Camden’s recycling rate has fallen – and this rubbish is now urgent

Veolia's latest contract with Camden Council began in 2017. Picture: Veolia

Veolia have contracts with 14 London boroughs - Credit: Veolia

Lots of things have changed because of Covid. But one thing has been an ever-present on our streets and the urgency of solving it accentuated the pandemic. And that’s rubbish.

People will continue to spend more time at and near home, and making sure household waste is collected and not just strewn on our streets will be vital to a cleaner, greener, and more beautiful borough.

However, the rubbish has sadly kept piling up in Camden. New official national statistics show that Camden has the most fly-tipping of any council in England, with 35,000 fly-tips in the twelve months up to March last year.

But residents don’t need stats to know that Camden is top of the rubbish pile. They can just look out their windows. Street after street is strewn with trash.

Yet when Camden Conservatives tabled a proposal for an independent review of the creaking waste service, Labour councillors voted it down. The cabinet member responsible replied that scrutiny isn’t necessary, as the waste service is “working well”. When confronted with data that shows it’s not, Labour have just passed the buck.

Cllr Oliver Cooper says that residents need to have their say on the Haverstock Hill cycle lanes.

Cllr Oliver Cooper says that residents need to have their say on the Haverstock Hill cycle lanes. - Credit: Oliver Cooper

Indeed, they’ve said that this data is because the waste contractor Veolia has a mobile app to report fly-tipping in Camden. However, this excuse is demolished when you realise that Veolia have contracts with 14 London boroughs, and they all use the exact same app.

Westminster uses the same Veolia app as Camden, yet fly-tipping in Camden has trebled relative to Westminster since 2017. That’s because in 2017, Camden cut bin collections to once a fortnight, while in Westminster, they’ve maintained at least two collections a week for every resident – so there’s less fly-tipping there.

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But there are other failings that need scrutiny.  When collections were cut, Labour claimed this would increase recycling – and set a target of recycling 38% of waste. Instead, Camden’s recycling rate has fallen to just 26%. That’s down from 32% a decade ago, when everyone’s bins were still collected not just once a week but twice.

Camden said that these outcomes will be considered as part of the annual review of its contract with Veolia. But that review is taking place right now, behind closed doors, and without any scrutiny by councillors, let alone the public.

Would you trust people that think the worst record on waste in the country is a council "working well" to mark their own homework?

Cllr Oliver Cooper (Hampstead Town) is leader of the Camden's Conservative opposition.