No, no it’s not all rubbish.

But the title of this post is more likely to attract attention than waste collection and disposal which is what the No. 2 search bringing people to this blog is really all about.

In fact it’s a bit more specific than that.  This happy band of surfers searched for phrases like wheelie bin, wheely bin, wheelie bin wash, recycle wheelie bins and whellie bins (you’ll note the lack of consensus on how to spell wheelie in the wonderful anarchy that is the English language).

I’d like to think these searchers after truth were all interested in the same aspects of waste as me

  • the international innovation exemplified in my posts on Empty your bin, sir? (Ireland – pay a company to empty your bin) and Empty your own bin, sir? (Taiwan – their amazing musical garbage trucks)
  • the political dimension brought out in a subtly understated way by secretary of state Eric Pickles on Muck and nonsense (UK – he was having a go at the fact/claim that over the last decade council taxes have doubled and bin collections have halved).

Coming back to the subject I was surprised for a policy/performance/improvement wonk how often I’d mentioned the subject.

But Pickles was right on one aspect.

Waste collection is one of the most visible council services in the UK and one by which many people judge their council.

Back in 2008 market research company Ipsos MORI published a survey for the Local Government Association which identified the factors residents most associated with their local council’s reputation.  Seven out of twelve were to do to do with what they called Greener, cleaner, safer services (the others were all to do with communications).

So an efficient and effective waste collection service is important.

Tomorrow – the all-time No. 1 search term that brought people to this blog.  And a surprise (although not if you read these posts from the top down…).

Footnote: of course, wheelie bins are only one of the various receptacles we use to dispose of or recycle domestic waste.  The UK press recently highlighted one council, Newcastle-under-Lyme, that allegedly requires residents to use nine different containers to dispose of waste (the council web site mentions seven).  It’s apparently all too much for the residents to cope with, although I’ll bet most of them can work a TV remote control, a device requiring considerable more brain power in my view.

Years ago when private prisons were introduced in the UK I remember thinking (naively as it turned out) “Are there no limits to a public service that can be privatised?”

Well on a short break in the Republic of Ireland I came across a new example for me that may be difficult for Brits to get their heads around.

The council empty the bins.  Right?  I mean they may do it themselves or they may contract it out, but they’re responsible.  In Ireland, wrong.

Driving through the rolling green countryside of Wicklow I was struck by the number of bright green and lilac wheelie bins at road ends.  “Well the green’s obviously recycling” I said, “but why lilac?”

I was wrong.  The green bins belonged to Access Waste Recycling, the lilac (slightly perversely) ones to Greenstar Ltd.

As a householder, you contract with one company to have your bin emptied weekly.  You can pay per kilo or per lift, by an annual fee or buying a tag each week to fit on your bin.

Now, anyone dipping into this blog will come to realise I’m not advocating a particular course of action but you have to admit it’s a different model than the one we’re used to.  And if I’ve understood it correctly (Irish readers’ comments welcome) the service is a commercial one without subsidy.  The workers are certainly not on the public payroll.