WHEREFORE LOCALISM?

At a meeting with Richard Boden last month, I suggested that he write to the parish council to request financial support for Wyecycle until Biffa take over the recycling contract in July.

This he has done: 130409wyecycleletter

I am happy to put forward this proposal for the following reasons (many of them previously posted):

  • Wyecycle does command some significant support in the community.
  • Any sustainable community should endeavour to minimise its waste. Efforts to minimise waste are more likely to happen through a community recycling company rather than through a borough-wide collector.
  • Wyecycle has always championed high standards of recycling. Sorting in one’s own home leads to better quality recycling than sorting at a materials reclamation facility (such as that planned by Ashford.) (Fears as to what could be happening to mixed recyclables were highlighted in the Mail last weekend but subsequently refuted by DEFRA.)
  • Wyecycle is a local organisation employing local people. It has given rise to other local initiatives – such as the community farm and the farmers’ market. Under the government’s localism agenda, one would think that such organisations could be supported.
  • Wyecycle has become part of our common heritage (even if we complain about it) which makes the village distinctive (and perhaps contributes to our position as third best place to live in Britain?). If it were announced that Sainsbury’s were coming to the village and that all the local shops were to close, we’d be up in arms. With Biffa we would be welcoming the waste-equivalent of Sainsbury’s.

That said, I think it’s unlikely that the parish council will make any sort of grant for the following reasons:

  • Unfortunately Wyecycle does not command the support of the whole community. As a community recycling company, it has become distant from the community which it serves.
  • There are elements in the company’s operation which are not transparent or justifiable to the householder (lack of plastics provision, use of old vehicles, state of the yard).
  • The waste contract is organised by Ashford Council. The parish council doesn’t have any power to override what Ashford decides. I’m not even sure there is a mechanism whereby such a grant can be made.
  • Biffa, who have been awarded the contract, have said that they are not prepared to work with Wyecycle. Unless there is any prospect of Biffa working with Wyecycle in the future, one has to question whether a short-term grant is justifiable.
  • The new contract with Biffa is a big improvement on what has existed in Ashford before now. For the first time, we are being presented with a credible alternative.
  • The parish council does not have money for such things at the current time.

My own view is that in this dispute between Wyecycle and Biffa, the householder is being let down.

In such a dispute, I would like to see some efforts made to achieve compromise  – especially as the existence of a local waste organisation and associated spin-off local organisations (the farm, the farmers’ market) does fit so squarely with the government’s localism agenda.

But there seems to be a policy of non-engagement by both parties. Wyecycle organised a meeting but it was just for its own supporters. Biffa have failed to come to Wye to engage with the only people in the district (or their representatives) who’ve been doing any recycling for years.

As for Ashford Council and the localism agenda, do they see any more to it than the ability to divest themselves of responsibility and costs for such things as public loos? They certainly seem to have very little knowledge of the community farm, for example – which one might hope would be supported and held up as an example of localism in action.

It’s all very troubling.

Perhaps we should have a public meeting – without Biffa or Wyecycle present – to discuss localism and whether there’s any future for community recycling (or other community-based organisations?) in Wye?

Then perhaps we can identify a way forward.

The current situation by the way is as follows:

  • Wyecycle are continuing to offer a service every Monday. This is the usual free collection – but they have also asked people to consider putting tags on their boxes in order to provide support for the organisation (tags are available for £1.50 from Leppers or the newsagents).
  • Meanwhile the borough council are providing a weekly waste collection service. This was triggered when Wyecycle threatened to stop their collection completely at the end of March. It is not clear at the current time whether the council will be continuing to pay Wyecycle until such time as Biffa takes over.

About jasperbouverie

I am Jasper Bouverie. I have two blogs: jasperbouverie.com which is about promoting sustainability in the village of Wye in Kent (and beyond); and FunderFilms.com which I will fill with short films dedicated to promoting social and environmental awareness and change. Find me on Twitter: funderfilms and finelinej
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