a major impact on how a street looks. In March we launched an initiative to boost recycling rates with council officers visiting neighbourhoods to encourage people to recycle, and find out whether there are any barriers to them doing so.

We have negotiated a tougher contract with Veolia that will include higher standards, a year-round garden waste service and new equipment

We have also installed eighty new Bigbelly bins in the borough’s busiest spots, in district centres and near stations, to help people put their litter in the right place. With solar-powered compactors, they take eight times the amount of waste a normal bin does, so they need emptying less often which frees up our contractors to do more proactive street cleansing.

Another area for action in 2017 is our work with young people. We have developed lesson plans with the DMWC message linked to different areas of the national curriculum, educating Croydon’s young residents about the importance of disposing of waste responsibly and taking care of their environment. These are already being trialled in several Croydon primary schools and we hope to roll them out borough-wide later this year. We have run a schools competition encouraging pupils to design posters with a pro-recycling message, which will appear soon on our Bigbelly bins and waste trucks.

At the same time, the council has invested £1.2m in street cleansing, with fifty new electric vacuum cleaners, four new mechanical street sweepers, three cage trucks and two landfill-sized trucks to clear fly-tips.

From 2018 we have negotiated a tougher contract with Veolia that will include higher standards, a year-round garden waste service and the new equipment is being used to help Veolia start to meet those standards ahead of time.

With the support of the community, the council will continue to keep working hard to keep Croydon’s streets clean. A lot’s been done, but there is still a lot to do and the campaign continues.

Stuart Collins

Stuart Collins

Councillor Stuart Collins is Labour member of Croydon Council for Broad Green ward, deputy leader and cabinet member for Clean, Green Croydon. He likes cats, Chelsea FC and rockabilly music and plays tennis at Norbury Tennis club.

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  • Robert Ward

    Thanks Stuart.

    I won’t go over tired old ground on where we disagree. I think where we can agree is on the need for stronger penalties, more quickly and cheaply levied on wrongdoers. What exactly are the powers you would like from government on this?

    Also, fly-tips and mess on private land keeps coming up as an issue. Do you have any suggestions on what might be done to get more effective at stopping this happening and/or getting it cleared up?