United Kingdom

‘Mount Everest’ of rubbish in east London during two-week bin strike

Piles of rotting rubbish seen in Chrisp Street in Tower Hamlets, east London (Picture: Marcin Nowak/LNP)

Huge piles of rubbish compared to Mount Everest are spilling onto the streets of east London as bin workers and street cleaners strike for two weeks over pay.

Pictures show tourist hotspot Brick Lane blighted by ‘mountains’ of rotting refuse including uncollected bin bags and cardboard boxes.

More than 200 frontline waste service workers and street cleansers went on strike across the London borough of Tower Hamlets from September 18 until October 1 due to a national pay dispute, the council said on its website.   

The area has been branded a ‘a very real health hazard’, with Brick Lane business owners worried the rubbish is leaving a ‘bad impression’ on people visiting the area, known for its Indian restaurants, vintage shopping and markets.

They have also been paying for private refuse collection over fears the rubbish could attract rodents, the Evening Standard reports.  

Unite union said the workers rejected a national flat rate pay rise of £1,925 because it is below inflation and equivalent to a ‘real terms pay cut’.

Many people have expressed their dismay at the situation on X, formerly known as Twitter – amid calls for Tower Hamlets mayor, Lutfur Rahman, to intervene and take control of the situation.

One person posted: ‘Cycled through today: Brick Lane and environs are a very real health hazard.

‘The stench is overpowering and the pavements often impassable because of the enormous mounds of decaying rubbish and fly-tipped junk.’

Piles of rubbish seen in Brick Lane as the strike enters its second week (Picture: twitter.com/thegentleauthor)
Rubbish seen lining the streets in Brick Lane (Picture: twitter.com/bricklane_)

Another posted a message to the council saying: ‘not a collection on Brick Lane in six days…the borough’s children literally having to navigate extended piles of refuse to get into school this morning.’

Lord Sugar, a former east London resident, also criticised the mess, tweeting on Monday morning: ‘I am riding through Bethnal Green Road in Hackney, my old Manor.

‘I am shocked at the stock pile of garbage that is all over the pavements.

‘It is not days of stuff, it looks like weeks. What is going on???’

In an update posted on Monday, the council said on its website: ‘We understand concerns about the current waste strike action and sincerely apologise to all our residents.’

Since Saturday, it said it has been using private waste company Bywaters to clean up the build-up of waste, prioritising high-rise buildings, markets, commercial areas and main highways.

A woman cycles past rubbish building up in Mile End Road (Picture: Marcin Nowak/LNP)
The strike across the east London borough is set to continue until October 1 (Picture: Marcin Nowak/LNP)
Rubbish in Burdett Road in Mile End (Picture: Marcin Nowak/LNP)

In a statement, Mr Rahman said the council ‘values frontline staff and know how hard they work’.

‘This strike is a national pay dispute and not limited to local issues,’ he said.

‘It is in fact a response to the very real cost-of-living crisis felt by families up and down the country. 

‘Naturally we are disappointed by the strike as keeping Tower Hamlets’ streets clean and litter free is our priority. 

‘We apologise to our residents and businesses and want to assure them we are doing our best to maintain services throughout.’

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