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Councillor visits the frontline to lend a hand to waste and recycling crews

Starting work while most people are still sound asleep and braving wind, rain and snow is all part of the job for Lambeth’s hardy waste crews, as Lambeth’s lead councillor for the environment has discovered.

Cllr Lorna Campbell rolled up her sleeves and leant an extra pair of helping hands to a Veolia waste and recycling crew as they went about their rounds in Kennington and Waterloo last week.

Cllr Campbell, who as the borough’s cabinet member for environment has responsibility for setting waste and recycling policy, went ‘back to the floor’ to experience first hand the challenges faced every day by the staff who collect rubbish and recycling from thousands of homes and businesses across the borough each week.

She spent the morning helping on the round as well as chatting to the crews to learn more about some of the challenges they face every day.

And she had nothing but praise for the work the crews whose shifts can start as early as 6am.

“It was a real privilege to meet the team and get an insight into what they do for the borough while most of us are still asleep,” Cllr Campbell said: “I also wanted to thank them on behalf of local residents for their work during the snow and ice before Christmas. The fact that they shrugged off freezing temperatures and even worked weekends to catch up was absolutely outstanding. By comparison we only had to put up with a bit of rain when I helped out, but I definitely have a new respect for the work the crews do.

“The experience was a real eye-opener and one of the things that really impressed me was the patience with which the crews dealt with problems, like people putting things in the wrong bins, or drivers parking inconsiderately and blocking their access.

One bin had been dumped full of bricks and builders rubble, for example, which meant it couldn’t be collected.

“The main thing I took away was that we all have a responsibility to make sure we are all doing our bit by recycling, but also making sure we help the crews by putting out our waste for collection in the right way and in the right bins. That way we make the crews’ lives a little easier and ensure everyone gets their waste collected on time.”

Veolia senior contracts manager, Robert Seear, said: “Every day come rain or shine our employees are out on the streets providing an excellent service for the residents of Lambeth and this recycling crew really appreciated the opportunity to show what they do to Cllr Campbell. We hope that residents are encouraged by the enhancements to the recycling service and take the opportunity to recycle even more.”

From April, a range of changes are taking place to waste and recycling services in Lambeth that are designed to save money by encouraging us all to throw less away.

Costs of disposing of waste are rising year on year. Lambeth currently has a recycling rate of 27 per cent, but for every 1 per cent increase made in the recycling rate, the council could save £50,000 in disposal costs. Under the council’s new waste strategy it is thought the changes in services will increase recycling to around 35 per cent, which will result in an overall saving of £400,000 per year.

From April 4, recycling will become compulsory – something that seven in 10 residents support. Other changes will include charging for green and bulky waste removal. The changes will be introduced alongside a ban on green waste in refuse bins, charging for replacement refuse bins and introducing trade waste recycling.

Cllr Campbell said: “Reducing waste and increasing recycling is not just about helping the environment, it’s about keeping costs down too as we will all be hit in the pocket if we don’t act.”

“It’s everybody’s responsibility to think more carefully about what we buy, what we throw away, and whether we can re-use it.”

The treatment and disposal of Lambeth’s rubbish will also undergo significant change in 2011 due to new facilities that are being built by Western Riverside Waste Authority, including a new Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) at Smugglers Way in Wandsworth and a new Energy from Waste facility at Belvedere. The objective is that all waste will be recycled or used to generate electricity and heat. It is hoped that the new facilities will also end the persistent myth that many councils face of recycling ending up in landfill.

Doug Perry, Head of Waste Management said “It’s a tough time for both residents and the council financially, but the truth is that if we don’t work together our waste will cost us all dearly. We really appreciate the majority of residents who have consistently recycled since we introduced the current services in 2003, but we are in a very different place now. For those residents that don’t recycle, it’s time that they started as it is costing everyone else if they don’t.

“What we are seeking to do with the green and bulky waste services that we now have to charge for, is create a fairer system where only those who are creating that waste pay for it. However, overall our message is, as much as possible residents should reduce the waste they produce in the first place. All residents will be receiving a recycling booklet over the next few weeks which has lots of ideas and tips on how to reduce waste. We have a good track record with recycling and it’s not hard to do, but we need to get better and we will help and support residents to do that.”

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