Monday, 25 April 2011


I had an unfortunate encounter with the binmen this morning. In the past, I’d been full of nothing but praise for the council’s refuse collection service, especially after all the plaudits they deservedly received for collecting the rubbish so successfully in poor weather conditions during the winter. However, this morning’s incident has led me to complain to Thanet Council about the rude and impersonal conduct of their binmen. Using TDC's online complaints service, here’s what I said:

Due to an innocent error on my part, I forgot to put the bins out on Sunday night, and only remembered at 6:30 in the morning when I heard the rubbish van rumbling down the far end of my road.

Since I thought I still had time to put the bins out, I quickly ran downstairs and bagged everything up. When I got to my front door, I noticed that the rubbish van was now parked right outside my house. The binmen only appeared to be doing the opposite side of the road, rolling all the wheelie bins up to the van, and all the rubbish bags had already been collected on my side of the road.

One of the binmen was only a stone’s throw away from me, so I waved at him and he did notice me, but he deliberately ignored the fact that I had bin bags in my hands. I watched them for a brief while, until the rubbish van drove along further down the road, so I thought I'd better take matters into my own hands.

I carried the bin bags and walked down the road towards the rubbish van and took them towards the binman who was wheeling the bins (the one who had ignored me) and he said, ‘I’m not allowed to put rubbish in the van, I just wheel the bins’ (or implied words to that effect). In any case, his demeanour suggested to me that he wasn’t allowed to take my rubbish, or that I was too late.

So I spoke to the other binman on duty, and he sneered at me and said sarcastically ‘Where were you at six o’clock in the morning? We’re not supposed to take rubbish if you’re too late’ (once again, this is paraphrasing, I can’t remember the exact exchange word-for-word).

But my point is, both of them seemed very unhelpful and unwilling to make an exception to take my rubbish bags, and both binmen came across like ignorant jobsworths, until one of them said, ‘Go on then, put it in yourself.’ So in the end, I had to throw my rubbish bags in the back of the rubbish van myself, which probably flouts all those beloved ‘health and safety regs’ under the sun, but they didn’t seem to care about that.

They were downright rude, and I couldn’t believe how unmannerly and indifferent your binmen were. I thought I’d complain because the fact that they knowingly ignored the fact that I had bin bags, even after I’d waved at them, shows an uncouth streak which I don’t expect of those running a public service.

If your binmen had been only a little bit more helpful, I could’ve let it go, but I was surprised by their lack of candour. I am, however, willing to accept my share of the blame. After all, I did forget it was bin day, but it was an innocent mistake.

However, the very least I expect of binmen is to be courteous and not the brash and uncongenial chaps I encountered.

I’m aware that they did have jobs to do, so they can hardly go backtracking for rubbish, but I had made a concerted effort to make up for my forgetfulness by signalling my presence and taking my rubbish bags directly to them. I didn’t expect to have to do their job for them, by throwing the bags in myself! If you think about it, it’s the equivalent of politely asking a shopkeeper to show you where a product is and being rudely refused point blank.

I suggest you make sure that your binmen act with a bit more tact and at least be a bit more civil and cooperative when they encounter members of the public next time – after all, they are the face of public services on the ground.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably thinking I’m nit-picking. So what if I forgot to put the bins out, right? If they didn’t want to collect my bin bags, then that’s just hard cheese, eh? If you snooze, you lose. But that’s not the point. Council tax money goes towards paying the salaries of those refuse collectors so I’m entitled to be a bit disappointed and unimpressed by this experience. As good a job as our binmen clearly do, good manners certainly wouldn’t go a miss, don't you agree?


  1. Don't get me started on this one, Luke! I once forgot bin day, because TDC changed it from a Wednesday to a Thursday and back again. Heard the van coming, rushed out with the bags, they hadn't even got as far as dumping them in the middle of the road as they do every week - did I mention I live in a cul-de-sac....? Anyway, I put them outside the house, one of them saw me from about 30m away and shouted to his mate "Leave this one, they're too late!" I said: "Excuse me, how can I be, you haven't got to my house yet?" and he told me in no uncertain terms that bags put out after 6am won't be taken. And they left it. I complained, someone from the council picked them up in his car, and as they never turn up before 10, I now get great satisfaction in not putting them out till 9.30 - they have no way of knowing what time they're there. I've also complained on an almost weekly basis about the amount of rubbish left behind, because they won't take it if it's been thrown everywhere by seagulls. People power rules - had a letter to say we're getting wheelie bins next month, at long last.

  2. I know, tell me about it! We double-bag our bin bags, but some people in our road don't, so the seagulls often rip open rubbish bags. The amount of times that the binmen leave strewn litter and rotting food to fester on the pavement beggars belief.

    Fair enough, that's not technically a refuse collector's job, I guess, clearing up litter is what road-sweepers are for, but what I took issue with is the idea that these binmen weren't even willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to make an exception in my case, even when I actually brought my rubbish bags to them. They were just plain rude. Thanks for sharing your story - I'm glad to see I'm not alone in this one!

  3. I was follow a refuse truck along Haine Road when out of the window on the driver's side flew an empty cigarette packet. How's that for pride in the environment you are supoosed to keep rubbish free, never mind recycling.