Full of rubbish and poo! Camden’s management of Kings Cross streets.

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Don’t get me wrong, Camden Council is carrying out daily rubbish collections on many roads in Kings Cross and they do send street sweepers around as well. A van regularly collects larger items.  But it is not difficult to see,  people in the borough are free to dispose of rubbish in any way and any where they like, without having to fear adverse consequences.

This is not by lack of policy, but seemingly by lack of concerted efforts of the council to enforce its own rules upon residents, so that streets are kept free of rubbish, waste and litter.  Kings Cross streets are lacking therefore in significant aspects of the councils statutory maintenance brief of law and order.  It is not just threatening behaviour against the person that is part of the definition of law and order (which we are made to believe is being dealt with), but also a council’s ways of managing waste, rubbish and litter.

Recycling dumped, even if containers are empty, food waste recycling almost non existant

In Kings Cross rubbish and other items are frequently disposed of of at trees, lamp posts or on the kerb or in corners along the streets.   Others leave bags full of rubbish near recycling containers, even if the recycling container(s) are in fact empty and when these are full, the council often fails to remedy this, with the same effect of waste being dumped to the containers’ side.   Brown waste recycling (food waste) is fully underused.   Brown bins and green caddies were distributed at much expense a few years ago, but a lack of continued information and enforcement in the area has resulted in what I would guess is no more than 20 percent of households partaking in using food waste recycling (and judging from some containers with bottles and other non food waste inside them  some fail to know how to use them at all).  There is a near complete lack of on-kerb littering bins (for casual pedestrian waste, except near bus-stops), and there is not infrequently dog poo lying around, sometimes raw, sometimes in bags.

No law enforcement, no apparent strategy!

Has anyone ever been prosecuted with a fixed penalty in Camden for dog poo or littering, I wonder? At times there was even human poo lying around for weeks without being removed. The streets in Kings Cross (Camden side)  lack a coherent strategy of keeping the street scape clean, nice and orderly.  In my own contact with the Camden recycling and waste team, I was promised repeatedly, that they would take action, but that they had to remind residents of the rules first.  But when you look at the rubbish continuing to be dumped day in day out at the same places, you know nothing really happens.

According to the council they can only prosecute when they find an address inside the rubbish, or see someone dumping it, but I think it is more likely that officers are not searching through any bags at all, or ever have done so ever.  Also if rubbish is always being dumped at the same place and at the same time, I wonder if it is impossible to find out where it comes from, even if there is no old letter inside revealing its origin.  At best the council sent a letter to all addresses in some Kings Cross streets last spring (2012) with but limited  results, and no follow up re-inspection.  And there is more:  Not enough with littering, some folks are taking pleasure in feeding pigeons daily.  In my street at least three parties keep a band of pigeons happy and fat on a daily basis and this makes streets and roofs dirty and filthy.   There is a communal address on Swinton Place, whose entire entrance is pooed over.  One person in the building has special medical needs, and there are also two children living in the house.  I wonder what they think about the pigeon poo at their entrance?     Repeated e-mails to the council on this have been ignored.

So I conclude there is no obvious intervening policy on rubbish and waste.  Does the council think Kings Cross is beyond ability to change and therefore just cleans up the mess some make, without working on any ways to prevent it, to inform residents,  and to catch those responsible for persistently creating such mess? If so, this lack of strategy means several things:

* high costs in cleaning up the great mess some make, where there could be but little costs if roads were kept orderly.

* lack of hygienic conditions, and danger to vulnerable people, including children and visually impaired people.

* lack of a positive and pleasant,  clean and orderly atmosphere on the roads

* underachievement of statutory recycling brief, especially for food waste (at a cost)

* a question mark as to how council tax is spent here, to make our street environment better

One of the problems is that the waste collectors move the sacks next to the trees and lamp posts in the early morning for the collection.  This perhaps has given some locals the false impression that these places are the focal places where rubbish should be dumped.  I would suggest that waste collectors move sacks to street and kerb corners instead.

Another issue surely is the high turn-over of people living in Kings Cross.  There needs to be some method of explaining the rubbish and waste policy with consistency even to new comers.   But in the end the council must inspect its roads and act upon dumped waste, dog poo, rubbish,  lack of or failure to recycle, and pigeon feeding.  This means not just cleaning and removing the mess but preventing it to occur in the first place by looking out for those who are persistent fly-tippers or who inappropriately dispose of waste.

Kings Cross definitely also needs many more bins for normal litter and some of those special ones for dog poo.

There surely is also room for positive incentives to make roads nicer.  Road flowering schemas,  especially near or next to trees and lamp posts  and encouraging flower baskets are but some methods I can think of, that would make people feel proud and happy of their out-door street-environment.  This can often be done with the help and support of local businesses and where they exist, residents associations, who all share an interest in cleaner and nicer streets.

