Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Hastings Recycling falls short

What can be so difficult about providing a brown recycling bin?
In Birmingham, where we lived until recently, fortnightly garden waste collections were part of the standard Council service. When we moved to Hastings earlier this year, we called the Council and asked for a brown bin. It would apparently cost £40 per year on top of our council tax, and we were put on a waiting list for a bin to become available.
As, after several months, no bin appeared, I called again. A nice young man said that there were 60 households in front of us on the waiting list, and that 'If we are very lucky' we might get a bin in March 2013, when ‘a few people might give them up’. It appears that there is only limited capacity to collect and process the contents of brown bins.  Realistically, then, it will take years to get through that waiting list - getting a council house would probably be easier.  I was astonished - what kind of service is this? 
In 2010/11, Hastings recycled or composted 26% of its household refuse. This percentage is low when compared with neighbouring Rother, at 44%, and Wealden, at 42%.  The Council website explains these figures are partly due to differing levels of composting household garden waste. As the other areas are less urban with more gardens, they produce more garden waste for recycling, which increases their overall figures.  However, the website does not mention that Brighton and Hove, a much larger and far more densely populated urban area than Hastings, still has an overall higher recycling rate of 28%. 
In July this year the Observer reported that Hastings had the worst fly-tipping record of any authority area in East Sussex.  It is not so bad here where we live in Clive Vale (and where there are many brown bins), but in other parts of town it is common to see unsightly and smelly heaps of garden rubbish just chucked over people's fences on to verges, or open ground.
If people do not have access to a brown bin, the only way of disposing of garden waste is to take it to the tip. That’s all very well for able-bodied people with their own transport, but impossible otherwise.
Thinking about the tip leads me on to my second recycling gripe.
Earlier this year a new household waste recycling tip opened at Freshfields, in St Leonard’s, replacing the interesting but somewhat third world set-up we had before. In the publicity, much is made of the fact that the new facility is cleaner and more modern, there is no queuing, there is no need to climb steps to dump things in skips and so on.  All this is very true and very commendable.  A visit to the new tip is indeed much easier, there is no smell, no tottering mountains of refuse to negotiate, no huge lorries reversing alarmingly across the site.
But there is a problem - no provision for members of the public to access recoverable goods, either via a charity store or, as at the old site, an informal buying-point run by the crusty old tip geezers.  There are plenty of desirable items and, given the range of disposal opportunities around, it always surprises me that people still dump perfectly good stuff at the tip – but they do.
There used to be an old metal container hut full of exciting things – garden items, furniture, kids toys – all sorts.  I couldn’t resist it. Over our first few months in Hastings I acquired: a brand new two-drawer filing cabinet, a set of wooden shelves, a Victorian plant pot stand, three old terracotta chimney pots, a half-barrel planter, other assorted garden containers, a pair of long-handled shears, a dustbin and a big pile of Beano comics for my grand daughter. 
The metal hut disappeared back in May this year.  I asked the blokes why it had gone, and after much grumbling and sucking their teeth, they said that the tip was moving across the road, but that there would be a new charity store, which pleased me.  However, at the new site there is nothing, and I can't even see any facility for buying the bags of soil improver made from our garden waste.

The site is run by Veolia for East Sussex County Council.  I called them up.  Another nice young man told me that there are no plans for a charity store at that tip, even though 'most other facilities have them'.  Why not us?
For me, picking through the items on offer always provided an incentive to go to the tip, and if I found something – a little reward. I am sure that was true for many others also - a good thing in itself.  Most important, though, all the good reusable stuff is now vanishing out of reach into the shiny new skips, just to increase the volume of landfill. Moreover, the stuff could be raising money, either for the Council, or better still, for a charity.  Even a few quid going straight into the pockets of the staff would be better than nothing. 
Finally, enabling things to be recovered, recycled and reused would mean that people could acquire items that they might otherwise struggle to buy.
I am going to start a campaign to get us a tip store.

Visit Hastings Battleaxe for more stories.


  1. I know what you mean... I was there only a few days ago. I couldn't believe the amount of perfectly usable items just being thrown away! So wasteful!!

    The thing which really gets me about the dump though is that you have to drive there. One time we attempted to wheel a large suitcase full of broken things down there and then they tried to make us turn back!! We refused obviously and they eventually relented took in our trash; I understand there is a Health & Safety element to this but it's hardly environmentally friendly to have to drive there!

  2. I agree - more provision should be made for people who don't have cars