Is it wheelie that important?

The #bingate controversy raged on this week with the council beginning its new waste collection regime. Here, a Canton resident sets out why we should be worried about how decisions are made in our area – bins are just the beginning….

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Residents across the city lined up their wheelie bins this week as the council’s new waste management strategy lurched into action. Apart from a few dissenters, most played by the new rules, but you’d have to be living in your bin to have missed the controversy surrounding #bingate.

I’ll come out right now as an anti-binner. In my street we don’t have too much of an issue with litter, and recycling levels are high. Our main concern is that we don’t really have anywhere to store our brand new wheelie bins. Contrary to what some media commentators (and apparently some of our own elected councillors) seem to think, we know this is a first world problem. And for those shouting NIMBY: having respect and concern for your own home isn’t unreasonable, as long as a healthy sense of perspective is maintained.

Of much higher importance than my front doorstep are the other responsibilities our elected officials have for this city. These are the people in charge of our schools; the welfare services my elderly neighbours rely on; our parks, leisure centres and libraries, not to mention our transport infrastructure and the job of presenting Cardiff to the world.

Many bin-gate residents are more concerned that the council has demonstrated a lack of consultation, transparency and communication over these changes and that this shouldn’t go unchecked, because their next decision might be about something genuinely life-changing. We’re more annoyed at the process than the outcome. We can live with bins, but we’re still not sure why we have to.

I found two published surveys on waste management, here and here, which report the high level of commitment to increasing recycling across Cardiff. How have these same residents reacted with such vitriol to the new recycling scheme?

Well, for one the new bins cost almost £2m. Trust us, say the council – we must spend now to avoid huge fines in future. But how many houses with little or no garden waste received a 240-litre bin last week, entirely surplus to requirement? How many of these are being returned, requiring special collection services at further cost? Some areas have been given bins where bags were working fine. Some who desperately want bins are still on bags. Who made these decisions and how? These are reasonable questions to ask given the council’s public commitment to transparency. A one-size fits all approach has been imposed on the city with little concern for local circumstances.

For those mocking the concerned residents of Canton: surely engagement in the democratic process is a good thing? It’s easy to play top trumps with worthy causes. Worried about wheelie bins; what about education? Concerned about austerity measures; there are people in the world dying from lack of fresh water. This undermines the role of the citizen in our democracy. If bin-gate is the issue that kick-starts more public engagement in how our city is run, then some good can come of the saga.

Did you know that there is a public survey live on Ask Cardiff right now? Closing date is 7th September. Officials did attempt to consult through surveys, events, social media and articles in the County Times. Despite this effort most residents didn’t feel consulted until well after the decision was made. Surely a communications rethink is needed?

In the spirit of community, how can Cardiff get past bin-gate? It’s clear that we need to think radically about recycling and waste management, and it’s also clear that the council isn’t providing innovative leadership. I’m horrified by some of the pictures I’ve seen on twitter – communities continually harassed by tidal waves of litter due to seagulls, fly tipping or common lack of courtesy from litter-louts. That’s not something any resident should have to put up with, but judging from today’s pictures, wheelie bins aren’t going to be the magic solution.

So what can communities do to tackle the problems caused by waste, and what support do we need from our elected officials?



Have your say in the comments section!

3 thoughts on “Is it wheelie that important?”

  1. Really good article, balanced and well written. For a variety of reasons the inner city wards are blighted with litter, the cleansing crews do a great job at trying to tackle the problem but it doesn’t seem to be enough. A complete system review, involving residents, needs to take place, with a particular focus on the inner city, and changes need to happen… otherwise we will continue living in a dirty, messy city. Which is a shame because Cardiff is a great place 🙂


  2. Would have actually welcomed a wheelie but but don’t have a front garden to house one, much better than a load of old bags left outside which was one of the things I noticed when I first set foot in Cardiff (although I ‘loves’ it) being a immigrant all those years ago, the place could be so much nicer if it wasn’t for all the black bags and litter – it goes without saying the money areas get swept more regularly though, that’s universal, so you can imagine where people are against the wheelie bin, where it make less difference. In places that are less swept (some parts of Canton off cow bridge rd I’m looking at you) Not to mention the birds ripping the bags apart… and it’s not just seagulls, the magpies have at them as well, I bought my own large plastic bin as you can’t leave the bags in your back garden, especially now how flimsy the new striped ones are or your garden becomes a wasteland, you can double bag them but they still have a right go, so I’ve had to buy my own wheelie that I keep out the back, bring out the front on collection night and empty onto the pavement side and drag back through the house, I worked on an original roll out of wheelie bins in London when they were first introduced and they made the streets much cleaner in places if people used them properly, there will always be people who don’t use these things properly though. I worked for a firm that was paid to identify “grot spots” and manage recollections, there was also no public consultation about that – that said the majority usually have the worst ideas about these things anyway.


  3. Yes communication is key and if it’s failing then the council need to address that. Across the board.

    I for one have never lived in a dirtier city and I have lived here 11 years..these days are quite bad and sad for Cardiff. Litter is ever where and people are he generally unhappy and the council in the red.

    Meet to people, get some decent and worthwhile campaigns running. People are more happy to help than the council probably realise.


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