Waste Collection or Hot Air

West Devon has introduced a new waste collection regime.

They started by leafleting us some time ago.  Fine.  The leaflet promised more information nearer the time, so I didn’t pay too much attention except to note the date: second half of October.  They also promised a recycling box and a food waste box.  The recycling box duly arrived, but no sign of the food waste one.

Last night I was due to take the rubbish out.  A fortnight’s worth: I don’t take it out every week.  Since I have no food waste box, it includes food waste.

I check the recycling box.  In it is a leaflet, longer than the original one.  But it’s illegible!  Or rather, it’s stuck together and won’t open: slicing it delicately with a swiss army knife shows traces of print on the corner of the inner pages, but it’s irretrievable.  But visible on the back page is a collection calendar, which shows there’s no general waste collection this week.  Damn!  We’ve always had weekly collections in the past.

OK, I can live with that.  Awkward when one is away on a Monday night and misses the opportunity for a fortnightly collection, but so be it.  Just so long as I know and can plan around it.  At least I can fill the recycling box this week!

So I went to the West Devon website, to check the full information, any further guidance on what goes in the recycling box, and those leaflets.  This is where it gets surreal: I found myself going round and round in circles on the site, but not finding any substantial information.  The first link claiming to be PDF turns out to be a page about PDF (and acrobat), and I curse my way through several more links to it before I find an actual PDF leaflet.  That then turns out to be a useless one-pager, not the ones I’m looking for.  Some annoying rummaging at home finds the old leaflet in its glossy printed form, but nothing I can reference without the hassle of paper.

Now truly p***ed off at this vacuous website, I try sending them a complaint:

Your leaflet on kerbside recycling and refuse collection describes an “outside food bin” and “kitchen caddy”, and implies we should be provided with them before the new service starts.  The new service has started, and none have been seen here.

OK, not a big deal: I can presumably contact you to ask for them.

However, having only a vague memory of the leaflet, I naturally came to your website to look for the information.  I was also looking for the leaflet that came in the big green boxes, but is illegible due to inadequate production quality.

WHY THE **** ARE THESE LEAFLETS NOT AVAILABLE ON YOUR WEBSITE?

Is this nothing but hot air?

Now it gets all the more surreal.  It refuses my submission, telling me something on the form is incomplete.  I go through the normal fields again looking for the little red star, iterate several times.  WTF???

Finally, a break and a cup of tea later, I find it.  The last entry in the form is a big textbox captioned:

If there is anything which makes it difficult to use our service, for example if English is not your first language or you have a disability, please use the space below to tell us how we could help you.*:

It’s refusing form submission because I’ve left that box empty.  This is vintage irony: their misguided attempts at accessibility have made the thing inaccessible!  I entered in that box:

How about enabling submission with this box blank?  For those of us who are sufficiently able-bodied and english-speaking to fill your form, but whose eyesight isn’t quite sharp enough to spot a tiny red star above this box?

(Pardon the grammar, but it was past 2 a.m. and I’d been struggling for far too long with it to care.  Not an excuse, but a plea for mitigation).

For any techie readers, this mess of a site proclaims WCAG AA accessibility, at which I can only shake the head.  A look at the source reveals heavy div-soup that is void of any HTML semantics.  An automated analysis reveals markup that is surprisingly close to AA conformance in box-ticking terms.  While not as bad as many 1997-style monstrosities, it shows all the hallmarks of following rules with no insight into their meaning.

I guess the whole website is a box-ticking exercise, just as waste collection is a box-filling one.  Maybe B for effort, C- for outcome.  I could forgive the missing receptacles and the web design if only they’d provided those simple leaflets!  Grrrr ….

Posted on October 26, 2010, in devon, recycling, tavistock, waste, web. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Leave a big pile of your waste on their doorstep.

  2. Here in the stratosphere of Deer Park we’ve had WDBC’s waste food collection service for ages (or so it seems – I’m no good at dates). I’m surprised it’s only now reaching the Old Exeter Road, being a mere ten minute walk away! About the only things that end up in my rubbish are certain types of plastic packaging for which no recycling service is offered.

    On the practicalities I suspect that WDBC have a major problem servicing multi-occupier buildings – an issue that afflicts many rural councils headed and staffed by middle class people who assume that everyone lives in a cottage or a “semi” on an estate.

    I do have a legible leaflet if you want a read…

  3. It’s even worse than you describe. Because the little red stars telling you which fields are required don’t appear at all on the initial submission page. You have to click ‘Submit’ and have your form rejected once, before you’re allowed to know which fields are required.

    Hypothesis: the council punishes those who get complaints from the public. (Possibly by, e.g., having strict rules in place for handling them, but no actual rewards for doing so.) That’s an incentive to minimise the number of complaints you receive, and the easiest way to do that is to make it hard to submit them.

  1. Pingback: Someone else’s rubbish! « niq's soapbox

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