• Show your support for Otter Rotters

    7th August 2013 | News | Claire
  • I have had several meetings with Mandy and we have tried to come up with potential ways of helping Otter Rotters continue, as it is such a highly valued community service and it is really suffering with a change in government rules, which basically treats community groups the same as the big corporate waste giants, in terms of fees.

    Attempts at trying to secure alternative composting sites in addition to the one at Fenny Bridges, which has had to be temporarily mothballed, have so far proved unsuccessful.  Otter Rotters needs another site, or sites, because of weight limits imposed on composters, to comply with bio-aerosol rules.

    During the times I have met Mandy, as well as the obvious reduction in compost going to landfill, I have also heard about and met the volunteers, some of whom have learning disabilities. The scheme for them is a lifeline and they are as keen as mustard to help out. It can be a vital springboard to a job, something particularly hard to come by at the moment.

    I have spoken to representatives of the Environment Agency but it appears that their hands are tied by new laws. 

    Here’s what Mandy said to Ottery Town Council on Monday evening. Unfortunately, I missed her presentation as I was at another meeting, but I fully support her position and will do what I can to help.

    Otter Rotters is a not for profit social enterprise and the kerbside garden waste collection teams are people with a variety of disabilities. 

    The community group started as a result of a Feniton village review which identified the lack of provision of a Local Authority composting service and, with the input of many volunteers over the years, they established a village scheme which now provides a collection to all the communities of East Devon. 

    The service is funded by a pay per use payment from the households who use the scheme, and costs are kept to a minimum to ensure that the scheme remains affordable to low income households.  As part of OR’s community capacity building, we provide an assisted collection for people in need and subsequently they can stay active in their gardens for longer. 

    East Devon has an ageing demographic and households who are without a car are unable to take their garden waste to the tip and there are those who are physically challenged and are therefore dependent on this service.

    The scheme has been extended over the years by careful use of the scheme revenue but challenges over the last few years has put extreme pressure on the group and we are asking for help in the way of expressions of support. 

    One critical challenge that needs over coming is the recent environmental permit legislation which effectively closed down OR’s composting site because the fee structure did not take into account affordability by non-profit making organisations. 

    A campaign has brought acknowledgement of the ‘disproportionate’ effect the fees have had but the Environment Agency is sticking to its position of no concessions, although the North East EA did waive fees for their community composters.

    We are asking that letters of support are written to decision makers to enable a re-think of how community composters are being treated.  Since being formed OR has composted thousands of tonnes of green waste – much of this tonnage has been diverted from landfill.  (Try Mr Swire in the first instance – .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address))

    The service is cost neutral to the local authority but adds capacity to the local communities in the form of skills development, increased well being and the local availability of rich organic matter for local food growing.

    An essential contributor to each town scheme is the local outlet who provides their time and facilities free of charge. 

    Roberts DIY in Ottery has been an outstanding support to Ottery round and it would be fitting if their contribution was recognised by the town – perhaps a joint piece for the papers highlighting a local disabled resident’s long service together with Robert’s invaluable input towards strengthening local services.

    I hope that Otter Rotters green waste scheme can be actively, publicly recognised as a community success story – with the extra support and understanding of the community we may get more practical help coming forward so we can continue to break through the barriers red tape represents to community groups.

    Here’s the Otter Rotters website – http://home.btconnect.com/otterrotters/