By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
BINMEN in Kirklees are scratching their heads over what can be recycled in a green bin.
They believe a lack of training and, crucially, a lack of education for the public, means a hardline policy on checking renewable waste is fundamentally flawed.
They say they are ill-prepared to speak to members of the public about the council’s hardline policy on recycling because the authority has failed to properly advise staff.
It has led to fears that refuse workers will be forced into confrontational situations.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service spoke to one long-serving binman who, fearful of disciplinary action, asked to remain anonymous.
“We’re confused because there’s not been any information and training,” he said.
“Our training was a laminated sheet that told us the do’s and don’t’s.
“Even I’m confused over what can and cannot be recycled in a green bin and that’s because of the level of training that we’ve all had.
“A good example is that even I don’t know whether a margarine tub can be put in a green bin.”
After the mixed reception from the public , the council said it was ‘taking stock’ of the situation and delayed the roll-out of the scheme into North Kirklees – but it did begin this week.
The advisors’ temporary contract ends in July, after which their role will be filled by binmen.
The binman added: “Our trade union has raised this on our behalf, that we didn’t want to do this. It’s more work. It’s confrontational. Binmen just want to do their jobs and go home.
“We shouldn’t be put in a situation of defusing conflict with customers about what should or shouldn’t be in their green bin.
“There is a support department – the waste regeneration unit, where the advisors are based – that used to deal with the customer. Team leaders also used to deal with customer complaints.
“As binmen, we just want to provide the best service that we can for the customer without getting into a dispute.
“We don’t make the policies but we’re expected to implement them. I’m instructed to lift the lid off the bin, take a look and assess what should and shouldn’t be in there.”
Bin crews fear they will bear the brunt of customers’ frustrations when they assume responsibility for checking green bin waste next month.
They say being placed in a position where they are ‘policing’ the council’s policy on recycling means workers could face verbal and even physical abuse from residents – which has already happened in some cases.
Coun Naheed Mather, Kirklees’ cabinet member for environment, said the authority had had ‘a tremendous amount of success’ since launching its recycling crackdown and thanked ‘the thousands of residents’ who were working with the council to improve recycling rates.