‘We can’t open our windows’: Uncollected rubbish piling up in Tower Hamlets streets

Uncollected rubbish in Tower Hamlets. Picture: Rachael Burford

Uncollected rubbish in Tower Hamlets. Picture: Rachael Burford - Credit: Rachael Burford

A backlog of uncollected rubbish is mounting up in streets across Tower Hamlets after the fleet of collection trucks was vandalised and refuse workers went on strike.

Uncollected rubbish in Tower Hamlets. Picture: Rachael Burford

Uncollected rubbish in Tower Hamlets. Picture: Rachael Burford - Credit: Rachael Burford

Piles of rubbish sacks and overflowing bins can be seen outside many homes where waste has not been picked up for a week and as more and more residents are forced to work from home or self isolate because of coronavirus.

Staff for the council’s waste contractor Veolia went on strike between March 9 and March 16 over unpaid holiday.

Tower Hamlets has since said there would be further disruption to collections “due to criminal damage to our fleet of 41 refuse vehicles”.

Liberal Democrat councillor Rabina Khan said: “Whilst I accept there is a dispute between Veolia and their staff the fact is it is the duty of every local authority to deal with refuse collections.


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“It seems there was no effective contingency planning for collecting rubbish during the strike action. In every ward across the borough people are totally reliant on the council to get this sorted.

“I have had to deal with estates densely populated with families, children, elderly and the vulnerable who are having to put up with infestations from accumulating waste and breathing foul odour. The refuse vehicles have also been vandalised but that means the council has to act even faster to get this sorted before the situation escalates further.

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A mother-of-four living in a two-bedroom Shadwell flat said bags were piling up outside her flat.

“In last few days I’m in the house isolated with my children because of coronavirus,” she said.

“Outside of the building it’s a very bad situation. We can’t open our windows because of the smell.”

A council spokesman said: “We will continue with a suspension of special waste collections, food and garden waste collections for the rest of this week. We apologise for the inconvenience and are working with our contractor in an effort to return to a normal service as soon as possible.”

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