Rubbish is one of the few social levellers. We all produce it, we all need to put it somewhere, and we all expect - as a basic level of service our taxes pay for - for it to be taken away and dealt with.
Having said that, it is, to some extent, a first world problem.
A recent visit to a third world country brought this home to me quite viscerally, when driving around I would see piles of steaming household rubbish just gathered on the side of the road.
So if the way we deal with our waste is an indicator of how civilized or sophisticated or privileged a society we are, then surely every missed bin collection puts a red marker against that conceit?
We heard this week that more than 58,000 individual missed bin collections were reported to Leeds City Council between June 2015 to August 2018, with suggestions of somewhat of a postcode lottery of service.
Leeds has two million individual bin collections a month, so in that sense, 58,000 over three years is a mere drop in the ocean of rubbish. The council points out that 99.9 per cent of its collections are still on time. But that doesn’t make it easier for a family who has to live with the whiffy results of a missed collection.
Vehicle breakdowns, inaccessible roads and crew members being unfamiliar with routes have all been cited as reasons for missed collections. But aren’t these the same reasons we have been hearing for years every time this issue rears its head? .
Perhaps it’s time for (another) wholesale review of how our bin rounds work in Leeds?
And perhaps, more importantly, it’s time to focus not only on training new staff properly, but retaining old ones. It’s not the most glamorous job in the world, but’s it’s a hugely important and largely thankless one.
And I for one believe refuse collection staff deserve to be paid a whole lot more for doing a job that the vast majority of us couldn’t and wouldn’t do.