ECC Scrutiny: Community | My question on overfilled bins

My question under Standing Order 20 to the Portfolio Holder for Health and Place about overfilled bins

Question:
On 01 November 2015, Exeter City Council launched a new protocol on NOT emptying overfilled wheeled bins. The new policy make clear that the lid must be closed when presenting rubbish.

I thank the Portfolio Holder for Health and Placefor the press briefings he has copied to members following the adverse media reports

One of the causes of concern seems to the £19 charge to return to empty the bin.

Can the Portfolio Holder for Health and Place tell me if this this charge approved by members, and if so, when?

Written Answer:
There is not a specific charge for an uncollected bin. For example, if someone forgot to put their bin out and wanted a special collection, we don’t have a specific charge for that.

However, the nearest thing we do have is a ‘bulky-waste’ charge designed for large items , but including sacks of rubbish (eg if someone has cleared out an attic).

Here the price is based on what can be collected by 2 operatives in one visit – this could be a sofa, or alternatively 4 bags of rubbish (2 bags per operative being the maximum they are allowed to carry).

A wheelie bin has the capacity to take 4 bags of rubbish, so that has been the charge quoted to people if they wanted to book a special collection.

In terms of dealing with waste left uncollected when the bin has been overfilled, we have been encouraging people to contact us so that we can have a meaningful conversation about why they fall outside the 99% plus of citizens that don’t have a problem fitting their waste in their bin – we want to understand why they are struggling to contain their residual waste, which may be down to them having the wrong size of bin for their household, too small a recycling bin, or a lack of knowledge about about what they can recycle. Through that conversation, we aim to resolve future issues with their rubbish, and have latterly arranged one-off ‘mop-up’ collections with them at the end of that conversation.

We have paused our bin-stickering this week, in order to change our approach slightly by treating ‘top-up’ waste like side waste, and introducing a stronger stance in a phased approach across the rounds.

Supplementary Question :
The other problem seems to be members of the public not hearing about the policy change.

I understand that warning stickers were placed on over-filled during September and October,  so those people were made aware of the issue.

However, the first many of those falling foul of the new policy last week were leaving an over-filled bin for the first time.

Without going to the expense of a new leaflet drop explaining the new policy, could we consider a yellow card warning for a first offense and only enforce the policy on a second transgression?

Verbal Answer:
Cllr Keith Owen guessed the nature of my follow-up question as  I didn’t need to ask it – he covered the new approach without me having to ask the supplementary!

He made reference to information sent to councillors  – here’s that e-mail:

Reasons for discouraging over-filled bins
The main reasons for the strengthening of the policy on extra waste in terms of over-filled bins is that:
– Overfilled wheelie bins are heavier, more difficult to manoeuvre, and both bags and bins can fall off the lifting mechanism at the back of the refuse truck (RCV);
– Open-lidded bins are prone to attack by vermin, cats and seagulls causing spillage onto the street; and
– People who produce a lot of waste tend to be poor recyclers, so we want to discourage them from throwing everything into the black bin and black bags.

Experience in the first week of November
Although the percentage of overfilled bins is below 1%, this does translate into sizeable numbers when dealing with 53,570 households – so although each of the 5 black bin crews were stickering around 9 bins a day (the stickers asked residents to contact us), that did mean that the Environmental Support Team fielding the calls were struggling to cope alongside their normal day’s business, as each call takes about 10 minutes or so (as we are trying to understand why their bin is being overfilled, and making arrangements to help resolve the issue). Uncollected waste from last week is now being ‘mopped-up’ with our small RCV, following that conversation with the householder.

Change to approach
For this second week, we have paused the stickering and will be changing our approach once all crews have been briefed on Thursday morning. We will be rolling out the stronger stance on over-filled bins in steps over a number of weeks, crew by crew when we re-start.

Step 1 – with rounds covered by Crew 1, overfilled bins will be stickered, the extra bags on top (essentially side waste put on top of a full bin) will be left in the bin after it has been emptied to further alert householders that a change is needed. The sticker encourages the householder to contact us so that we can have a meaningful conversation and sort things out for the future.

For the other 9 rounds, overfilled bins will initially be emptied and stickered, informing the householder that their bin was over-filled and encouraging them to contact us (we know from the 6 week lead-in during September/October that people are less motivated to call if their bin has been fully emptied).

Step 2 – the next step will be to include Crew 2, and so on, week by week until all crews are leaving the extra ‘top-up’ waste in the bin.

By rolling this out in steps, the numbers are more easily managed, more time can be devoted to each caller, and the conversation is more productive without the issue of an uncollected bin being the focus of any conversation.

Members for the Scrutiny Committee: Community were reminded of Exeter City Council’s statutory responsibility on waste collection:
“to collect waste contained within the specified receptacle at the designated collection point  for a property (nomrally  at front edge of your address next to the pavement so it’s clearly visible from your road) at the correct time (no earlier than 6.00pm the night before your collection is due, and no later than 6.00am on collection day).”

More detailed information for your property can be found by entering your postcode here.

FURTHER READING:
Exeter City Council Media Release: Bin it – don’t bag it! [01 October 2015]
People are being urged not to overfill their rubbish bins and avoid putting out extra bin bags full of waste.

Express & EchoExeter city council will not collect overfilled bins [01 October 2015]

Express & EchoExeter residents’ fury at council’s ‘overfilled bins’ collection changes [05 November 2015]

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