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About once a year we receive a card instructing us to leave our clear recycling bags out for collection, putting them out before 6am on a Wednesday morning. There isn’t room for recycling from the whole block to be stored during the week at ground level, so there is a ‘doorstep collection’. A few years ago we lobbied for containers to be provided as a back up, but they are always full by mid-week.

I often find that my bag is not collected, as do my neighbours. It seems that Veolia staff do not do any kind of collection of recycling from doorsteps, they simply empty the large bins. The estate cleaners bring down recycling bags through the week, as they work their way around the blocks.

This means that there’s lots of confusion about the right thing to do with clear bags, recycling rates are lower than they could be and heaps of bags pile up on walkways and at ground level through the week.

I go through spates of diligently reporting missed collections via the council website, in the interest of improving the reliability of the service. Sometime these result in someone coming to pick up my particular bag. Sometimes, if I haven’t reported the missed collection immediately, I get a reply like this:

6 Jan 2018: ‘Unfortunately we are not able to log a missed collection for you at the present as the next collection date is on Wednesday 10 January 2018.’

‘I need to inform you that due to the proximity of your request to the collection date a missed collection can not be raised.’

It becomes a bit tedious to report a missed collection every week, so at the end of February, I tried an alternative approach and simply left my clear recycling bag outside the door, labelled with the date. The photo shows a bag labelled 3 April resting on one from 28 February.

These bags accumulated for seven weeks.

I then reported this – with photo – to the Waste Contract & Strategy Manager for Southwark, and it was raised as a complaint. I am still waiting to hear the outcome.

As I’ve been delivering leaflets around Camberwell and Peckham and talking to residents, I’ve heard and seen lots more examples of clear recycling bags piling up (below from Stacey Path and Hull Court). Recycling materials are highly combustible and shouldn’t be accumulating on walkways or near staircases. The doorstep collection system is meant to work so that a bag is only outside a resident’s door for one night. But the collection system is clearly not working, on many estates across Southwark.

In some cases, residents have told us that they’ve been told to leave their recycling in an area at the top of the staircase – by the Resident Officer or by the cleaners. Whether this is accurate or not, it indicates the widespread confusion about the system.

Update: I had a very thorough reply from the ‘Waste Contract & Strategy Manager’ at the end of April. He notes two problems:

  1. Firstly in the reporting of problems with your collections – it is clear that this has not been a user friendly process, and it hasn’t been effective enough in ensuring that your notifications of service failures are quickly sent to our contractor, Veolia to be dealt with.  We have been recently working to streamline our computer systems so that the process for reporting is simpler, easier to understand, and actioned more quickly.  We expect there to be some short term improvements in the next couple of weeks with a few changes in the process, and in the slightly longer term we are developing new IT systems so that problems and service requests are sent much more quickly to our contractors to be completed.
  2. Secondly, I have taken the view that Veolia have not taken sufficient care to make sure that all collections are done, and have then not taken prompt action to deal with your complaints when they have been raised.  This has led to your own collections being missed for several weeks continuously, but I’m concerned that this is likely to mean that collections generally on the estate are likely to be unacceptably poor.

 

I’m glad to say the recycling has been collected every week since this email was received…

 

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