Merton Suspends Recycling at Blocks of Flats

Collections will be incinerated as 'last resort' due to driver shortage

Driver shortage is being blamed on Brexit and Covid-19Driver shortage is being blamed on Brexit and Covid-19. Picture: Merton Council

September 13, 2021

Merton Council will stop recycling at blocks of flats due to the ongoing driver shortage and effects of Brexit.

Recycling will now be sent to the Beddington incinerator as a “last resort” around six miles away.

The council announced that, with its contractor Veolia, it has decided to “temporarily merge” some recycling and rubbish collections.

The change will only affect those living in flats with communal bin areas.

It comes as the area struggles to find new drivers to carry out bin collections.

There is a national shortage of lorry drivers which has been blamed on Brexit and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement Merton Council said, “This is always a last resort, and we apologise for any inconvenience, but would like to assure residents that all bins will be emptied as usual.

“The driver shortage has left many councils unable to find enough drivers to complete usual collections, and the council has plans in place to maintain services in the event of issues like this.

“Merging recycling and rubbish collections in just a few areas allows us to ensure bins are still emptied and taken away. We are not suspending any of our collection services, and this change is only temporary.”

Veolia is on a desperate recruitment drive and is currently offering a £1,500 bonus for those joining the company.

Beth Whittaker, chief human resources officer said, “We hope the incentive will encourage drivers to consider working with us.

“Our teams are doing something that matters for communities and delivering a service that makes a real difference for the environment every day. We can offer part-time positions if wanted and a really good lifestyle – no overnight, no long-haul or overseas, so ideal for family time.”

Veolia and Merton council have faced criticism for the effectiveness of street cleaning and litter control in the borough. Earlier this year, campaigners claimed rubbish placed in recycling bins in was being incinerated in the Beddington Lane incinerator.

And in June, Merton lowered its recycling target to 40 per cent after failing to hit it for more than two years.

Comments on Twitter to the latest developments included @GrumpyoldGould, who said: "@Merton_Council had enough drivers before outsourcing to @VeoliaUK Cheaper costs means Cheaper wages & so employees leave."

Carolyne Price @MrsCJPrice commented: "I must have missed something because I thought they already merged it & then burnt it in that smelly incinerator."

Kirsty Warwick @KirstyWarwick said: "I honestly don’t think they’ve properly swept our streets or weeded for 4+ years…Evelyn/Effra/Faraday."

mj @jumpingjack33 added: "Street weeding is superficial - they grow back with a week or two. Perhaps that's just a tactic for @VeoliaUK to keep charging for the work. Also have problems around the Princes Road of street cleaning bags being left uncollected for days and being ripped open by foxes."

Merton is part of the South London Waste Partnership which also serves, Sutton, Croydon and Kingston boroughs. The three other councils have been contacted for comment.


Tara O'Connor - Local Democracy Reporter - and Neighbour Net Reporter