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If you're one of Cleanzine's tens of thousands of overseas readers, in case you weren't aware of it, we in the UK are shortly to head off to the polls again. The frenzy on social media seems as fierce as it was prior to last year's EU referendum. In some cases, I've been grateful that those in the fray are at opposite ends of the land, rather than in the same room!
This year, more than any I can remember, there is so much at stake and tempers are fiery. A headline in yesterday's Guardian: 'This election could be lost on litter', has shocked me. In the run-up to the election, Guardian reporters have been despatched across the country to find out what matters to the locals. And in some areas, residents are hinting that a growing rubbish crisis could end the local politicians' careers - just as the infamous waste management crisis in Naples, Italy, ended the careers of several local politicians there.
Prior to the Manchester terrorist attack, the reporters asked the people of Erdington, Birmingham, what they thought the election issues were. Surprisingly, 'rubbish' eclipsed Brexit, the NHS, employment and immigration...
In Birmingham, free bulky waste collections for residents were scrapped in 2014 and weekly collections became fortnightly collections, to cut costs. Householders are now charged £25 for large items to be taken away. Alicja Kaczmarek, of the Polish expat community centre, complained to Guardian reporters that despite paying council tax, residents are having to get together to clean their areas and that the bulky waste removal charges are forcing those on the breadline to fly tip.
In nearby Kingstanding, the reporters joined the area's waste management team, who start patrolling from 06:00 and on an average day, gets called to 12 - 15 fly tipping incidents. The culprits are never caught, since no-one will tell the authorities the culprits' names. One waste officer of 30 years said the team is overwhelmed, talking of rubbish piles as long as five cars, fridges dumped in the middle of roads and hotspots where new litter is dumped the day after the area has been cleared. At one, rubbish was left beneath two large 'no dumping' signs, warning of a £25,000 fine for transgressors.
If such heavy fines aren't deterring the culprits, just what is the answer, I wonder, and do people really rate rubbish as a more important election issue than, say, the NHS?
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1st June 2017