Observer column: 23 October 2015
Hastings rubbish? Only if we make it...
Hastings is densely populated. Excluding London Boroughs, it's the 32nd most densely populated council area in the country, in the top ten if you exclude the country park. Added to that, over four million tourists visit every year. So it's quite a challenge to keep the place clean.
For domestic rubbish collection, the number of missed bins is low compared to other towns, and we recycle around 30% of the waste we collect. None of it goes to landfill - all waste that's not recycled is incinerated and the heat used to generate electricity. That applies to all the litter swept from the streets and in bins too. Independent surveys are done to assess how clean the streets are. While the results overall are good, we all know there are 'grotspots' that get missed, and where litter often gathers. Refuse collection day presents problems in areas that don't have space for wheelie bins, if people don't put their rubbish out in the seagull proof sacks. Flytipping is also commonplace - after decreasing nationally for many years, it's now increasing again and councils have less money to deal with it. Flytipping includes leaving rubbish beside litter bins, and dumping bulky items beside communal bins. Most of our communal bins, and other areas, are covered by CCTV, and the council does prosecute perpetrators.
And then there's dog fouling. Most dog owners behave responsibly, pick up after their dog, and put it in a bin. Any bin is fine. But there are a small number who don't, or who pick it up if someone's watching, only to drop the bag round the corner - or chuck it into someone's garden. Oddly, the proximity of a dog bin seems to make no difference. The council has tried all sorts of things from 'shock tactics' , such as the 'We're Not Taking Your S***t Anymore' posters, to the 'poover' dog poo remover, but there is still a core of criminal dog owners who refuse to co-operate.
Of course, all these problems could be solved if everyone simply behaved responsibly - if no-one fly-tipped, dropped litter or allowed their dogs to poo on the pavement, Hastings Council would save hundreds of thousands of pounds. It would save hundreds of millions nationally. But failing that, all we can do is keep tidying up. The council does have tight targets with its contractor for dealing with rubbish - for example, four hours to remove dog poo on the seafront and town centres, 24 hours everywhere else. However, the council no longer has street wardens inspecting streets for these problems (the funding for these was cut by the government), so we are dependent on members of the public reporting them. The easiest way to do this is via the council's website, although this system is still being tested - let me know if anything you report on there isn't dealt with.
So until we can find ways of stopping anti-social and criminal behaviour around littering, flytipping and dog fouling, the best we can all do is make sure it's cleaned up promptly, which means all of us making sure we report it. We need members of the public to be street inspectors. That way, we can all play out part in keeping Hastings clean and tidy.