Blog: Veolia use Brexit excuse as rubbish service goes up in smoke – Inside Croydon

Croydon Council has confirmed what residents and environmental activists have observed and warned about for years: much of the waste sorted for recycling in the borough is being sent straight to the Beddington Lane incinerator and burnt.

Veolia’s latest excuse for poor recycling rates is that they have failed to manage their driver staff

The council, and neighbours Sutton and Merton, two other members of the unaccountable South London Waste Partnership, have admitted that rubbish contractors Veolia have abandoned the pretence of collection waste for recycling, using the shortage of trained lorry drivers because of Brexit as their excuse.

Why the councils have not opted to fine or penalise Veolia in any way for this failure to manage their staffing requirements adequately, as required under their multi-million-pound contracts, has not been explained.

Veolia has also been claiming a lack of HGV drivers is affecting their ever more unreliable waste collection services around Croydon.

Following an announcement from Merton, Croydon and Sutton councils have now said that recycling at some blocks of flats would be burnt because the shortages were causing issues to bin collection schedules.

Each of the four SLWP boroughs – the other is Kingston – pays Viridor £10million per year under a 25-year contract to burn their waste.

And now they will be providing the incinerator with even more fuel.

Sutton said it had “regrettably” stopped picking up recycling in communal bins so they could “collect the overwhelming majority of recycling in the borough”.

Our exclusive report last year revealed unsegregated rubbish on the floor of the ‘sorting’ hall at the Beddington incinerator

They said: “There is a national shortage of HGV drivers which has severely reduced the number of bin and recycling crews available across Sutton and beyond.

“We have taken the decision to protect refuse and recycling collections across the borough rather than reduce the collection frequency as some other councils are doing.

“Regrettably, this means we have temporarily stopped picking up recycling from communal bins. This is because they are often contaminated with non-recyclable waste, meaning we need to send a second crew to pick up and dispose of the waste that cannot be recycled.

“By doing this, we can continue to collect the overwhelming majority of recycling across the borough.”

A SLWP spokesperson said, “Since June our recycling and refuse collection crews have been working hard to minimise disruption caused by a severe nationwide shortage of HGV drivers.

“Co-collecting recycling and refuse from communal flats is one of the first business continuity measures that is implemented. Of all the possible things we could do, this one has the least impact on our recycling rate as unfortunately much of the recycling we collect from communal flats is contaminated.”

See that: blaming the customers, the first line of defence adopted by Veolia and the councils, for an obviously flawed self-sorting system that they devised and implemented, apparently in the hope that  it would break down and fail, allowing them to shovel as much rubbish into the incinerator as they can manage.

The HGV driver shortage has already caused disruption in supermarkets, with shoppers facing food shortages. Many businesses have reported problems in recent months, leaving some shop shelves empty, or forcing restaurants to remove items from their menus.

Demanding: the Beddington incinerator requires millions of tons of rubbish to keep it fuelled

But residents across south London also suspect that the driver shortage is simply the latest excuse behind the SLWP boroughs’ rapidly declining rates of recycling, as the Viridor-operated Beddington incinerator demands ever-more waste to keep its furnaces at full throttle.

Since the polluting incinerator was first fired up as operational, lorry-loads of what was supposed to go for recycling have been diverted to the gates of the incinerator after being deemed to be in some way “contaminated”.

Meanwhile, residents have frequently observed their carefully sorted plastic recycling being lobbed in with general waste, destined for incineration, when the Veolia bin men have visited their streets.

Last year, Inside Croydon discovered serious issues in the sorting hall at the Viridor incinerator, where domestic rubbish was apparently mixed with clinical waste.

And one enterprising resident even placed electronic tags in waste deposited for recycling in street bins in Merton, and tracked it all the way to the Beddington Lane incinerator.

“The council spends more time trying to defend the contractor rather than improving the service,” Croydon Green Party campaigner Peter Underwood told Sky News.

“They have admitted it now because of the HGV shortages.

“They are taking a shortcut and the easy option. Residents are furious and feel let down by the council.” He could have said “again”.

“The incinerator in Beddington burns over London and burning plastics will make the air worse.”

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London.
Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email

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