Chi Onwurah’s 15 Point Action Plan for Rubbish & Recycling

Chi Onwurah’s 15 Point Action Plan for Rubbish & Recycling

  1. Empowering Communities.                                 3
  2. Council Waste and recycling and its funding..  4
  3. Education & Information..                                    5
  4. Enforcement                                                         6
  5. Licensing..                                                            8
  6. High Visibility Patrols.                                         9
  7. Fire Brigade Partnership Working..                   11
  8. Neighbourhood Policing Priority Status.          12
  9. Bin Collection Issues.                                         13
  10. Precautions for Bonfire Night                            15
  11. Public Litter Bins.                                               15
  12. Encouraging Recycling..                                    16
  13. Newcastle Waste Strategy.                                16
  14. City Clean Up..                                                    18
  15. Valuing the West End..                                       18
Introduction

Constituents have been raising concerns with me about fly-tipping, rubbish, waste materials, litter and recycling since I was first elected to represent the people of Newcastle Central in 2010. Over the years these concerns have grown, as the Conservative Government’s cuts have affected services – the £390m cuts to Newcastle City Council’s budget since 2010 have meant that the scope of rubbish collections, environmental services and household goods disposal has been reduced or become subject to a payment fee.

When out and about in Newcastle Central, knocking on doors or visiting businesses, charities and schools, these subjects regularly come up. These are issues I have raised regularly with the city council and were topics raised and discussed at the Ward Summits which I arranged.

In Parliament, I have raised with Ministers the need for local authorities to have more powers and funding to deal with these matters, emphasizing that rubbish, fly-tipping and polluted recycling have a major unacceptable negative impact on constituents’ lives.

By 2017, the number of complaints across all parts of the constituency about rubbish and fly tipping issues had risen significantly.

I began to record and identify what the problems related to rubbish and fly tipping were, what remedial actions were being taken and what further steps could be taken to tackle these escalating issues.

So, in July 2017, I compiled my first Plan for Rubbish. This has been regularly revised and I am now publishing my latest 15 Point Action Plan.

1.    Empowering Communities

1.1.       Problems

Littering, Fly-tipping, Waste Disposal and Recycling Methods.

1.2.       Community Action

The Covid pandemic resulted in the suspension of neighbourhood and ward meetings with residents, however, the city council has now stated that when there is demand, such events can be arranged.

1.3.       Action Taken

Councillors, Your Homes Newcastle (YHN), and partner organisations have set up events in conjunction with local residents.

1.4.       Joint Litter Picks

YHN, Council staff and Residents have jointly undertaken litter picks and Pop-Up Recycling Centres in Arthurs Hill, Benwell, Elswick, Blakelaw, Wingrove and other areas to improve the appearance of these areas and encourage less littering and more recycling.

1.5.       Community Involvement

Litter picks have been regularly organised in Blakelaw, Wingrove and Kenton wards. The city council encourages people to get involved via its website: https://www.newcastle.gov.uk/services/environmentandhttps://www.newcastle.gov.uk/services/environment-and-waste/street-care-and-cleansing/local-clean-ups-and-how-get-involvedwaste/streetcareandcleansing/localcleanupsandhowgetinvolved

The Newcastle City Council EPiC programme is engaging with residents and encouraging those in the Benwell, Elswick and West Denton areas to get involved and sign up for community litter picks. Residents are being encouraged to care for their own neighbourhood, recycle material more effectively and to show a zero tolerance of nuisance neighbours’ behaviour.

1.6.       Action Outstanding

To publicise litter picks and Pop-Up Recycling across the whole of the constituency.

2.    Council Waste and recycling and its funding

2.1.       Problems

There have been large reductions in funding for waste and recycling over several years, due to reductions in central government grants.

2.2.       Action Taken

Starting from 1st April 2022, Newcastle Central budget is being increased by £1.2 million annually, despite government reductions in grant funding.

The current 2023/24 budget for waste & recycling activities is £26.860m, for all waste and recycling activities, including waste disposal contracts.

The city council has undertaken:

  • Programmed strimming of fence lines and shrub lines
  • Programmed cleansing of traffic islands and crossings
  • Programmed cleansing of main routes and central reservations
  • Focused cleansing of neighbourhood focal points
  • Focused shrub maintenance and grass cutting programme
  • Focused weedkilling programme
  • To develop new bulb planting sites
  • To develop wildflower meadow sites

Targeted Work by the city council will be informed by:

  • Neighbourhood walkabouts
  • Ward member reports and complaints
  • Resident, Ward Member and MP requests
  • Letters, emails and social media
  • Incidents recorded and actioned by Ward operatives

Targeted Work by the city council will be prioritised by:

  • Operational knowledge as to local impact and visibility.
2.3.       Action Outstanding
  • The city council continues lobbying central government for appropriate funding.

