Bin wars turn nasty in Kirklees

Bin wars turn nasty in Kirklees
By Tony Earnshaw
Local Democracy Reporter

A BIN crackdown coming to the district next week is proving highly unpopular with residents.

Binmen working in South Kirklees claim they have already received verbal abuse and threats over the local authority’s latest bid to improve recycling rates.

In one incident a female advisor was allegedly confronted by an angry resident who removed a yellow warning sticker from a bin and stuck it on her forehead.

And a bin wagon was blockaded by angry residents who demanded refuse workers empty green bins that had been left behind on a previous collection.

Kirklees Council said it was aware of the incidents and urged members of the public not to abuse its staff.

The council has spent £80,000 on advisors to check residents’ green bins for non-recyclable waste that could contaminate entire wagons full of rubbish.

The advisors will start work in North Kirklees from Monday (May 27) until July 26.

Anyone caught putting the wrong type of rubbish in their green bin will receive a yellow warning sticker.

If they do it again their bin will be confiscated and they will face a six-month wait until they can apply to have it returned.

Since April 1 the council has seized more than 1,300 green bins, which are being stored at a depot in Huddersfield.

“There is a load of aggravation,” said Paul Holmes, Kirklees Unison branch secretary, who represents many of the bin workers. “We’ve had verbal abuse, swearing, threats of violence.

“One of the advisors has been assaulted already. Someone stuck a yellow sticker on her head. The police were involved. And we had a wagon blockaded two weeks ago.

“They stopped the bin wagon from leaving and made them put the green rubbish into the grey wagon because it was contaminated. Surely it defeats the object.”

Mr Holmes says 12 advisors are currently partnering with bin crews on their rounds. He said 30 per cent were bin workers that had been seconded to the temporary role but that the other 70 per cent were agency workers.

And he criticised Kirklees Council for rolling out the scheme without properly informing the public.

“We have taken lots of abuse. The public blames whoever is there with a council logo on. The run-up wasn’t big enough. There’s not enough resources going into the policy. It needs far more publicity.

“The council needs a process to engage the public because they’re just seeing that they’re being punished.

“Kirklees have not prepared for it and the frontline staff are taking the aggro. We only get the aggression. It’s a confrontational situation that workers don’t want to be in. It will only get worse in two months’ time when the advisors disappear.

“Then it will be the bin workers doing the stickers and they’ll have to try and defuse it. Are staff nervous? Absolutely.”

The council began its campaign in April in a bid to lift its recycling rate above 27 per cent, which is well below the national average of 45 per cent.

It says the crackdown has already had a positive effect, with an additional 45-85 tonnes of waste a week now being recycled.

Coun Naheed Mather, the council’s cabinet member for communities and environment, said: “We can confirm that these two incidents have been reported to us and all employees involved have been given our full support.

“This is completely disgraceful and unacceptable. We will not tolerate our employees being treated in this way.

“Our hard-working bin operatives and advisors are just trying to do their job and I urge residents to please allow them to do so without abuse.”

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