‘Bin Vigilante’ Trying To Keep Streets Cleaner For Public Claims Council Has Told Him To Stop

William Burnett (47) told to stop his voluntary cleaning up of litter.
William Burnett (47) told to stop his voluntary cleaning up of litter.
William Burnett (47) told to stop his voluntary cleaning up of litter.

A ‘bin vigilante’ who has spent a decade keeping his local streets clean says he has been told to stop – over health and safety fears.

William Burnett, 47, says he has been providing a valuable service by picking up glass and rubbish from Bristol city centre every Friday and Saturday night.

He says his efforts make it a safer place for people out drinking at the weekend by doing his bit to make sure the bins are not overflowing.

But now Mr Burnett claims he has been told by a council contractor to stop what he is doing because he doesn’t work for the council-run Bristol Waste.

But he says he won’t be deterred from his usual night time rounds.

SWNS_LITTER_PICKER_02William, of Hartcliffe, Bristol, said, “I don’t care, let them try to stop me. It doesn’t bother me.

“I’ve been doing this for nine years, and it’s to make it safer for the public to get home on a Friday and Saturday night,”

“There is glass everywhere, bins overflowing, it’s a potential public safety hazard.”

Mr Burnett began his bi-weekly bin collections because there are no Bristol Waste night teams between 9pm and 6am on Fridays and Saturdays.

He says he has always had good relations with Bristol Waste staff who he often chats to on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

But last Sunday morning as he was talking to cleaning crews, Mr Burnett says a team leader from nearby Lewins Mead depot arrived and told him that he was to stop.

Rubbish on Bristol streets.
Rubbish on Bristol streets.

The team leader said Mr Burnett could be breaching health and safety regulations as he does not work for the council and may not have the right equipment.

“He said management wanted me to stop, they didn’t like what I was doing,” said Mr Burnett.

“It’s just them being pernickety and fussy. They don’t like it because it shows they’re not doing their job properly.

“For them to say to me, ‘you don’t work for the council, you haven’t got the right safety equipment’, it’s a bit rich.

“I wear safety boots, jeans and a black jacket and I’ve never tried to impersonate a council officer.”

He added that Bristol Waste staff have allegedly been told not to talk to him.

“A worker I know has told me if they are seen chatting to me they’ll face the sack,” he said.

“I’m proving that the company isn’t very good at their job and they don’t like it.”

SWNS_LITTER_PICKER_04But Bristol Waste company insisted staff were supportive of his efforts, and are just worried for his safety.

A spokesperson said, “We are not asking Mr Burnett to leave it to the experts – we value greatly the work he and many others do across the city to help up keep it clean and tidy.

“We really just want people to be safe Our city centre staff were particularly concerned because Mr Burnett wasn’t using gloves and there could be sharps present in the waste.

“We support lots of community litter picking efforts and do share help and guidance on how to work safely. Our litter pick pack is on the resources page of our website.”

But Mr Burnett said: “Why would the head of the depot come up to me and say ‘I and the management don’t want you doing this’ if it was just a safety concern?”

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees launched the Clean Streets campaign last November urging everyone in the city to take personal responsibility for keeping streets clean.

In a speech at the time, Mr Rees said: “I’m asking every citizen to do her or his bit to help clean up this great city of ours.”


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