The rules on waste in Camden are:


  • Waste must be bagged and can be left only right in front of the house door in the day time.
  • Waste must not be on the kerb (pedestrian walk) or features on the kerb (like next to trees and  lamp posts).
  • Waste should be separated into recyclable waste and non-recycable waste as well as food waste.   Brown bins are for food waste only.  Paper and mixed recycling (tins, aluminium, recyclable plastics, paper and cardboard)  is collected once a week (mostly on  Monday) and can be put in green boxes or bags if available.
  • Dog-poo must be removed, bagged and safely disposed off.
  • Special arrangements must be made for bulky waste items.  Some are removed without charge, but there are places and ways these must be put.
  • Pigeons are not to be fed.
  • Rat and mice  infestation should be reported to both the landlord and /or the council depending on the severity of the problem.  See also Camden Pests
This entry was posted in Broken Stuff on the Street, Community Health and Welfare, Street Tipping, Mess, Trash and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Full of rubbish and poo! Camden’s management of Kings Cross streets.

  1. Susan says:

    This problem isn’t just limited to Kings Cross, unfortunately Camden Town and surrounding areas suffer too. There is a lack of information provided to residents about rubbish and recycling and a lack of enforcement.
    I have raised this with the council a number of times regarding flytipping around Mornington Crescent but have yet to see any action actually taken, other than them sending round a van to collect flytipped residential rubbish on a daily basis which, as you say, just encourages people to leave rubbish in the wrong place/put rubbish out on the wrong days (collections are supposed to happen once a week in this area).

    I hate that the streets of Camden look like a rubbish dump. Are the issues a lot better/different on the Islington side of Kings X? — if so, what does Islington council do that Camden don’t/could do, that we could raise with the council?

  2. M says:

    Yup, Mornington Crescent has all the same issues. I am reporting the problem regularly, here is just one example.


    Camden do eventually clean it up but we have to live in this open sewer perpetually. Not only is Miller Street used for fly-tipping, general rubbish and commercial waste but because of the Wheelbarrow public house it becomes an after-hours public toilet. The stench is over-powering. Camden, or the pub, should be pressure-washing the lane way every morning but it never happens. Thoroughly disgusting.

  3. Judy T says:

    Who is supposed to clean up human poo left on private property???

  4. Daniel Zylbersztajn says:

    Interesting to hear that this also goes on in Mornington Crescent. Could there be a generic issue here?

  5. AAA says:

    Thanks, Daniel, for posting that article. You, and those of you who have added your comments, are not the only residents to be appalled by Camden Council’s mismanagement of street cleaning and waste collection. This is indeed a generic issue. It is also happening in Kentish Town, Hampstead, and Camden Town as well as further afield. In those areas, the pre-existing problem of dirty streets has been exacerbated by a ‘time-banded’ system of commercial-waste collection that Council dim-wits introduced in 2011. This system was not thought through before being implemented. Now everyone is suffering apart from the Council managers who are drawing high salaries and, I would guess, live outside the borough on streets unaffected by their ridiculous policies.

    The ‘time-banded’ waste-collection system permits businesses to leave bin bags filled with their rubbish on the pavements at set times during the evening and at night. These bin bags are supposed to be collected within two hours. Some of them are but many of them are not because a whole range of different contractors picks up the bags. In Hampstead, for example, bin bags litter the main streets from early evening to early the next morning. That’s over half the hours in every 24-hour period, every single day of the year… It beggars belief.

    And it gets worse: The bin bags, put out by the restaurants, leak which results in the pavements becoming greasy and stained. The street-sweepers who appear with their brooms at 7am daily, once the final bin bags have been lifted, succeed only in spreading the grease over a wider area of pavement until such a time as the affected flagstones become so disgusting that the Council washes them down. This washing-down is not routine and happens only once every few months, seemingly as a measure of last resort.

    If that were not bad enough, a by-product of this ‘system’ of commercial waste-collection is fly-tipping. Indeed, the street-cleaner who is allocated to Hampstead seems to spend much of his time picking up rubbish-filled Tesco bags that have been neatly placed at the foot of the nearest-available lamppost, bus-stop pole or litter bin. In other areas of the borough where businesses are not permitted to leave bin bags on the street, there is much less fly-tipping.

    This would suggest that Camden Council’s policy of allowing shops to leave their bin bags on the streets, the number of hours that these bin bags remain uncollected, and the lack of monitoring and enforcement by the Council, has created a culture in which some people think that is ‘okay’ to fly-tip. Sadly, I can appreciate why a minority of people do not bother disposing of their rubbish legally when the Council doesn’t enforce the law on fly-tipping by doing enough monitoring and prosecuting of those who dump their household rubbish on the streets. Some are anti-social but, as Daniel indicated in his article, many are simply confused about how to dispose of their household waste and follow the poor example set by the Council. After all, if you are renting a room for a few months and have no stake in the local area, why not just do as the Council does and dump your own bin bags on the street? They are guaranteed to be collected within 24 hours, there is very little monitoring of the problem and no enforcement of penalties.