3.    Education & Information

3.1.       Problems

Lack of awareness of littering, fly-tipping issues and need to increase the volume of clean recycling.

3.2.       Action Taken

The city council Engagement Team continues to work with communities to improve recycling and reduce littering. This has included engaging with over 2,000 school children during 2023.

In addition, it has introduced of Pop-up Recycling Events involving leafletting of nearby residents in areas of the city where residents may not have cars to be able to access

Household Waste and Recycling Centres. The events have proved to be very popular and ensure the correct recycling of materials that may otherwise have been disposed of in residual waste bins or even fly tipped.

Pop-up recycling events were held in the following wards:

  • Newbiggin Hall Pop Up Recycling Centre -16/5/23 – 42 residents attended
  • West Denton Pop Up Recycling Centre – 5/7/23 – 80 residents attended
  • Elswick Pop Up Recycling Centre – 28/6/23 – 10 residents attended
  • Blakelaw Pop Up Recycling Centre – 11/7/23 – 208 residents attended
  • Wingrove Pop Up Recycling Centre – 12/9/23 – 93 residents attended
  • Arthurs Hill Pop Up Recycling Centre – 30/8/23 – 48 residents attended
  • Benwell and Scotswood Pop Up Recycling Centre – 19/7/23 – 77 residents attended

The Engagement Team have also carried out other information activities and projects:

  • Fenham Library Recycling Stall 5/5/23 – 23 residents engaged
  • Canning Street Primary Playground Roadshow – 24/5/23, 30 residents engaged
  • Recycling Poster Competition – Stocksfield Primary l, West Fenham – 48 entries
  • ESOL Course – Westgate College Recycling Sessions – 5/7/23 31 residents engaged
  • Recycling Stall Morrisons West Denton, 29/8/23, 316 residents engaged
  • Major work with YHN giving out recycling bags to Whitbeck and Tebay Flats, Slatyford
  • Attended the Epic Fun Day in Farndale Park 1/9/23
  • Supported community litter pickers across Elswick and Fenham
  • Continue to support Canning Street Primary with their parents’ litter picking group

They also installed Small Electrical Recycling Bins in West End Library and Westgate College – resulting in recycling over 50 items, such as toasters, kettles, printers and chargers.

Newcastle City Council launched its Empowering People in Communities (EPiC) in 2022 as part of the Council’s Better Lives, Safer Communities programme, where an extra £1.5m is being invested to tackle anti-social behaviour.

In Elswick, residents have been working closely with EPiC officers to spruce up their streets, parks and the back lanes with weekly litter picks to make the areas more attractive. Whilst local charity Cornerstone Benwell has become a litter pick hub where families can loan high-visibility jackets and equipment for free to tidy up their community.

Updates are regularly provided on the city council’s website’s News Pages: https://www.newcastle.gov.uk/citylife-news

3.3.       Action Outstanding
  • To maintain existing projects over the long term, and raise engagement .

4.    Enforcement

4.1.       Problems

Littering and Fly-tipping.

Enforcement is mainly undertaken by Newcastle City Council which is facing funding restrictions (see 2 above).  Nevertheless, enforcement in the form of Fixed Penalty Notices has more than doubled over the last three years.

4.2.       Action Taken
  • Fixed Penalty Notices. Wardens go through rubbish in order to identify culprits and issue penalty enforcement notices. Enforcement action continues but is time consuming and many culprits are not identifiable, but action is taken whenever possible. Results below:

Landlord Property Responsibilities

  • The Public Protection and Neighbourhood Team from Newcastle City Council continues to take enforcement action;
  • However, powers are limited and rely on public informing staff of issues.

Additional Enforcement Officers

  • New enforcement officers have been recruited by Newcastle City Council. They predominantly work within the City Centre of Newcastle, but regularly go to areas in the inner west, educating residents and issuing penalty notices to act as a deterrent.

CCTV

  • 10 overt CCTV cameras were installed in a pilot scheme to cover key lane and junctions.
  • This resulted in 37 investigations, with 9 fixed penalty notices being issued & paid; 1 summons case; 20 simple cautions; 1 referral to police (counterfeit driving licences); 1 hooded night-time bin raider identified; 1 warning letter.

