'More bins and better collections': Call for Camden to do more on fly-tipping

Waste piling up in Heath Street - a common sight say campaigners

Waste piling up in Heath Street - a common sight say campaigners - Credit: Sebastian Wocker/Hampstead Village Voice

Campaigners have called Camden's rubbish collection systems "woefully inadequate", arguing that this contributes to the borough's fly-tipping problem.

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

The council disputes this figure, citing differences in reporting methodology - it said it had recorded 31,215 incidents in the same timeframe, and that it issued 399 penalty notices between April 2019 and May 2020.

Campaigners are fed up of facing mounds of waste in the heart of Hampstead

Campaigners are fed up of facing mounds of waste in the heart of Hampstead - Credit: Sebastian Wocker/Hampstead Village Voice

In May this year, a group of West Hampstead residents documented the extent of rubbish pile-ups in the area on what they called a "mass observation day".

Ahead of a "walkabout" meeting with Camden Council officers, the group sent images of 278 examples of fly-tipping photographed in a single day to the town hall.

Abandoned waste in Fawley Road off West End Lane

Abandoned waste in Fawley Road off West End Lane - Credit: Janet Grauberg/Jill Henry


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Former Lib Dem local councillor Janet Grauberg said: “We did a day in the rubbish, and we were able to prove that the rubbish is not being collected.

“You can always find a big pile of rubbish if you go looking for it, and Labour councillors have been saying this is because of roadworks or errors or whatnot.

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"We wanted to make the point that this is a problem all day, every day on all of the streets.” 

Flytipping rates in Camden outstrip the national and London averages. Source: DEFRA

Fly-tipping rates in Camden outstrip the national and London averages. Source: DEFRA - Credit: Joey Grostern

The DEFRA data shows Camden also has the second highest fly-tip rate per person in England - 127.6 incidents per 1,000 people. This is far higher than the England average of 17.3. 

Jill Henry, another campaigner, from West Hampstead, added: "That number is shocking.

“There’s never a day when you can walk in West Hampstead and there’s not piles of rubbish on the street. It’s depressing and it’s bad for the area.” 

The group of campaigners argued that too often the council and its contractor Veolia are failing to collect rubbish from households and businesses at agreed times. 

Janet said: “There’s a deal here between the residents and the council and the deal is we’ll put out rubbish at the right time and the council will collect it. And that’s broken down. 

“In a sense what they’ve done is legitimise fly-tipping.” 

Sebastian Wocker, publisher of the Hampstead Village Voice magazine, said the issue was exacerbated due to confusion around how and when rubbish is collected.

A pile of rubbish in Flask Walk

A pile of rubbish in Flask Walk - Credit: Sebastian Wocker

He said the council's policy of allowing waste to be left on the streets before collection muddied the waters, adding: “Fly-tipping used to mean any time of day, but now according to Camden’s new rules, they’re saying it’s okay to chuck stuff on the floor three or four times a day.

“The only way to do it is to say 'no, you can’t do that any time of day, either it goes in the bin or it’s fly-tipping'.” 

Sebastian added that businesses being able to contract out their own waste-disposal added to the issue - particularly in Hampstead Village.

“You have purple bags for Veolia, white bags for First Mile, and Veolia won’t pick up the First Mile bags," he said.

"You’ve got multiple different companies coming at different times of day. So we’re left with total chaos that’s not coordinated.” 

Sebastian is calling for large wheelie bins to be installed across the borough. “We’ve looked into the presentation of these bins," he said. "Camden have them on council estates - really nice bins in a wooden casing, they’re really attractive. 

“People fly-tip when it looks like a bin, but when they’re in those wooden casings it works really well. 

“There are lot of little places where you could, if there was a will, get some infrastructure in. But It’s whether Camden, who are joined at the hip with Veolia, want to play ball.”

Janet Grauberg and Jill Henry were among those to photograph 278 instances of flytipping in West Hampstead

Janet Grauberg and Jill Henry were among those to photograph 278 instances of flytipping in West Hampstead - Credit: Janet Grauberg and Jill Henry

A Veolia spokesperson said: "Veolia is committed to keeping Camden's streets clean and our hard working teams carry out essential services every day to maintain cleanliness standards across the borough.” 

Cllr Adam Harrison, Camden's environment chief, said: "We recently undertook an anti-fly-tipping campaign in Kilburn, which showed success and which we are now extending to West Hampstead."

Cllr Harrison also said that clean streets were "now more important than ever during the current public health crisis", and called those who fly-tip "antisocial individuals doing harm to our community".

Camden say the increase in fly-tipping rates since 2017 is a direct result of the Clean Camden app that allows residents to report fly-tips to the council quickly.

On June 1, with Veolia, it launched a new successor app - Love Clean Streets - which allows residents to report incidents of fly-tipping directly to the contractor. 

Russell Griffiths, who manages Veolia's work in Camden, said: “Our crews work extremely hard to keep Camden clean for residents, but unfortunately we face daily battles against illegal and antisocial waste behaviours, like littering and dumping around the borough.”

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