Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A salutary lesson

As I indicated in my first report to Council last week as Cabinet Member for Sustainable Environment and Climate Change, waste disposal will be high on the Council's agenda this year. The introduction of a new, revolutionary method of treating our household waste in 2009 will transform Darlington's performance on recycling.

Local LibDem councillor Mike Barker touches on this in his blog, in which he urges Darlington Borough Council to be "ambitious" in the choices it subsequently makes. I don't doubt for a moment Mike's commitment to the environmental movement, but it's worth taking a look at a nearby council to see how political strife can stymie the most well-meaning green initiative.

As was prominently reported in the Echo, last year Wear Valley District Council, then Labour controlled, decided to bring in so-called 'tweelie bins' - twin bins that would allow the Council to move from weekly to fortnightly collections. The environmental logic behind such a move was impeccable - fortnightly collections encourage householders to generate less waste. Perhaps naively, the controlling Labour Group at the time thought that they had all-party agreement for the move, in light of the support from the LibDems and the Independents over a two-year period.

I say 'perhaps naively', but given the LibDems' national reputation for duplicity, Wear Valley Labour Group should have guessed what was coming next. The LibDems brazenly campaigned against fortnightly collections in the subsequent election campaign, and the Council recently became hung. Now 15,000 tweelie bins are neatly stacked in a farmer's field near Crook at a premium cost to local Council Tax payers.

So what are the lessons for Darlington? New to the portfolio, I'm strictly agnostic on the 'black bag vs. wheelie bin' argument. I chatted to two residents in Killin Road on Monday whilst I was putting out our ward newsletter who could see clear advantages from the Council introducing wheelie bins. At the same time, the black bag system is much appreciated in terraced areas of the town, where space is at a premium.

Wear Valley provides a salutary lesson, however, as to how toxic this debate can become when political parties exploit a situation purely for short-term expediency.


Ian White said...

Personaly Im against fortnightly collections, but who in their right mind diecided to pay the farmer £1000 a month storage are they on drugs?
Once again so easy to spend the tax payers pound!

Anonymous said...

Also Wheelie bins are the stepping stone to DBC introducing "Chip & Bin" all BEWARE, once you get the wheelie it will be closely followed by the "chip" where you will be charged by the weight of your wheelie bin.

You have been warned!

miketually said...

My only experience of 'fortnightly' collections was when staying with friends in Yeovil last summer.

They had a similar home-sorting system to the one we have in Darlington at the moment. Just as we have currently, cans, glass, plastic, etc were collected fortnightly. On the other week, non-recycleable waste was collected.

The one thing which was collected every week was food waste. All households had a sealable container for the kitchen into which they could put all food waste (cooked and uncooked) and a larger one for outside for when the indoor one was full. This seems to have got around the worried about food waste having to be stored at home for two weeks between collections.

Anonymous said...

What a fanny on the good lord didn't invent the bin bag if he wished to turn the clock back to tupperware!

Ian White, said...

On a serious note, as the bin wagon can only empty 2 wheelie bins at a time and a bin man can throw loads of bags in per minute how long will changing to wheelie bins add to each bin mans working day/ bin round, it must be much slower is that why the need for fortnightly collections as the rounds will take twice as long to complete?
Save the bin bag! Change the bus pass's!