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‘This is urgent’: Sydney council faces growing stink as bins, dumped rubbish pile up

Megan Gorrey

February 1, 2023

The City of Sydney has blamed worker shortages, industrial action and the lingering effects of COVID-19 for overflowing bins and dumped rubbish piling up on streets as anger and frustration among residents grow.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore’s council is being pressured to fix problems of patchy garbage and bulky waste collection as councillors face a rising wave of complaints from residents throughout the city.

Yvonne Weldon, an independent councillor, said she had been inundated for months with complaints, including from residents of a Glebe apartment block whose rubbish wasn’t collected for three weeks.

“It’s our core responsibility. We need to get it right, and we haven’t been.”

The City of Sydney said on Tuesday some employees of waste contractor Cleanaway had taken part in industrial action which disrupted red, yellow and green-lid bin collections on the past two Fridays.

This affected residents in Camperdown, Chippendale, Centennial Park and parts of Paddington, Newtown and Macdonaldtown, where bins are collected on Fridays, and some apartment blocks.

A City of Sydney spokesman said the council, which is not involved in the dispute between Cleanaway and the Transport Workers Union, was trying to minimise disruption to services.

“Like many workplaces across the state staff absenteeism and a tight labour market are also impacting service delivery which was exacerbated by the industrial action,” the spokesman said.

The council and contractor had prioritised the collection of red-lidded bins, which hold general household waste, during the 24-hour stop-work action as fewer crews were collecting rubbish.

The council has also paused new collections of bulky waste and allocated extra resources to help clear a backlog.

Residents have aired grievances about poor rubbish collection since at least last May, when the council said COVID-19 absenteeism was a major factor behind delayed pick-ups and missed bins.

Labor councillor Linda Scott, who opposed the council’s decision to outsource its waste collection about 18 months ago, said she fielded daily complaints, and the problems were persistent and widespread.

“This is urgent. This problem has been going on for years. It is long overdue for the lord mayor to act to see the council improve.”

One resident, Patrick Lloyd, said overflowing bins and a build-up of dumped rubbish had attracted rats to his street in Surry Hills. Ben Grant, of Newtown, said his property had been “accumulating garbage”.

“Whilst we understand there is industrial action, and those issues need to be addressed and play out, it’s hard to see that a council cannot facilitate one of its core services [of] rubbish removal,” Grant said.

Weldon said other residents had been worried rat infestations posed a serious risk to public health.

“Council must urgently implement improvements to the city’s garbage collection services and consider all available methods of rat eradication and control strategies,” Weldon said.

Scott said while the council was only responsible for residential waste and not commercial waste generated by offices, shops and eateries, it was required to keep streets and footpaths clean.

“I’m concerned the state of our streets is a deterrent for businesses wanting to bring their workers back into the CBD,” she said.

The council’s rubbish woes were exacerbated when a garbage truck was forced to dump a load of rubbish on light rail tracks at Haymarket after the waste caught fire on Monday afternoon.

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