Fly-tipping Prosecutions

  • The city council has been prosecuting fly-tippers when it can identify the culprits.

DEFRA statistics published in early 2023, showed that in 2021-22, the city council carried out 55% of all the prosecutions in the North East, and secured all but one of the community sentences and the only custodial one. 91% of the waste-related fixed penalty notices were paid, against a regional average of only 11% and a national average of 14%. The city ranked fifth nationally, for the number of prosecutions taken, out of 309 councils.

Successful outcomes during 2022-23 included a travel agent who pleaded guilty to one count of fly-tipping in a park. They were fined £1,246 and ordered to pay costs of £702.60, £180.25 in compensation, and a £498 victim surcharge.  Additionally, three people, in unconnected cases, were convicted of burning waste. They were ordered to pay a total of £4,558 in fines and costs.

A prison sentence was imposed on a rogue waste carrier who targeted Newcastle’s west end with large fly-tips from a 7.5 tonne tipper lorry. They pleaded guilty to five charges of fly-tipping and were sentenced at Teesside Crown Court in February, receiving a five-and-a-half-years prison sentence.

4.3.       Action Outstanding
  • Newcastle City Council to seek sustained funding of enforcement.
  • Consider more CCTV in badly affected areas.

 

5.    Licensing

5.1.       Problems

A proportion of the accumulated litter is alcohol related.

5.2.       Action Taken
  • Eight new licensing applications have been objected to and denied by the police/ Council.
  • Funding from the late-night levy has been used to help increase cleansing after weekends.

There has been an increase in glass waste on the streets at night, partly as a result of Covid legislation, which allowed take away/carry out “off-sales” of alcohol from all licensed premises.

5.3.       Action Outstanding
  • City Council to thoroughly monitor new alcohol license applications.
  • City Council regular and ongoing communication with businesses and licensees about good management of licensed premises.

6.    High Visibility Patrols

6.1.       Problems

Organised Fly-tipping; Bin Raiding.

Recently Newcastle has seen the development of a serious and growing problem of serial and organised fly-tipping, with a large “ghost economy” of opportunist waste carriers.  Many of these have diversified from acquisitive crime such as burglary and theft to falsely presenting themselves as waste managers and deceiving customers into paying for their “services.”

There has also been the development of bin raiding in parts of the city. The latter problem is driven by a number of varied factors; including poverty, opportunity for identity theft, acquisition of recyclable waste (electricals, items still fit for use, scrap metals and rags), and skip-diving, known as “freeganism,” which is recovering and using wasted goods and food.

The City Council is taking a proactive approach to all waste crimes in order to maintain clean and green neighbourhoods for residents.  This includes enforcement action to deal with offenders, from those perpetrating low-level crimes such as littering, through to the perpetrators of more serious crimes such as fly-tipping.

Unfortunately, court fines may be payable at only £5 per week and are therefore seen as an affordable operating overhead by serial fly-tippers. the Magistrates’ Courts rarely impose community orders.

A significant number of vehicles used by professional fly-tippers are falsely registered with the DVLA or not registered at all. When seized by police, these can’t be re-claimed by offenders, but the lack of proper vehicle registration makes enforcement more difficult, and this is rarely addressed by the courts as either a separate offence or as an aggravating feature.

The current process of registering vehicles for waste carriage does not work. This would work better as a licensing system, where checks were made on individuals and vehicles including duty of care arrangements. It could also help fund compliance. Fees should be set at a national level with a requirement to register in the area where the vehicle is kept.

6.2.       Action Taken
6.3.       Working with the Police
  • The city council are carrying out joint operations with Northumbria Police to identify illegal waste carriers and potentially those involved in fly-tipping and scrap metal thefts. Traffic and armed policing teams have seized vehicles from suspect fly-tippers, with one committing an affray when doing so. He was jailed for that offence, and for two fly-tips.
  • City Council cameras are being gradually replaced with more modern technology. The newer cameras are analytical, which means that they can identify changes in their view and also follow movements in set areas, depending on the programme, i.e. a car pulling in, and recording them more clearly. However, they do not have automatic number plate recognition so are limited in what they can record at night. The Council have used CCTV for around 20 years, and were one of the first authorities locally to use covert cameras for fly-tipping enforcement. Over past years the city council have increased the number of overt CCTV significantly. A case going to court for first hearing in January 2024 involves an incident caught by both an overt and covert camera, and resulted in a van being seized and not claimed.
  • Working with Northumbria Water using a covert CCTV unit at a regular fly-tipping site. This has had a number of successes, such as when a neighbourhood police team seized a van which was recorded tipping by this camera, and the owner attended interview and made a prompt admission.
  • The city also has one officer licensed to fly drones to as part of investigations.

