Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Waste Strategy Challenged

Elaine Henderson of Friends of the Earth made a well researched and cogent critique of some aspects of the Council's new Waste Strategy at last night's Scrutiny Committee.  The Lib Dems had called-in both the Street Cleansing and Recycling proposals.

Elaine made the case for making reducing landfill  costs the main focus of the strategy. She said that adopting co-mingled (mixed) collection of recyclables in place of kerbside collection and sorting, would mean that the material would be contaminated and less acceptable to UK based processing companies.  She had talked to Aylesford, Brent's current buyers of paper waste, who had said they did not knowingly buy paper from co-mingled collections. She said that co-mingling would make it more likely that Brent's waste would be sent abroad for processing. This would reduce the price paid by processing companies for Brent's recycled waste.  In answer to a claim that it would be too costly to extend kerbside collection at the price offered by Veolia,  she said that another waste management company, May-Gurney. could offer a kerbside service at the same process as co-mingled.

She criticised the Council's Brent Magazine and on-line consultation as not making it clear that residual waste would now only be collected fortnightly and that residents would  have to have  another large wheelie bin for dry recyclables rather than the green box. The new containers will cost the Council £1.7m.  She suggested that the council should consider the use of large reusable bags for paper as used by other boroughs. She cited the ambiguous language of the survey and its inaccessibility to residents not fluent in English. Elaine made it clear that comment about the possibility of a Judicial Review on the issue that she had made at an earlier meeting, was raised as a member of a Residents' Association, and was not the policy of Brent Friends of the Earth.  She presented the committee with a two page alternative Friends of the Earth Waste Strategy.

A rather irked Cllr Powney was caustic in his response and claimed that it had been a 'good consultation' and compared well with similar Brent consultations. He said that he had personally appeared at all the Area Forums to explain the strategy and that there had been articles in the local press about it. He claimed that the new strategy was not a reduction in service but an enhancement as it would now extend to 28,000 more households. He said that the waste once collected by Veolia was their property and where it was processed was no concern of the council.

Cllr Lorber (Lib Dem) who was chairing the committee said that he agreed with Brent FoE that the consultation was not fair or reasonable and suggested referral to the Local Government Ombudsman. In the debate there was much discussion of numbers and recycling rates as well as practical issues about how people with small gardens would cope with three bins. Cllr Moher tried several times to get further discussion on the co-mingling verus kerbside sorting issue, rather than the consultation, but had little success. Cllr Lorber said he did not want to see at some future date a TV documentary showing Brent's waste being sorted by child labour abroad.

Earlier the committee had discussed a reduction of in the sweeping of residential streets from three times a week to twice a week. Officers claimed that there would be no reduction in standards because Veolia would still be held to a Grade a or B standard of cleanliness. Independent surveys had shown public satisfaction with the standard of street cleanliness and these surveys plus increased monitoring should maintain standards.

At the conclusion of the meeting Paul Lorber used his chair's casting vote to put forward recommendations to the Executive to reconsider key aspects of the Waste Strategy, in the light of projected savings being over and above those required. However, Cllr Powney's vociferous defence of the strategy seemed to indicate that the recommendations would be rejected.

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