Cllr James Mckay outlines preparations for the forthcoming wheelie bins pilot in two Birmingham wards – and just why Birmingham is changing the way waste is collected in the city.
Since the announcement in October that the council had won £30m cash from the Government to protect weekly bin collections a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes, ready for the pilot introduction of wheelie bins in two wards in the city, Brandwood and Harborne.
Before I outline how it's going to operate in Birmingham I would like to set out again why we are doing this:
- Our current system is just not affordable. It costs us £60m per year to manage our city's rubbish, and due to pressures on the service, including a rising population, by 2018/19 there will be a substantial shortfall in the funding needed to meet the costs of managing waste.
- On top of this, the budget that the council actually controls will have almost halved by then - in effect we are becoming a ‘50%’ council. We need to bring all our costs down.
- Recent reports by the District Auditor have made clear that our bin service costs more per head of population than in comparable places. Again, we have to save money, or make even deeper cuts everywhere else.
- With the Government money, we can now invest in millions of pounds of vital new infrastructure, and modern lorries, providing an efficient, modernised service we can actually afford
Let's be honest, at the moment we're poor at recycling in Birmingham, and unfortunately we’re in the worst performing 25% of cities in the UK – in fact we produce more rubbish per household than any other large city in the country.
This doesn't just matter because of the environment, important though that is. Bad recycling rates cost us money, and that's money we no longer have.
82% of local authorities across the country have introduced wheelie bins – including all of the top 100 performers for rubbish reduction - and all the evidence shows that they have had a significant effect on improving recycling rates, and also bring cleaner streets, free from piles of unsightly, torn bin bags which blight neighbourhoods. We do all we can to keep our streets clean, but the current system of bags makes this an almost impossible job.
We've been talking to as many people as possible across the city since the announcement and I know it's a big change in the way people are used to having their rubbish collected.
That's why we want to make sure that every household gets the service that suits them best.
So, how will it work?
The new system will be rolled out across the whole of the city over the next two years, and as previously mentioned we are kicking off with the pilot in Brandwood and Harborne.
Right now we're assessing properties in those two areas to see what is the best solution for them, with options for larger or smaller rubbish and recycling bins, depending on the size of the household.
Of course, every household is different and there will be a few properties that just aren't suitable for wheelie bins, and some residents who will need help in managing their bins. After the assessment postcards will be delivered to each home which will make it absolutely clear which properties are considered suitable to have bins or not – properties that are suitable will receive a green card containing further information, while those judged unsuitable will receive a red card containing more details – while an assisted collection service will ensure that people who are unable to manage their bins won't miss out.
If you haven't already please let us know your views by completing the online survey at opinionresearch.co.uk/birminghamwheeliebins or look out for printed copies in your nearest library or customer service centre.