    While it is the responsibility of people not to fly-tip, it is also the responsibility of the Council to model the correct behaviour. In recent months, the Council has affixed numerous ‘No Dumping’ signs to lampposts under which, according to their own rules, commercial-waste bags are left out for collection quite legally. When residents and visitors observe that the Council is ‘dumping’ where no dumping is allowed, it sends out a mixed message which confuses some and which allows others who do understand the rules to fly-tip at will.

    The time-banded waste collection system has proved to be a disaster. It actually causes more problems than it solves. The pavements are even more grimy than before, are obstructed by bin bags, and incidences of fly-tipping are growing. Having encouraged these problems with this system, the Council then has to spend taxpayers’ money monitoring the situation, enforcing penalties and cleaning up the mess… Except that the monitoring is ineffective, washing down of greasy pavements rarely happens and there is no enforcement. If only Camden Council enforced penalties against fly-tipping businesses and individuals with the same zeal as it enforces parking penalties, the main thoroughfares of the borough would be so much cleaner.

    So, what is the solution? My view is that the time-banded system needs to be replaced as soon as possible. It just doesn’t work. Most other major cities in Europe have better systems in place than this one. Their streets are cleaner and uncluttered by bin bags. I would like Camden, and other London borough councils, to look at and adopt the best practice of councils in Europe.

    The fly in the ointment is that Camden does not appear to want to change anything, despite my letters to the Head of Environment Services. He assured me some 18 months ago that the situation would improve but nothing actually has.

    In due course, though, the Council may be bounced into taking action when some poor soul trips over one of these bin bags, injures himself, and sues for a huge sum of taxpayers’ money. The Council does not seem to have considered that there is a substantial risk of injury to pedestrians when bin bags are left on the streets. In health-and-safety circles, I believe they are known as ‘trip-hazards’.

    The Council might also be forced to remove bin bags from the streets by the Mayor of London. Although the Mayor’s remit does not extend to street-cleaning, it does include pavement safety. The Mayor’s ‘Better Streets’ initiative involves:
    ‘working with Transport for London (TfL) and London boroughs to create better streets. This means clearing the clutter and making sure walkers can find their way easily.’ (source: http://www.london.gov.uk)
    As part of this initiative, TfL has ordered restaurants, cafés, pubs and stores on London’s high streets to remove their pavement billboards in case people trip over them. (source: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/save-our-billboards-dont-impose-namby-pamby-pavement-ban-say-shopkeepers-8523847.html)

    In addition to TfL, perhaps the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, needs to be alerted to what goes on here and the two MPs who cover the Camden area (Glenda Jackson and Frank Dobson) also involved.

    If anyone has any other ideas of a way forward, please post them. This situation has been allowed to persist for far too long. Change will only happen if people actually speak up rather than assuming that the situation will improve of its own accord.

  6. andrewglong says:

    Balfre Street is pretty bad – some residents leave their household rubbish bins on the footpath now and they collect rubbish of pedestrians. Have given up reporting to the councila

  7. guy eames says:

    Glad I don’t live in your neck of the woods! (Green midlands. Once a week commercial & residential wheelie bin collections) First question that I see is – where is it all coming from? Why is so much rubbish being “generated” Seems to me that this is the biggest issue – sorting out a decent collection system is certainly needed (wheelie bins?) but first reduce the amount. Solutions – Councils to employ consultanants to talk to EACH client, work out ways to reduce their rubbish? – Name & Shame local businesses, what are they throwing away & why? Are their shareholders & customers comfortable with that situation – whatever they are trashing daily is being bought daily out of someone’s budget!!

  8. guy eames says:

    “What if” collections were reduced to 3x weekly say, then rubbish “owners” would have to store it (problem) which may also make them think about where it comes from – old saying – “Out of site, out of mind” – or “if the problem isn’t recognised then it won’t be solved 🙂

  9. Leo says:

    Hello Daniel,

    Good the read your blog article. Having the same problem dealing with Camden Council with constant fly tipping have been telling them for months given them photographic evidence of a while bag of dumped letters with the name and address of the person I have seen doing it.

    Mattresses, kids toys, mercury fluorescent strip lights, toilet seats, broken beds. Picture frames. Been in email contact with the people in management and who were supposed to monitor the situation and nothing has happened all emails not getting responded to and numerous calls with no call backs. They must be laughing at me after the phone complaints.

  10. jim palmer says:

    rubbish it is the same here in bromley i think the council have a hard time they clear the rubbish and then there is more why cant the council put skips out ?? yes we know itcosts money but it will keep the rubbish down

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