Rubbish winter

January 5, 2011 at 5:38 pm 4 comments

Did anyone watch the news last night on local councils not collecting household waste over Christmas? If not, you can find it on the beeb’s website here.

Many local councils around England were unable to collect rubbish over the Christmas break due to adverse weather conditions and, simply put, the amount of waste that was produced during the festive season. So, now there are black rubbish mountains in different parts of the country.

At first I thought – understandable given the weather conditions.

Then I continued thinking about this for a little while. And I thought – well, given that we’ve had three winters like this – does that mean we can’t rely on way things are currently being done? I wondered if we would hear more news items like this – particularly next year when the CSR kicks in.

Five minutes after this, I thought – hang on – surely, we also have a part to play in this. Our own behaviour during the festivities doesn’t exactly help reduce the burden on the council. I’m sure my family produced 3 bin bags during 3 days – I’d say we usually produce 1 bag in 3 days. My mum even contemplated on sneaking one black bag into the neighbour’s plastic waste collection bin! (I’m hoping my neighbour doesn’t know about this blog site)

The green space is an interesting one. We seem to have a ‘traditional’ system in place which in most cases means collection and landfill – and doesn’t engage us beyond separating our rubbish in our homes. One of the Councils is quoted as saying “If we can’t go out and get rubbish picked up… we’re clearly not an excellent council,” – but surely they’ve missed the point here. The fact is – this system failed to work in many parts of the country this winter. And yet, the comment above, implies that as long as they can make the system work by working harder then it’s fine – they’ll be considered an excellent council. I worry that this will be the case more widely – especially when the CSR kicks in – and the opportunity to radically re-think the way we deliver services is going to be missed.

Does being an ‘excellent council’ mean continuing to provide services just as they are. I just thought it would mean striving to provide better services.

Damn it – I wanted to end on a positive note. If you have any positive news on local services being delivered in a radically different way in your area that prevented a black bin bag mountain outside your house then let me know – it will put a smile on my face – and it’s something I could suggest to my own council next winter J

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

What would be your favourite public service app? Sure Start government funding cut in Hammersmith and Fulham

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alex  |  January 5, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    People here helped the Council by keeping their rubbish inside. For some, it was too dangerous to go out anyway.

    If a Council was to be considered excellent, might it

    a) have teamed up with the local supermarkets to leave rubbish collection facilities there. My own supermarket facilities for re-cycling were over-flowing by December 20th

    b) thought of some other bright ideas

    We all pay our rates / poll tax / community charge whether the service is rubbish or excellent, so there is no incentive for a Council to do anything other than the least we expect.

    In times of poor weather, that is probably nothing.

  • 2. thirup  |  January 6, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Raj, unfortunately i can’t give you any positive stories but i’m sure they are out there.
    Your example on waste collection is an excellent example of what happens when services are siloed.
    I wonder how waste management would look like, if it instead being an obligation to deliver a series of outputs, i.e. pick up waste three times a week, to instead being a set of outcomes such as ‘clean streets’ or ‘a reduction of waste’ that allowed for services and users to think more creatively around how they could reduce amount of garbage produced, and better handle the rest.

  • 3. alex  |  January 6, 2011 at 9:59 am


    I think this would make a deal of difference if combined with attitude and behaviour change.

    Until an organisation and its people want to do things well, go the extra mile, be different, be proud of their achievements, waste will pile up when snow falls. There is no-one there who is thinking creatively, doing stuff differently. It’s same old….

    To me it’s about attitudes and behaviours.

    See Cory Booker in New Jersey

  • 4. Raj  |  January 6, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Thanks for the video, Alex. It put a smile on my face – great to see that in one small corner of the world – industry, public services, people getting together and doing something about this issue.

    I wonder whether a part of the problem is not being excited – in a creative sense – about the possibilities of waste, what we can do with it and what waste can do for us. Our attitude of just ‘getting rid off’ stuff often means that we don’t think about the alternatives. For example, Bulky Bob’s in the northwest collect bulky household waste and recycle and re-use it by making pre-loved furniture available to low income families. And then there’s also Eako Limited who ‘upcycle’ fire hoses into fashionable accessories like bags. You should also check out this Guardian article – bubble gum converted into bins!

    If anyone knows about inspirational work like this looking at our recycling stream in a radically different light that let me know. I’m interested in hearing more.


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