I missed this during my various distractions in recent weeks:

Lewisham Council are now allowing people to report rubbish on the streets through a little phone application that can be downloaded from Love Lewisham.

It’s a great idea and I’ve been doing so since last November, when Andrew Brown asked me to help test the system (he wrote about it here). I’m not quite sure how much help I was, though. You see, the problem was that the system just worked. I took pictures of rubbish dumping, which was particularly prevalent on Lee High Road at the time, as I walked to work. By the time I got home, it was normally gone. The funny thing is that after a fortnight or so of this, I ran out of things to report. I’m not sure if the council took enforcement action, “suggesting” to the shopkeepers that they use the official routes for getting rid of their waste, or if the cleaners just noted that Lee High Road was a street to be watched, but the problem went away. Apart from the odd bit of graffiti and some predictable fly-posting, I ran out of things to report.

As a side effect of all this, I quickly realised just how predictable my walking patterns are around my local area. The couple of occasions when I did take more unusual routes, I’d usually forgotten to take the PDA I was using to test the system with me, or had let the batteries run out. The PocketPC-based XDA I borrowed from the council has embarrassingly brief batter life compared to my reliable old Palm. That’s why I’m delighted to see they’ve gone with the phone option on the website.

It’s a good idea. It was always a good idea. It can turn a nation of phone carriers into the mobile eyes of the waste clearing service, allowing them to spend the time they waste looking for rubbish actually clearing it away. All it needs is people to actually try it out. That’s going to be the testing ground of the system – do people care enough?