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Agenda item

Future waste collection and street cleaning services

Cllr Natash Irons


Cllr Natasha Irons, Cabinet Member for Local Environment, Green Spaces and Climate Change, gave a presentation on the future of waste collection, recycling and street cleaning services. The presentation is attached to this report.


Cllr Irons said there were several problems with the way the current contract worked. As a result, Cabinet decided in October to end the contract with Veolia in 2025. The Council then held a consultation with residents and received more than 2500 responses. The consultation showed that that satisfaction with waste collection dropped in 2019 but has improved since. Merton has the seventh highest recycling rate in London, so this element of the service is working well. In contrast satisfaction with Street cleaning has not recovered, and Merton issued Veolia with an improvement notice in 2022.


Resident’s biggest concerns were street litter, fly-tipping and over-flowing street bins. There were also concerns about the arrangements for collection from flats, a residents felt that they were not being helped to recycle by the system. Residents were happy with Garth Road and the new booking system. Those residents who used the bulky and garden waste services were satisfied but there were concerns about the cost putting people off from using the service. Neighbourhood Recycling Centres can be fly-tipping hotspots. Residents felt there was a clear need to tackle fly-tipping, and satisfaction was especially low in South Wimbledon.


Cllr Irons said that the Council considered all the available options for service delivery, namely contracting, bringing in-house, setting up an arm’s length company, and setting up a Joint Venture with providers. All of the options were tested against the same criteria and the evaluation concluded that contracting out waste, but bringing-in house street cleaning would offer the best solution.


For both services the Council will look to have a more prescriptive specification and work has begun to build those specifications with a view to going out to the market in April. In the meantime, the Council will also pilot a programme of bringing Garth Road to local communities in order to help residents recycle larger items.


A resident said that Merton Council used to have street cleaning mission statement, and that street cleaners currently pick up litter but don’t sweep the road. Cllr Irons said she agreed with the mission statement approach and expects to have street sweeping following waste collections. By bringing street cleaning back in-house the Council have more control. Whilst mechanical sweepers can access most areas there is a need to get the standard back up in other areas.


A resident said they liked the Garth Road on the road idea and suggested the Council could use the Gasworks site. They also said the council usually responds quickly to reports of fly-tips. Cllr Irons said it is helpful for residents to report fly-tips and litter via Fix My Street as it allows officers to map reports.



A resident asked about problems on Portland Road and Cllr Irons she said she was aware of the problem which is a result of a dispute between Clarion and Merton Council deciding on who had responsibility for the land.


A resident asked if Merton would be keeping the existing street cleaning staff and Cllr Irons confirmed that all the existing staff would move to Merton under TUPE rules. Currently 53% of Veolia staff are former Merton Council staff.


A resident said that having reported an issue on Fix My Street the problem was closed when not resolved and Cllr Irons offered to take up specific issues outside of the meeting.


A resident asked if Merton could consider community skips as well as the mobile Garth Road. Cllr Irons said the Council wanted to trial the mobile Garth Road first as it helps us recycle some of the material and should be less open to abuse. Another resident said that fly-tipping involved significant money and hopes it will be reduced by better access to dumps.


A resident said they felt there were more problems in Mitcham than elsewhere in Merton and asked for strong enforcement. Cllr Irons said she wanted people to do the right thing and Merton has given out more Fixed Penalty Notices than any other borough in London and launched the Merton Wall of Shame. The fly-tipping issue is about changing the behaviour over the long-term and addressing the national epidemic.


A resident asked if Merton would be increasing number of street sweepers and Cllr Irons said the specification is currently being developed. Another resident said that litter often comes from recycling boxes, so can they be replaced with another wheelie bin. Cllr Irons said she was not sure there is a public appetite for another wheelie bin but can test the market for other possible solutions. The Council has also provided nets to cover the recycling boxes. 


A resident wanted to know how the other political parties had been involved and Cllr Iron explained that the proposal had been to pre-decision Scrutiny on 13 February by a cross-party committee and she will return with the final specification.


A resident asked how much it would cost to buy the equipment needed and Cllr Irons said that the Council owns all the current equipment, but the trucks are coming to end of their lives so looking the Council will be looking at options to replace them, including electric vehicles. 


A resident said they did not think it was right to force people to use wheelie bins and Cllr Irons replied that their use has helped drive up recycling rates and containerisation is becoming national policy.


A resident aske about the impact of the bulky waste charge and Cllr Irons said that charge is mid-ranking in London, and it covers the cost the cost of the service. If the mobile Garth Road works, then it will reduce the need for the bulky waste service. A resident asked if free bulky waste collection will reduce fly-tipping and Cllr Irons replied that Councils, including Merton, have not seen a reduction in fly-tipping as a result if free bulky waste.


A resident asked if the Council would continue to use the Energy Recovery Facility and Cllr Irons replied that the Council will be continuing its use and it has a much longer agreement. Merton will continue to share disposal and haulage operations with South London Waste Partnership.


A resident said they sometimes see fly-tipping by householders using street as a charity shop, where items are left out for anyone else to collect. Cllr Irons said that the approach to dealing with fly-tippers is complex and we need everyone’s help. A resident said that they felt a reactive process does not discourage fly-tipping. Cllr Irons said that if the Council does not collect fly-tips then it will attract more. The Council has a Task Group looking at fly-tipping, including improving communications, for example the Wall of Shame. The Council has invested in mobile CCTV that we can use in hot spots. The Council is also looking at options for improving education in schools, but it needs a national campaign and government environment bill to tackle systemic issues.

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