Surbiton no longer has any communal bottle or paper banks after Kingston Council chose Earth Day, when the eco-health of the planet comes to the fore, to remove them. They were being used too much, and generated mess, which had led to complaints from some residents. Now there’s just a blank space in the Waitrose
Surbiton no longer has any communal bottle or paper banks after Kingston Council chose Earth Day, when the eco-health of the planet comes to the fore, to remove them. They were being used too much, and generated mess, which had led to complaints from some residents.
Now there’s just a blank space in the Waitrose car park in Claremont Road where the bulk bins once stood. A yellow sign directs householders to take waste to the Villiers Road tip in Kingston. Recycling bins for clothing and shoes remain.
Asked to comment, the local authority, usually enthusiastic to trumpet its green initiatives, gave The Good Life a terse 35-word statement saying there was no need for bulk bins as all individual homes have their own kerbside recycling collections.
Yet the value of the large recycling skips became obvious in the days after the coronation long weekend as a succession of motorists pulled up, opening their boots as they prepared to recycle large quantities of party bottles and paper… and staring in disbelief at the space where the bulk bins once stood.
Waitrose’s customer service desk has had to take the flak as staff have been berated by shoppers who combine their grocery buying with convenient recycling, and are convinced that it’s the supermarket which removed the bins. “Paper, card, can and bottle recycling banks were owned by Kingston Council; speak to them,” said an exasperated spokeswoman.
The council’s official explanation, in full, was:
The banks have been removed as all residents receive a kerbside collection of these materials. There remains the option for residents to take the items to the Villiers Road HRRC, just over one mile away.
It stands for Household Reuse and Recycle Centre, though most people still in the area still refer to it as ‘the dump’. The council’s own website (pictured below), which was updated a week after the bulk bins disappeared, still lists the Surbiton Waitrose car park as a recycling point for glass, cans, plastic, paper and cardboard, while a large sign above the empty space continues to inform residents that it is a designated bottle and paper recycling point.
Tolworth’s recycling queen Janine Martin, who a year ago was presented with the sustainable business prize at the inaugural Kingston Borough Business Awards in Kingston for her landfill-reducing Sunray Recycle initiative, was furious about the council’s bulk bin removal.
Janine, who in April 2022 was actually given an escort of honour by council binmen on her way to pick up her award, said: “This is exactly the same excuse [the council] gave to try to enforce a fee at the local council tip. We, as residents, are told to recycle more, but with limited choice. Those without recycling bins are not included in these thoughts.
“Most people want to recycle more, but it seems any schemes and solutions are not properly managed or even promoted by the local council – Sunray Recycle being one of those! Those who make the journey to the Waitrose car park may well leave their items in the space where the bins were originally, and they are the ones that will get fined for fly-tipping.”
She was also critical of the recycling advice the council had dispensed ahead of last weekend’s coronation street parties, which she said contained incorrect information.
Ward councillor Liz Green admitted she was saddened that the bins had gone, but said that misuse – most probably by commercial firms – had led to the banks filling up very quickly and that the mess around the recycling point had upset some residents in central Surbiton, even after the skips were emptied more regularly.
“It is disappointing that we have had to remove the recycling bins from Waitrose car park, but it was being misused, likely by commercial companies due to the scale of material and speed the paper banks filled up,” she told The Good Life. “We tried increasing the frequency of collection and cleaning, but it frequently was overflowing and a mess. We often received complaints from local residents about the state of the site. Additionally, having added flats above shops to our recycling service, all residents can use this service to recycle.”
Bulk bin emptying was increased in 2020, and Saturday emptying was even started at an annual cost to council taxpayers of £15,000 to try to keep pace with the quantities being recycled. In March 2022, Kingston Council introduced a recycling bag service for any remaining flats above shops which had previously lacked their own kerbside collection service.
But the councillor’s words did not satisfy Sunray Recycle, which believes no obstacle should be put in the way of anyone wanting to recycle. Janine Martin said: “If this is being ‘misused likely by commercial companies due to the scale of material and speed the paper banks filled up’ then the council needs to seek evidence of this, and speak to the companies, rather than remove the collection bins.”
There was also an intriguing reaction from a neighbouring council which had heard about the bin removal. A senior official at a nearby authority told the Good Life: “It’s baffling to take away recycling bins because they were too popular. If they were being misused, put up CCTV cameras and catch the culprits. The council gets to sell the bottles and paper. It’s a weird one!”
The Waitrose care park still has bulk bins for surplus textiles and shoes, while inside the supermarket itself there are recycling facilities for batteries, plastic bags and small electrical items.
Meanwhile, the Good Life did manage to locate one person who was delighted to see the back of the bottle and paper banks… the Waitrose staff member whose job it was to keep the recycling area tidy when the bulk bins overflowed. “I’m pleased they’ve gone,” he said.