Rubbish and recycling: councils imposing fines

Posted on: 15 October 2010 by Michael Wale

Most of us accept we need to recycle more in the home to ensure the UK doesn't come to resemble a landfill. Indeed, many of us already have recycling bins and sift through packaging, peelings, plastics and other such like to ensure we meet the rigorous demands of the rubbish police. Why then are they now handing out penalty notices?

recycling bins

I am all for recycling, against fly tipping, and facing up to what we do with our rubbish. But in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham things have gone too far.

Fixed fines of £300 are being issued like confetti to local businesses with a threat of up to £2,000 if you don’t pay up or present the right paperwork. The good thing about our locality, that makes it so different and preferable to many inner city areas, is that its main street is made up largely of small businesses. But that is where the difficulties over rubbish have started.

My barber Colin, who drives daily from far away Newbury because he used to live in London, was threatened by a council official. “I thought it was the return of the Gestapo”, he told me. “He demanded to know what I did with my rubbish”. The fact is that all the rubbish he produces from his tiny premises is hair from his clients, and the small amount of paper towels he offers you to clean your neck and inside your ears when he has finished cutting your hair. This he places in a bag and takes it back to Newbury, where it is put with all his household rubbish and placed in the local council landfill. Not that I am for landfill, but it does exist, and wisely most authorities outside of London have refused to take any more of the capital’s waste at their tips.

When told where his rubbish ended up, the local Hammersmith and Fulham official asked for a receipt to be produced, but meanwhile issued him with a letter saying that unless the paperwork was produced quickly he would have to pay a £300 fine. At a cost of great time wasting, Colin went to Newbury council offices, explained the situation, was issued with an official receipt, which he photo copied and sent the original to the council in London. What is going on?

Penalising small businesses

Small businesses already have to pay special rates to have their rubbish removed, when they are paying extortionate businesses rates as it is.

Another small businessman Lennie, who runs a second hand furniture shop, and does house clearances, thus saving much stuff that surely would end up on council tips just to get rid of it, has also been threatened. He has hardly any rubbish at all and takes it all home with him. But he must have the right paperwork, he was told, to carry rubbish in his vehicle.

The latest news is that the council is investigating their official for his officiousness. But several people have already paid up the £300 fine, which raises another question. That of the right of the individual in society. There are far too many alleged fixed penalties. These are re-placing the job of the local courts, where justice is seen to be done, and defendants have a right to argue their case. If you park your car for a matter of minutes in many parts of London you will receive a fine in the post, because hidden cameras will have recorded you.

What a load of rubbish

As for getting rid of our rubbish, I am all for recycling, which we have locally. Just why the local small businesses cannot use our orange bag system I do not know why. Surely the employment of this officious official to snoop around rubbish bags is a far bigger waste of money. In fact I am told that opposite Colin’s tiny barbers shop there is a three storey block of flats without any dustbins. “They put all their waste in black bags and leave them out on dustbin days for the binmen to collect," Colin tells me. "But they remove anything that will trace the rubbish to their own flats.”

And so it goes on. There seems to be little, if any, recycling going on local estates. It seems the council has not worked out a system that will work. So the sledgehammer is brought down on the small businessmen and women. The only large business locally paid up their £300 without a whimper, even though they had a whole legal department who could have backed their local manager, who felt he was being wrongly treated!

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