Refuse collection – the need for modernisation

In 2012, Birmingham City Council secured £30million in extra funding from the Government after successfully bidding for a slice of the £250million Weekly Collection Support Scheme (WCSS) fund, set up to protect weekly rubbish collections for at least five years.

Birmingham’s bid – said by the Department for Communities and Local Government to excel in all respects – was based on the introduction of wheelie bins as a way of modernising an outdated, inefficient, ineffective and unaffordable service.

Here are ten points about refuse collection and why wheelie bins – and the wider modernisation of the refuse collection service being funded through the project – are needed:

1. If we had adopted a “do nothing” approach, extra rubbish generated by the city’s growing population would have created pressures on the service – leading to a funding gap of £8million per year for the service by the end of this decade.

2. Streets are cleaner when wheeile bins are used. Under a sack-based system, bags tend to split open before collection due to vermin, seagulls etc. When wheelies were piloted in Brandwood and Harborne, street cleanliness improved by 54 and 50 per cent respectively.

3. Our old system of unlimited sacks and recycling boxes was not environmentally-friendly. It encouraged people to throw out as much rubbish as they liked. As a result, the city’s 2012 recycling rate (32 per cent) placed it in the bottom quarter of the UK councils’ league table.

4. A residents survey before the Birmingham scheme began revealed 91 per cent felt more should be done to increase recycling/reduce rubbish.

5. The top 100 councils for recycling all use wheelie bins – the more that is recycled, the less cost there is in landfill and incineration fees, saving money for other vital services.

6. The recycling bins being used in Birmingham have more than double the capacity offered to households by the old two box system (240 litres vs 110 litres).

7. Once fully rolled out, Birmingham’s recycling wheelie bins will offer an annual capacity of 1.8billion litres – equivalent to enough to fill the city’s Bartley Reservoir in just 16 months.

8. Birmingham’s old methods of refuse collection are not citizen-focused. The fresh investment is enabling the introduction of IT, which means we will be able to deal with household more effectively, with real-time updates on queries soon to become a reality.

9. The council’s fleet of refuse collection vehicles was old and unreliable. Prior to the WCSS funding, the oldest vehicle was a W-Reg (year 2000). We also had a number from 2001 – yet the normal life expectancy for such vehicles is just seven years.

10. We’ve been able to support British businesses in the supply chain – 98.4 per cent of our wheelie bins have been manufactured in the UK, with 86 per cent of spend on new refuse collection vehicles going to firms with a presence in the West Midlands.

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