 

6.4.       Action Outstanding
  • To raise with Police the importance of street patrols
  • To raise the level of fines for fly-tipping with the Government (Chi)

7.    Fire Brigade Partnership Working

7.1.       Problems

When bins are left out, they can be arson risks. Fire Brigade Officers have regularly had to attend to bin fires, which as well as the fire hazard they represent often emit dangerous fumes.

These issues were taken into account when considering actions to tackle bin issues.

7.2.       Action Taken
  • In several areas individual household bins were replaced by communal bins with some reduction in littering, but with many objections from residents.
  • The new communal bin pilots have shown improvements in tackling problems that result from individual bins being left out, such as those being subject to arson attacks; things falling out of them, especially if pushed over; they are easier to search through.
  • Further action based on pilot outcomes is intended, with some adjustments to be made in response to residents’ comments and experience, following the introduction of the communal bins.
7.1.       Action Outstanding
  • Lobby government for legal requirement for bins to be stored off the highway.

8.    Neighbourhood Policing Priority Status

 

8.1.       Problems

Community concern about littering and fly-tipping.

8.2.       Action Taken
  • Due to community concerns, the issues of littering and fly-tipping have been regularly raised with Northumbria Police.
  • But the reduction in Police numbers has meant less ability to address the regular rubbish and litter issues raised by residents.
  • Northumbria Police encourage anyone witnessing a vehicle tipping waste illegally to contact them on 999 or 101 at the time of the dumping.
8.3.       Action Outstanding
  • To raise with Police the importance residents place on rubbish issues.

9.    Bin Collection Issues

9.1.       Problems

Residents raised concerns that the fortnightly bin collections resulted in litter and rubbish accumulating in greater quantities.

9.2.       Action Taken

The city council implemented a communal bin system in many of the most littered lanes:

  • This means that individual residential dwellings no longer have their own bins, but larger industrial-style bins are dispensed throughout the lanes for residents’ waste. This reduces the number of wheelie bins within the back lanes and is aimed at improving the aesthetic appearance of the area whilst reducing collection costs. This received a mixed response amongst residents.

This has led to Bin trials are being assessed, with impacts based on four scenarios:

  • Road closed with Individual bins
  • Uncontrolled access with Individual bins
  • Road closed with shared bins
  • Uncontrolled access with shared bins

Key points when residents are provided with individual bins:

  • 25% of residents not taking responsibility for individual bins, with bins left outside as a result.
  • No accurate data on some households, especially those in multiple occupation & converted properties.

Some Positives from the trials:

  • Majority of residents are keeping their bins off the street.
  • A significant increase the number of residents opting in to recycling.
  • Vast majority of those opt-in to recycling are now keeping bins off the streets.
  • 80% of recycling left on street is still at acceptable standard.

Key points with individual bins and restricted access:

  • Streets have generally been cleaner and manageable with current resources.
  • There have been reduced instances of larger fly-tips.
  • There is no difference in the amount of side waste.
  • Restricted access has helped reduce fly-tips in those lanes where it applies.

Key points with communal bins and restricted access:

  • Streets have generally been cleaner and more manageable.
  • Reduced instances of larger fly-tips.
  • Fly-tipping is generally individual household items, that is, smaller scale.
  • Restricted access has helped reduce fly-tips in these lanes.
9.3.       Action Outstanding
  • City Council to Identify or remove opt-in recycling bins left on street.
  • To target individual households to understand the importance waste issues, correct use of bin capacities and the need for clean recycling.

10.        Precautions for Bonfire Night

 

10.1.    Problems

Concern that bins, litter, and discarded wood etc. could be used by locals to create unauthorised fires.

10.2.    Action Taken
  • Both in the lead up to bonfire night and on the night itself police and the city council worked together to remove items being stockpiled or items likely to be set on fire.
  • Skips were hired and local waste disposal operatives / facilities were used to remove items – with the aim of reducing arson offences. This action is regularly undertaken every October/November but is limited by budgets and staffing number reductions.
  • One waste carrier was prosecuted after using Bonfire Night as an excuse to get rid of rubbish for free, and in a harmful and polluting way. Sentence: fine of £291; £235 contribution to officer costs; and £34 surcharge applied.
10.3.    Action Outstanding
  • Help raise awareness of fire risks.

