Cllr Lisa Trickett blogs on the latest news from the project to introduce wheelie bins in Birmingham…
Since taking on the Cabinet portfolio for a Green, Smart and Sustainable City in June, I have been learning about the finer points of the services I have responsibility for.
Refuse collection, unsurprisingly, is a matter that is of great interest to both citizens and those inside the council.
In this blog I would like to bring people up to speed on where we are at with the plan to introduce wheelie bins - and to address some of the points and claims that I have heard during this time.
At the start of June we began operating the wheelie bin collection service the Ladywood district's four wards (Aston, Ladywood, Nechells and Soho). Once we have completed the “stabilisation” period we'll report back on the statistics but operational feedback has been extremely positive.
After carrying out street-by-street assessments of all properties, we are now in the process of writing to more than 100,000 households within the Hall Green, Hodge Hill and Yardley districts to let them know if they are going to receive wheelie bins or not in the autumn - and what to do if they feel they need bigger or additional bins.
However, one point I have heard being made by some is that we should allow residents to opt in or out of the scheme as they wish.
This simply isn't possible for a number of practical reasons. Our scheme is largely based on the plans operated by the 85 per cent of local council up and down the land that already use a wheelie bin system.
The introduction of choice would extra expense and less consistency of quality for a service that we are always looking to improve. We'd have to operate two different fleets of vehicles (as the bin wagons have lifting equipment for wheelie bins) and there would be all sorts of paperwork and administration, taking staff away from the core service, as people potentially swap from bins to bags and possibly back again!
But we really must not lose sight of the real aims of the wheelie bin scheme – less waste, more recycling, cleaner streets and reduced costs for the taxpayer. The waste collection service has been crying out for investment and improvement for years, and we are finally delivering this.
Bin bags and sacks are a big part of the problem of the current service. They split easily, cause litter to be strewn across our streets and because the service is unlimited (anyone can put out as many bags as they want every week), it does not encourage recycling – and the taxpayer savings we make in landfill taxes).
Initial evaluation for the two pilot wheelie bins wards of Brandwood and Harborne shows that residual (black sack) waste decreased by 23.75 per cent, the amount of paper recycled increased by 20.22 per cent, mixed materials (plastic, metal and glass) collection increased by 40.35 per cent and levels of street cleanliness increased by 54 per cent in Brandwood and 50 per cent in Harborne.
So, if we bury our heads in the sand and carry on collecting waste as we are, there will be a budget shortfall of £8million for the service by 2017/18. We'd have to find that £8million from other areas to provide the same dirty and inefficient service that people have had to suffer for many years.
A “pick 'n' mix” service, advocated by some opponents of wheelie bins would not help this budget gap. Wheelie bins are the way forward and we can't wait to oversee their roll-out in the months ahead. I will use this site to keep you posted on updates as and when we have them.