How many bins do we need in Croydon?

By - Thursday 26th July, 2018

How workable is Croydon Council’s new recycling policy? And how many bins are too many?

Photo author’s own.

When someone has a good idea, praise is not always that forthcoming – but when they have a bad idea, everyone’s a critic. Personally, I usually reserve judgement for a while before making up my mind. However every now and again, there’s an idea that’s so ill-conceived, you wonder how on earth it ever left the drawing board.

I’m talking about Croydon Council’s new waste and recycling policy and the introduction of two additional wheelie bins, meaning you might now have four Daleks… oops, I mean wheelie bins, standing guard outside your home in what can now only be described as a wheelie bin ‘car park’. That’s what my road appears to resemble at the moment.

I’m really not sure how I missed all the new bins outside my house, to be honest

Funnily enough, when the new wheelie bins landed on my street, at first I didn’t even notice. It had been a typical day at work, followed by an uneventful commute home. Once I’d turned into my road, I put my key in the lock, went inside and took a seat at the kitchen table. I was met with “did you notice the bins have arrived?”, to which I replied “er… actually, no”. So I went over to the front of the house, peered through the window and saw bin after bin after bin. I’m really not sure how I missed them, to be honest.

Now, if you haven’t already, please do take a look at the council’s policy for yourself to see how this affects you and then make up your own mind. For those of you not inclined to do that, this is my understanding. In short, we’re told, this policy change will help us to increase the borough’s recycling rates from 38% to 50%, reduce litter from overflowing recycling boxes, and save £5 million. Now, if I try my best to be impartial and then consider the question: does this sound like a good idea? Let’s see now: increased recycling – that’s good; less litter – that’s also good; save taxpayers’ money – that’s good, too. So on the face of it, it sounds like an excellent idea which I would ordinarily support. However, let’s now drill down a little deeper. To me, there are a few areas on which I’d like a little more information:

  1. What considerations were given to the impact to households by implementing this policy change? E.g. where are we meant to put all these bins and what will our streetscape now look like? You can’t hide all four bins behind the garden bushes! No seriously, you can’t, I’ve tried!
  2. What evidence is there that more bins results in more recycling? I really can’t see my household recycling any more than we already do; we have very little general non-recyclable waste.
  3. How are the planned cost savings to be realised and over what period? Doesn’t the purchase/lease of, and distribution of, thousands and thousands of new bins cost a lot of money?

I think that the other thing to consider is how our nearest neighbours are handling recycling and/or those that are doing it really well without antagonising their residents. How do they make it work? Sutton borough is just next door. The people there have multiple bins too. I remember reading about the initial chaos that ensued when residents went to collect their bins, but don’t recall hearing much else. I don’t know what the motivators are for their strategy, but I wonder if they’ve managed to improve their recycling rates as a result of having so many bins. Part of me thinks more bin space will result in more waste overall, but I guess that’s me being my cynical self.

If you take a few steps back and weigh up the points, irrespective of the benefits, I’m still not sure how you get past where residents are meant to store so many of these bins and how unsightly the sheer volumes of them look in our neighbourhoods? Perhaps if we consider what the alternatives might have been. Now, bear in mind I have no idea what these options would actually cost:

  1. Increase the frequency of recycling collections for all types of recyclable waste to weekly.
  2. Replace the recycling boxes with just one bin which has four compartments for different types of recyclable waste.
  3. Replace the recycling boxes with just one bin for all recyclable waste which is then sorted elsewhere.

These are just a few of the alternatives that I can think of. I do hope that our council did consider all of the options carefully before making its decision on this and that there was a reason that was so compelling, currently unknown to me, for the solution that’s now polluting our front doorsteps. As the decision has already been made, I don’t expect this article to influence the council’s decision, although no doubt if it proves to be a complete disaster a re-think will certainly be warranted.

If I now try to think about the bright side, perhaps we should decorate our bins to make them look a little more attractive! I did a quick search on the internet and saw there is a businesses selling covers specifically for wheelie bins to disguise them as hedges (amongst other things)! That’s certainly one way of making the sight of them a little more bearable, but if they use non-recyclable material to make them, that to me would just feel wrong.

The other idea is that as Croydon’s been enjoying its recent street-art revolution, maybe our talented local artists could decorate them for us? If you’re a young artist trying to make it in the world and money is a little tight, then this could even be quite an enterprising sideline business for you; certainly a bit extra to get you through art school. “Think on it”, as my Spanish friend frequently tells me…

Uday Shukla

Uday Shukla

Uday has lived in Croydon since 2004. He’s a senior digital product manager working in the financial services industry. In his spare time he enjoys going to the cinema and swimming and he’s passionate about architecture, travel and the National Trust.

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  • Anne Giles

    This is the best article ever!

  • Anne Giles

    Is it not against the law to force something on to a resident’s property?

  • Ian

    Great article, Uday, and full of ideas. Croydon’s streets are a mess and just got worse. Shame the council couldn’t be bothered to ask residents for ideas and views before imposing this scheme on us with very dodgy stats.