11.         Public Litter Bins

 

11.1.       Problem

Small public litter bins overfilling; not in areas that they were needed most.

11.2.       Action Taken
  • The Council have removed small public litter bins and have instead place new larger volume litter bins in locations with the biggest litter problems.
  • Fill levels are monitored through the use of technology.
11.3.       Action Outstanding
  • Encourage more residents to use the available bins.

12.         Encouraging Recycling

 

12.1.    Goal

To encourage more recycling and less recyclable materials being put in rubbish bins.

12.2.    Action Taken
  • Two new information signs to promote the importance of recycling were created to put on the sides of 35 refuse collection vehicles. More leaflets, posters, and visits have commenced to promote recycling. Some location details are given in Section 3 (Education & Information) on pages 5 & 6.
  • In some areas residents are now being offered back individual recycling bins, where they can be kept off the streets or lanes, except on collection days.
12.3.    Action Outstanding
  • Promote good individual and collective recycling practices.

13.        Newcastle Waste Strategy

 

13.1.    Problems

The city council commissioned a Report that set out how Newcastle could significantly reduce waste. The city collects 142,000 tonnes of household waste every year.

13.2.    Action Taken

The Newcastle Waste Commission Recommends:

  • A voluntary ban on single use plastics in the city
  • A voluntary ban on drinking straws in pubs, clubs and restaurants
  • Setting an ambitious target to be a zero-food waste city
  • Establishing a “Re-use Mall,” where unwanted items can be bought, sold and swapped
  • Exploring alternatives to the council sending waste to Sweden
  • Setting up a city-wide partnership for groups to share ideas and good practice
  • Build zero-waste principles into homes, buildings and spaces
  • It is estimated waste could be reduced by 10 per cent by 2025, and recycling rates improved from 42 per cent to 65 per cent by 2030

The research and findings of the Waste Commission were used to inform the City Council’s own Waste Strategy.

Specific recommendations that the Council has responded to and actioned include:

  • Within council buildings and operations: the use of single-use plastic stopped where practicable, including cutlery and straws, promoted reusable water bottles through the ‘Refill Newcastle’ app, and improved recycling in council premises.
  • Provided more information on waste and recycling to residents through use of social media, videos, face-to-face contacts and on council bin lorries;
  • Started planning for a Reuse facility within the city;
  • Joined a partnership of seven local authorities that will dispose of waste in the Tees Valley using an Energy Recovery Facility;
  • Worked with leading national charity WRAP (Waste Resource Action Programme) to explore the scope for separate food waste collections and more recycling;
  • Set up the Resource Newcastle Partnership’ to share experience, expertise and opportunities;
  • Worked with the Future Homes Project to build waste reduction, reuse and recycling into these new homes of the future;
  • Worked with NE1 on pilots to improve trade waste collections in the city centre.

 

13.3.    Action Outstanding

The city council is revising its waste storage guidance for new developments to promote separation of waste by households to increase recycling rates. This is through ensuring that all new houses are designed with space for 4 bins, including food waste storage and that flatted developments have space for the separate storage of waste and recycling materials.

14.         City Clean Up

14.1.    Goal

Allocate more money to keep Newcastle clean.

14.2.    Action Taken

  • In 2018 the city council allocated an extra £1million to make a one-off special clean-up covering street cleaning, litter collection, removal of dog mess, erasing graffiti, cutting back overgrown shrubbery, putting new posters on litter bins and litter information notices on council vehicles.
  • The annual budget for cleaning from April 2022 was increased by an additional £1.2 million. This increased commitment to dealing with waste and improving recycling is continuing up to April 2024.

 

15.         Valuing the West End

15.1.    Goal

Raise the profile of West End attractions and communities, leading to greater investment in keeping the area clean. from both residents and Government

15.2.    Action Taken
  • Chi kicked off a campaign to promote the real route of Hadrian’s Wall, down the West Road of Newcastle, currently omitted by the official Hadrian’s Wall Trail.
  • Chi emphasised that in the third century, Hadrian’s Wall would have been the most diverse place in the UK, and that it is rubbish from that time, unearthed through archaeological digs, which helps us understand much about how people from that century lived.
15.3.    Action Outstanding

To get Hadrian Wall braided routes agreed

 

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