Adam Shaw: The Invasion of the Dalek-sized wheelie bins

Thursday, 2nd May 2013

TV presenter Adam Shaw (pictured above) says the wheelie bin will litter our streets

Published: 2 May, 2013

OUR homes are about to be invaded by Daleks. They are brought here not by some interstellar, time-travelling doctor but by the good offices of Camden Council.

This summer, Camden is introducing wheelie bins to our doorsteps.

These Dalek-sized bins are part of its efforts to increase recycling, a motive that many Camden residents share. But this bin invasion has sparked fierce opposition from those who believe they will blight our streets.

The council’s attitude is particularly odd because it has made half of the borough a conservation area.

That means it can impose strict regulations preventing residents from making changes to their homes.

Those restrictions include measures to prevent you from changing your roof, building a porch, painting your exterior wall if it wasn’t painted before and installing solar panels as you try to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases.  

If the council is, quite rightly, so keen to protect the historic and visual appeal of the area, why then is it at a stroke making a nonsense of its own regulations by encouraging the littering of our neighbourhoods with large plastic bins too big to store indoors – and for which most houses don’t have suitable housing to hide from view?

The council has made some proud noise about the public consultation it has undertaken to canvass our views about the new plans. I and my neighbours received the survey it sent out.

It asked what size bin I wanted and what colour I wanted it to be but there was no opportunity to say I didn’t want one at all. It is at least very odd to consult about how you want your street to be ruined rather than offer anyone the opportunity not to ruin it at all.

I am sure the council’s motivations are pure.

It sees wheelie bins as a way of increasing recycling and helping hit government targets. But the council has offered us a false choice. It seems to be saying: if we need to recycle more then we need to have large wheelie bins. That is not true.

People generally support recycling because they believe in two things:
One is that they want to support a more sustainable world in which we draw less on its resources and step more lightly on the planet on which we live.
The other reason is that they believe in preser­ving a beautiful environment, a pleasant place to walk and work in.

To say we can only recycle if we ruin the look of our streets is plain wrong and risks damaging support for recycling itself.

The council already issues small green boxes which are brought indoors during the week and put out the night before the bin men arrive.

If a bigger bin would encourage us to recycle more – then give us another small green recycling box.

Multiple small green recycling boxes can be stacked indoors or put in cupboards or under stairs. They can provide the recycling capacity we need without having any detrimental effect on the look of our streets.

Councillor Phil Jones, the man responsible for the wheelie bin strategy, told me: “The council is not, however, actively promoting opting out… I believe we have struck an appropriate balance in the circumstances between providing information and encouraging residents to refuse a bin.”

The council’s website publishes its “recycling survey results” in which it claims that only 6.4 per cent of people don’t want a wheelie bin.

The results strike me as odd. I am shocked, not because so few people seem to oppose the plan but that the council can show a result for a question it never appeared to ask.

Cllr Jones tells me: “These are people who have contacted the council to say they didn’t want a bin. These responses are recorded on a database that is then used to allocate the new bins.”

He is clearly proud of the council’s attempts to listen to its voters.

He told me: “Unlike the large number of other boroughs that have introduced wheelie bins, Camden is (uniquely as far as I am aware!) giving residents the choice of whether to have a wheelie bin.”

It is truly a great thing to both voice one’s opinions to elected politicians and for them to listen to you.

If you think the fact that only 6.4 per cent of people don’t want the new scheme perhaps under-estimates the true feelings on the streets of Camden, then it would be a good idea to tell your elected representative.

Perhaps most importantly, the council has allowed individuals to opt out of the scheme and not get a wheelie bin at all.

If you and your neigh­bours want to opt out – go to tinyurl.com/no-wheeliebin and fill out a form to say you don’t want a wheelie bin.

Alternatively, email the man in charge and tell him directly.
His email is Phil.Jones@camden.gov.uk.

Otherwise we better start learning how to live with the Daleks!

Adam Shaw, a local resident and journalist, tweets at @AdamShawBiz

 

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