Helen Martin: Bin collection system and start again

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I’M not sure I actually know how often our bins are emptied and nor can I keep track of the various uplifts of recycling red boxes, blue boxes, food waste, brown garden bins and bags of clothes.

I had it off pat once but a rule change here and there has left me clueless.

Figuring out which plastics and metals are recyclable and which aren’t is way beyond me. My neighbour who is something of an environmental specialist, tells me clear plastics only should be in the red box, but other neighbours put out a technicolour load so who knows?

At least I don’t live in Fife where they are trialling the idea of a collection only once a month. Households will have their work cut out remembering which particular day of the month to put their bins out. But families who have nappies will be offered a fortnightly pick-up.

To confuse things even more, the same council is simultaneously running a three-weekly trial without any nappy exemption and also piloting a scheme where food and garden waste is picked up fortnightly in summer but only monthly from November to February. The local rats are rejoicing, but confused.

Journey to Dundee and the city council there is seeking powers to criminalise residents who don’t take their bins back in after collection and leave them on the pavement. The idea is that they will be reported to the Procurator Fiscal and ultimately face a fine.

Interesting if they tried that one in Edinburgh. Our bins have a home along a fence next to garages where they are so close to the roadside the bin men have no trouble emptying them. Unfortunately they don’t put them back in the same place which would entail wheeling them another three feet.

Instead they leave them staggered all over the pavement, obstructing pedestrians and parking spaces until we get home from work and sometimes longer if we use our front doors which are round the corner, and don’t realise they have been “abandoned”.

Holiday anywhere in Scotland and one of the first priorities is to try and work out what a blue wheelie bin is for, what goes in the black one, and re-educate yourself to the idea of plastics and glass going in the same place and newspapers and cardboard just going in with the rest of the garbage.

There have been calls in the past for a Scotland-wide approach to some council functions, be it education, school holidays, parking fines, transport passes or care assessments.

But surely refuse disposal is the simplest place to start. If every council operated the same system and colour code and shared the costs and rewards of joint contracting and outsourcing, everyone would be following the same rules and the councils might save a few bob.

Residents could expect a universal standard and frequency of service and the onus would be on each council to meet its obligations rather than each of them designing a hare-brained refuse matrix to confound taxpayers.

Banks should be fined for poor customer service just like Scottish Power

ANTONY Jenkins, the boss of Barclays on a £5.5 million a year package, would like to see the end of free banking with customers charged for their services instead. This is the same man who insisted that closing branches would lead to a “better customer experience” as people increasingly bank online.

If everyone is increasingly managing their own accounts with no need for branches and the overheads involved, doing their own transfers and setting up their own financial arrangements, then precisely what services would they be paying for?

And I note there is no mention of the various ways banks use the money they hold, customers’ money, to make more for themselves.

It’s beyond belief that anyone in an industry so mired in compensation claims as a result of mis-selling, serious fraud investigations, scandals, wrongdoing, rigging and disgrace, and which still insists on paying out ridiculous bonuses (£1.1m last year in Jenkins’ case) should for one second consider charging customers more.

The most frustrating aspect is that the government seems incapable of exerting any controls. Scottish Power is now banned from looking for new customers for 12 days after it failed to meet customer service targets.

Why can’t the same restrictions be placed on banks, who seem to regard fines and compensation claims as operating overheads, in the certain knowledge that there’s always more where that came from?

Grandad Charles pushed out the picture

APPARENTLY Prince Charles feels he is not seeing enough of his grandson Prince George who, along with Prince William, is being taken over by the Middletons, and in particular by Kate’s pushy mother Carole.

Most folk would have bet money on it happening the other way round. It’s an interesting social experiment. Will the future monarch have a right royal upbringing, or emerge the product of a middle-class party planner?

Jim’s job vow may be in vain

THREE cheers for Labour leader Jim Murphy expressing his determination to take action on low pay and employers taking advantage of workers, particularly of the young. Pity there’s virtually no chance of him gaining the power to do it.