Is the twilight of the dustcart upon us?

Wembley City development intends to do away with bin collections

by Michael Smith

A massive mixed development in Wembley, Middlesex, just north of London, will do away with the need for kerbside collections thanks to Swedish technology that pipes waste away by means of a giant vacuum and the early morning bin men will be a thing of the past. In fact they will never ever be part of that new development.

The planned Wembley City development is huge. It is going to contain 4,200 homes, as well as retail and commercial property, spread over an 85 acre site.

Once finished the entire site will be served by Envac's system of underground vacuum pipes which transport trash from strategically positioned bins to a single sorting station where it will be compacted and taken by truck to recycling facilities in Greenwich and west London with non-recyclables going to out-of-town energy from waste incinerators.

Residents and workers, so it is being said, will be expected to sort their own waste into three streams - dry recycling, organic waste and non-recyclables and then the strategically placed high tech bins will do the rest.

Methinks I am not hearing right as to what they are saying. So, in order to do away with the bin collections - for what reason? - residents will have to first of all sort the trash and secondly cart it to the nearest "Hoover" point. This is stupid in the extreme not to say ludicrous.

The system was switched on on Tuesday, December 9, 2008, and already serves some 600 properties.

Envac claims that as well as doing away with the inconvenience and disruption of bins lorries, the system will save 400 tonnes of carbon a year, even once the energy needed to run the vacuum pipes and compact the waste is taken into account.

Company director Jonas Törnblom said that while similar systems of varying scale are up and running in 30 other countries, this is the first time the technology is being used in the UK.

"It all boils down to our expectations on a functioning urban infrastructure and what we're prepared to pay for it," he said.

"Someone has to show that things can be done differently and there are better alternatives.

"A residential area should be a dynamic, clean and attractive environment where people enjoy living. It should be a safe place to meet other people and a space for recreation that isn't tainted by rubbish awaiting collection."

But, what no one mentions is the number of jobs that are lost as well. How many dustmen are losing their jobs in this effort one has to ask as well.

Saving carbon and all that is all fine and good but there is also a human aspect that must be considered.

I am also more than at a loss since when an area is getting tainted by rubbish awaiting collection. I have never heard – well, probably I have but – as much tosh being spewed forth from someone trying to sell a system to the public. Yikes!

The next thing they are going to try to tell us, I could nearly bet – that flying is better than using the train. The one thing flying is is cheaper than using the train, but, I once again, digressed.

Personally I am having a problem understanding what difference this Evac system (“evac” in my jargon, by the way, stands for “evacuation”) is supposed to make other than saving wages of the dustmen that are being made unemployed by this measure and inconveniencing the public having to sort the refuse and then cart it to the vacuum heads, so to speak.

What I find also rather amazing is that the media in general does not question this thing and that the people sit there like lemons and say nothing either.

If this would be April 1st I would log that down as an April Fools joke but it seems that they are dead serious here and the system is,, as said, already up and running even though it so far only serves 600 properties.

Oh well...

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008