The problems that we suffer with litter arise from a complex interplay between legislation, Camden Council, and Veolia.
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 is UK Law.
This is Section 89 (1):
It states that Local Authorities, such as Camden Council, must ensure that their land is kept clear of litter and refuse (so far as is practicable). This is not a recommendation – it is the Law.
In other words, Camden Council are responsible for keeping our streets and squares clear of litter and other waste. This is Law, and to allow the streets to become littered at any time is a violation of this Law.
The only caveat is the word ‘practicable’. The point of this word is that it is impossible to keep the streets totally clear at all times, because as soon as the streets are cleaned, somebody might drop a bit of litter at the other end – and it is impossible to stop that from happening. So it is inevitable that litter will appear on streets from time to time. There is always someone that refuses to use a bin.
But it is the duty of the Council to ensure that litter and refuse does not become significant – and part of that is to clean the streets regularly enough to stop the problem becoming noticeable. Another part is providing an adequate number of bins, and emptying them often enough, whilst another is issuing fines to those who do litter.
As soon as the streets are noticeably ‘littered’ – Camden have violated their duty.
The Grades of Cleanliness
There is a Governmental document which explains in more detail what is acceptable and what is not on the streets and in squares. This also, should be followed by Camden at all times.
That Code sets out four levels of cleanliness.
Totally clear of any litter or refuse
Mostly clear with some occasional bits of litter
Generally messy with some small piles of litter
Heavily affected by litter with significant accumulations
The Law requires that streets are cleaned to a Grade A standard. A single piece of litter drops the streets to a Grade B – that means that cleaners cannot leave a single piece of litter – even a fag end – behind. And if people drop any litter then at the next reasonable opportunity, the street should be restored to a Grade A.
Grade C, and especially Grade D, are stated as being unacceptable at any time.
The code also states that if Grade C or D occur as a result of extraordinary circumstances, then depending on the type of area, there are maximum response times for restoring the road to a Grade A.
For all of Bloomsbury, this response time is half a day.
Now take a look at these photos of roads in Bloomsbury, each photo taken a day after the other, all within half a mile of each other.
What defence can be made for those photos?
Camden are violating their statutory duty – not in a small way – but very significantly. In fact it later surfaced that there had been no street cleaner allocated to the area for all of two weeks or more.
And perhaps one could argue that bin bags were out for collection – but these photos were taken at randomised times of each day. So how is it that there are always a significant number of bags out?
Whatever arguments are made – it is agreed that the streets are not at Grade A or B, which by Law, they always should be.
So Camden Council are not fulfilling their statutory duty – they are breaking the law. We hear in the news, and Camden often themselves say, that their budgets are stretched – so perhaps they are diverting funds from street cleaning to other more important services?
But that is not the case.
Veolia and Camden
Veolia, a private company, was awarded an estimated £338M contract in 2017. Part of that contract sets out how Veolia should maintain the streets – with clauses detailing how streets should be kept at Grade A/B, and that their cleaners will always clean streets to a Grade A standard. It also sets out that bins will never be more than 85% full, and certainly not overflowing.
Photos can be seen here of a monitoring exercise undertaken by our team – following a street cleaner and documenting the litter that he left behind. This is certainly not Grade A.
We sent those photos to Camden and Veolia. Neither have commented, and Camden even claimed that they could not access the photos.
The point of contracting out the services is that Camden need not worry about fulfilling their statutory duty themselves. They agree with Veolia a sum appropriate for Veolia to fulfil the duty for them – that sum is paid, and then Veolia do the work.
Around £16,000 a day is paid to Veolia to fulfil those duties we mention, and others. And yet quite obviously, Veolia are not fulfilling that duty, or coming anywhere near. Even when multiple concerns are raised over years by multiple people and businesses – Camden still have not admitted that there is any problem at all.
This money is taxpayers’ money – and Veolia employees are intentionally cutting corners to avoid spending that money on services they are paid to provide. In other words, our money is being paid to Veolia’s employees and executives – and we get little or nothing in return.
And when concerns are raised with Camden, they often side with Veolia, rather than us – despite their income being funded by our taxes, and this contract being funded by our taxes.
Camden also have a statutory duty to get value for taxpayers’ money – this, it seems, they are also ignoring.
So one can only ask – why is this the case?