Bob Houliston depositing a token sack of refuse outside the town hall in Orihuela

Around thirty people took to the streets of Orihuela this week, coinciding with the monthly meeting of the government team, in order to protest about the state of the streets of the Orihuela Costa.

In a press release from the CLARO political group following the event, they said that, “Despite constant complaints by residents and political protests by C.L.A.R.O. throughout the summer, orihuela costa has continued to suffer the consequences of a breakdown in the service of collection and disposal of green garden waste”.

In fact, during the meeting itself, the Mayor of the municipality, Montseratte Guillén, was heard to echo the sentiment, reading out a declaration made by CLARO, in which he said that “orihuela costa has never been as bad”, in referring to the garden waste on the streets.

It was inevitable that the opposition would agree with the statement, which would undoubtedly show Orihuela in a poorly managed state, until Guillén dropped the bombshell that the statement he was readying had been made in 2010, whilst the municipality was still being run by Bob Houliston´s now political allies, the Partido Popular, under Mónica Lorente.

In fact, since that statement, Orihuela has seen the government of the time ousted, the waste disposal contract which is the subject of a legal case being brought back under the direct management of the town hall, the orihuela costa being served by Bob Houliston or CLARO, then Pedro Mancebo of the CLR, and now, the current post holder, Martina Schreurer or the Los Verdes, so it might seem an obvious question to ask how the situation has continued through all these changes, along with the realisation perhaps that the subject is becoming nothing more than a political game that allows for criticism of whoever might be in charge, as the evidence is so clear to see as it lies on the streets.

However, one thing that is now different is the fact that investigations are being carried out that hope to find the truth behind the occurrence of such large qualities of green cuttings, which are quite clearly not proportionate to the number of trees and plants that remain in the private dwellings.

In fact, Orihuela is amongst only a handful of municipal councils who actually provide any kind of collection service for garden waste, which may well mean that the provision is taken somewhat for granted, but may also explain why Orihuela may be being exploited by commercial operators, who find a street an easier option to dispose of their waste, rather than having to pay for it to be disposed of properly, whilst they are making money carrying out the tasks of tree trimming.

In order to try to identify these “fly tippers”, a number of Local Police officers have been carrying out surveillance, at the same time as the town hall has been gathering their own evidence, and have already identified a number of companies who are indeed dumping waste on the streets of Orihuela.

One of those companies was very much a surprise find, as they have been identified as a garden firm from San Miguel, which, according to Guillén, is owned by the brother of the former mayor, and principle member of the opposition PP group, Mónica Lorente. Therefore, if that is the case, a family member of one of the most vocal complainants of the garden waste seem to be responsible for creating the mess in the first place, or at least a portion of it.

During the plenary meeting of this week, another very senior politician of the Partido Popular, David Costa, expressed the situation as “ridiculous” that the government ask residents to telephone the town hall to ask when to put the garden waste out on to the street for collection, so as to minimise the time it is left out. However, whilst making this public complaint, Costa clearly ignored, or forgot the fact that it was his government team in their previous administration who had implemented the call-to-collect service he is now complaining about.

Moreover, the government team have been examining the service in great detail, identifying even more alarming facts which they are now intending to try and resolve, such as an estimated 20,000 properties on the orihuela costa alone who don´t actually contribute anything financially to the collection service. Of those properties who do, the standard fee charged for the service is 4.05€ every three months, little over a euro per month, towards a service that costs a considerable portion of the 8 million euro budget.

The final question of responsibility must then come down to each and every one of the residents. They must question as to whether they comply with the instructions to telephone the town hall to ask when to put the garden waste on the street, keeping it separate from all other residual or none-garden matter, and it this is the case, then you can rest assured that you are doing your bit. However, recycling and separation still seems and alien concept to many, which was of course the result of the termination of the somewhat futuristic garden waste collection and renewal service that has also become a matter of criticism.

Nobody is claiming that the waste collection is perfect, but then again, nor has it ever been. It is much the same story in neighbouring municipalities too. A short trip to Torrevieja will see the streets in a very similar state to Orihuela.

But what is clear is that education and compliance for all is the most obvious solution, because, despite what the politicians may say, it is the people who put the waste on the street, and it now looks like the people will have to pay, as the situation has gone beyond acceptance, but we can all do our bit to help.

It´s time to take away this football from the political play ground and take ownership of the problem once more. Everybody knows, “It´s not easy being green”, but the more we try to respect our own neighbourhoods, the easier it will become.

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