Camden is 'essentially a free dump', say refuse collectors

Voelia collectors at work in Camden

Voelia collectors at work in Camden - Credit: Saskia Rowlands

Refuse collectors in Camden have called for urgent change, saying the current policy has led to a “pandemic of fly-tipping”.

A "clear-all" policy, which requires collectors to remove all rubbish from the streets, regardless of the quantity, was introduced by Camden Council and waste management company Veolia “to keep Camden’s high streets accessible and free from obstructions”.

But collectors have told the Ham&High the policy is encouraging “mass filling of bags” and causing rubbish to pile up on the streets. 

One worker, Pete (not his real name), said: "The clear-all policy means that residents can leave as many bags as they wish on the street, and it all has to go in the back of the dust cart, that's absolutely everything."

“If someone leaves 10 bags out, we’re sent to clear them. If they leave 20 bags tomorrow, we’re sent to clear them, which leads to another 30, 40, 50... It’s encouraging fly-tipping on a mass scale.”

Bags of rubbish lining Camden streets

Bags of rubbish lining Camden streets - Credit: Saskia Rowlands

According to data from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Camden has reported the highest number of fly-tipping incidents in England for the past three years, with 34,465 recorded in 2019/2020.

Bill (not his real name) told the Ham and High: “I’ve never seen a borough like it. I come from Barnet, and they won’t take your bin if the lid is open more than an inch.

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“Throw it on the floor and we’ll pick it up – that seems to be their policy." 

The eight-year contract between Camden Council and Veolia, which could extend for a further eight years, is worth an estimated £338 million, but workers say management are doing nothing to improve the situation. n

“I've never heard of anyone being prosecuted," said Pete. 

“You can’t blame the residents, because they know that they can leave bags on the street and they’ll get picked up, so why wouldn’t you fly-tip? It’s essentially a free dump.

“There's just no rules, no one's in charge. It’s the blind leading the blind.”

Bags of rubbish lining Camden streets

Bags of rubbish lining Camden streets - Credit: Saskia Rowlands

Camden Council and Veolia issued a statement which said: “We really value the hard work put in by all our frontline crew who collect residents’ refuse and keep Camden clean in all weathers.

"Veolia is keen to get feedback from the working experiences of its frontline crew. We encourage staff to address any concerns they have via their line manager."

Bags of rubbish lining Camden streets

Bags of rubbish lining Camden streets - Credit: Saskia Rowlands

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