Merton's growing litter problem - is your council coping?
Fines, GPS tracking and more staff are being deployed in a bid to tackle a growing problem of litter on Merton's streets, as it emerged that more than 700 instances of fly tipping were reported in April and May this year.
Plans to tackle the litter problem were hotly debated at a full council meeting last week with figures making clear the council is struggling to cope with the problem.
The fly tipping increase coincided with a backlog in the council's free bulky waste collection service, which received more than 2,600 requests over the same period.
Councillor Judy Saunders, cabinet member for environmental cleanliness, said: "I'm not denying that fly-tipping is a problem but we have to look at how we use our resources and how we stop people from fly-tipping.
"All we can do is just promote our free bulky waste services and also work on educating people about littering."
She is hoping the addition of a third crew to the bulky waste team and a partnership launched in April with contractors Kingdom Services to enforce cash penalties on fly-tippers will help tackle the problem.
Starting on April 28, Kingdom Services issued 446 warning notices to litterers as part of the council's approach to engage and educate before enforcing.
But they have been issuing fines of up to £75 since June 1, with 314 handed out between June 2 and 19.
The council has agreed on plans to improve waste management services with GPS tracking of drivers, electronic route sheets that can be updated in real time and installing satellite navigation in rubbish trucks.
But it could not confirm when these mobile working systems would be introduced.
Councillor David Dean, shadow cabinet member for environment, criticised the "lack of ambition" of the Labour cabinet for setting their recycling target at 40 per cent for the next financial year, when under EU law they will have to recycle 50 per cent of waste by 2020.
Over the past financial year 38 per cent of waste in the borough was recycled, missing the council's target for 2013-14 by four per cent.
Coun Dean said: "Whatever the council do, they have a tough job ahead of them. But I think the most important thing is to meet their legal requirement with their ambitions.
"The bulky waste collection has not reduced fly-tipping. I think enforcement is the next plan and let's all hope it works as frankly no-one has any other ideas."
Lib Dem Councillor Mary-Jane Jeanes asked why the council doesn't automatically clean streets following refuse and recycling collections, pointing out a £1m underspend in the council's waste budget for the year 2013-14.
Coun Judy Saunders responded they were able to make savings working with neighbouring boroughs under the South London Waste Partnership and needed to retain funds for future investment and provide extra street cleaning services only where problems were reported.
The council's annual residents' survey showed satisfaction levels with street cleanliness reduced to 54 per cent in 2013, down from 57 per cent the previous year.
Waste management was discussed as part of the Sustainable Communities and Transport review approved by council on Wednesday, July 9.
FACT BOX: How is your council tackling litter?
Free bulky waste collection service - you can book an appointment to have large or heavy items of household waste collected from your home - Merton's Mega Recycle campaign - launched in March, the government-funded initiative offers cash prizes of up to £5,000 to individuals, blocks of flats and estates nominated for their commitment to recycling.
Street Cleaning Service - regular cleaning of all roads, focusing attention on identified areas in need of attention.
Increased enforcement - Kingdom Services were contracted in April this year to fine people up to £75 for littering.
Love Clean Streets - a mobile app making it easier for residents to report fly-tipping - Solar powered compactor bins - five larger capacity bins which mechanically squash rubbish and send a report when they need emptying are being trialled in parks.
Solar-powered compactor bins - twenty-five larger capacity bins which mechanically squash rubbish and send a report when they need emptying will be trialled in parks this summer.
Graffiti crew - two people are employed to solely tackle graffiti and chewing gum around the borough.
Time-banded waste collections - introduced in Wimbledon town centre last September to reduce street clutter, the scheme could be rolled out to other town centres this year.
Dog fouling - an "any litter bin will do" initiative introduced in Colliers Wood which permits wrapped dog waste to be deposited in any litter bin will be expanded to the whole borough.
Mobile working - plans are in motion to introduce GPS tracking of waste management vehicles to redirect them to areas of concern.
Do you think the council could do more to tackle litter in the borough? Comment below or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org