The blight of the wheelie bin


Local authorities have a legal responsibility to remove household waste. They are subject to environmental regulations regarding the recycling of that waste. Yet they have some discretion in how waste is collected, both as to the type of receptacle, for example bin-bag or wheelie bin, and the frequency of collection.

Rother District Council has opted for wheelie bins outside the central Rye conservation area. More recently, black heavy duty hessian-type containers have been introduced there and elsewhere to combat the menace of attacks by foraging seagulls.

As a waste collection service, it is conducted reasonably efficiently, provided that the collection vehicles can navigate the congested streets and parked vehicle obstructions. However as a visual blight in a heritage tourist town, the waste bins are little short of a disaster.

A front garden in Eagle Road

For many residents, there is no alternative but to place the black and the green wheelie bins in front of their houses, where they remain week in and week out. As objects, they are not beautiful, they positively mar the street scene and actively work against “the pride of place” that any thriving community seeks to engender and nourish. They diminish respect for the public realm and encourage vulgar utilitarianism, without civic responsibility.

For others, those irresponsible holiday-let tenants or weekenders, it seems a matter of total unconcern that they place bins in the street as permanent fixtures, with no regard to their neighbours’ amenities or to the harmony of the street scene.  What do visiting tourists think of Rye dwellers who so readily despoil their own environment?

A front garden in Rope Walk

What examples, one wonders, can one learn of how other countries manage this essential cleansing department task?  Can readers draw on their experiences of other enlightened towns at home or abroad where waste disposal is managed in a more civilised manner?

Rye is often described by Rother District council officials as “the jewel in the crown”. It is time that bye-laws were introduced and enforced regulating the placement of bins on the street, where they cause obstruction to pedestrians, wheelchair users and perambulators and often constitute a safety hazard to the visually impaired.

This subject has exercised letter-writers to the newspapers, and to MPs but no amount of campaigning has succeeded. Yet there has to be a better way.

Photos: Kenneth Bird

Image Credits: John Minter , Kenneth Bird .

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  1. I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment of Kenneth Bird’s article – black/green wheelie bins are an absolute eyesore! I appreciate that it is difficult for residents who do not have back garden access.
    On the Isle of Capri in Italy the residents do not have exterior waste bins. All residents take their bags of rubbish from the house on a daily basis to skips provided by the authorities in their locality. The skips are replaced on a daily basis for hygiene reasons.
    I would also like to know why residents in the Citadel of Rye get weekly collections whereas the residents outside the Citadel get fortnightly collections.
    Can anyone answer this question?

  2. At my daughter’s in rural France there are no household rubbish collections. Residents take their rubbish in bags to large bins in the village, at crossroads, etc., for glass, paper, cans, etc., and non-recyclables. The bins are emptied very frequently. This system, which everyone accepts as it’s long established, is much cheaper than ours but depends on the cooperation of the public; we’re so used to services “from the door” that I doubt it would work here. And, as E.H. Lawrence says, would you prefer dustbins outside the houses? Or plastic sacks that get torn open? The only other solution is for binmen to have free access to back gardens as was once the case, but I can’t see many people wanting that now.


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