recycling with 'Brumcan'
October 2002 - Refuse Collection Problems in Cotteridge
Although I have been pushing on this for some time (since August 2001!), it appears the Transportation Department and Environmental and Consumer Services Department are finally getting their act together to resolve the access difficulties in Holly, Laurel and Cotteridge Roads which affect not only basic refuse collection services but also, and far more importantly, access for emergency vehicles.
Although Transportation have put forward a rather draconian proposal for waiting restrictions – seemingly everywhere – I am hopeful that this will stimulate debate amongst residents and will result in more sensible solutions being put forward to resolve this problem.
A public meeting was held recently to discuss these issues and I will keep you updated on progress.
There has been much attention in the local media about the adequacy (or otherwise) of refuse collection services and the type of doorstep recycling scheme Birmingham should have. I am corresponding with the Council on this issue and I have posted examples of this below. The saga still goes on and in response to many complaints from residents, I drafted a letter to the Editor of the Evening Mail, which was published on 28 August and is reproduced below.
Letter to the Editor of the Evening Mail
20 August 2002
People are rightly disgruntled at the inadequacies in Birmingham's refuse collection service stemming from the apparent requirement that sacks must be left on the highway for collection.
No such requirement exists - far from it, the contract specification actually requires that refuse should be collected from a suitable location on the householders' premises. Such a suitable location is, of course, a bin or other storage receptacle, so long as it is accessible. My advice to residents, therefore, is to do as I do and insist on their sack of rubbish (tied up to prevent spillages) being collected from their bin. Yes, I know you will have to put up with occasional (deliberately on purpose to save the bother, no doubt) missed collections but stick to your guns, complain (if necessary through your Councillor or MP) and refuse collections will either have to stick to their contract or renegotiate it. Missed collections require a special call out!
It is time for the Council to spell out properly to people the level of service they are entitled to and to ensure that it is provided. I have made numerous complaints about the ambiguous nature of the leaflets sent out by Environmental Services that imply that it is acceptable to put rubbish out on the street on the normal collection day but which also tell people to keep waste on their premises for collection.
As for suggestions that Birmingham should move to a wheelie bin system - I am against it. These bins are now an unsightly blight on the everyday streetscene in London and the evidence is that their use encourages the dumping of more waste that should be recycled. Birmingham's efforts at recycling are already pathetic. When will we be offered weekly collections of all recyclable materials, not just paper? Come on Birmingham City Council - live up to our 'Forward' motto!
LYNNE JONES MP
Letter to Cllr Stewart Stacey
Councillor Stewart Stacey
The Council House
18 December, 2001
Refuse collection and recycling
From my constituency casework, I detect a growing dissatisfaction with the refuse collection service, a dissatisfaction I share.
A fundamental problem is that refuse collectors have got into the habit of expecting everyone to put their black sacks out on the pavement, even though residents are entitled to have their rubbish collected from inside their dustbins or elsewhere within the curtilage of their dwellings, so long as it is accessible. Over the years, missed collections from dustbins have ensured that householders, fed up with complaining, end up putting their rubbish on the pavement. Only the persistent few, like myself, insist that rubbish should be collected from our dustbins. The result is increased litter on the streets, especially in areas with large numbers of flats and high levels of multi-occupation.
Even in the pilot project in Heeley and Hubert Roads, where households have been encouraged not to put out rubbish on to the highway, refuse collectors have not changed their bad habits and collections are being missed. On 15 October, I wrote to the Environmental and Consumer Services Department about this but I am still waiting for a response. Specifically I sought Mick Johnson’s assessment of the success of this scheme.
In other areas where there have been problems with sacks being advanced on to the street prior to or after the collection day and there have been consequent litter problems, the Environmental and Consumer Services Department's usual response is to leaflet those properties responsible to explain the "correct" procedure. However, this leaflet is ambiguous. I have asked for it to be revised on many occasions, the last time on 15 October (reminder that no reply received 28 November). Why is such a simple matter taking so long to deal with? Perhaps it is just that the Council is not prepared to actually deliver the level of service you purport to provide.
Another example of poor service is in Holly, Laurel and Cotteridge Roads, where residents have not been receiving a regular refuse collection service. The response to my complaint last August on their behalf was to blame access problems because these roads are narrow, with many parked vehicles, and to ask for my support in requesting parking restrictions. The Transportation Department were reluctant and, in September, they told me that the Environmental and Consumer Services Department were investigating the possibility of either using a specific collection point, which might be more accessible, or using a smaller vehicle. My 29 November letter asking for details of progress is yet to be answered.
You will also be aware of the many complaints about the manner in which the new paper recycling scheme and new distribution policy for refuse sacks has been handled. I am particularly concerned about the potential for considerable spillage through the use of open boxes to add to that already experienced, as mentioned above. Resources from the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund seem to be being used to fund an inadequate, paper-only recycling scheme and to justify cuts in main programme services. Personally speaking, it is of little use to me to have an inadequate proportion of the waste paper I generate collected when I still have to take the rest, plus bottles and cans etc to a collection point! Those authorities who have a much better recycling record are properly integrating the recycling effort into weekly mainstream collection services.
I am disappointed that since receiving your acknowledgement dated 15 October, I have not yet received your comments regarding my correspondence with Jeremy Shields, Contract Monitoring Officer in the Environmental and Consumer Services Department, about the proposals submitted by the company Wastepack to provide a ‘Pink Bag Scheme’ for the city. As I mention in the attached letter to Mr Shields, I have no interest in promoting The Wastepack Group, I am simply concerned to ensure that the Council secures the best recycling scheme possible for the City, so that Birmingham can join those Councils which are leading in this field. I should therefore be grateful if you would liaise with Mr Shields in relation to this matter.
I look forward to your personal response to all of the points raised above.
LYNNE JONES MP
Letter to Jeremy Shields, Contract Monitoring Officer, Birmingham City Council
Contract Monitoring Officer
Environmental and Consumer Services
Date: 18 December 2001
Dear Mr Shields,
Thank you for your letter dated 18 October regarding the proposals submitted by Wastepack to Birmingham City Council.
I am still concerned that the City is going ahead with a recycling scheme that just involves paper and is only fortnightly.
I have no interest in promoting The Wastepack Group, I am simply concerned to ensure that your Department secures the best recycling scheme possible for the City, so that Birmingham can join those Councils which are leading in this field. With this point in mind, I would draw your attention to the document: Recycling in Action, which can be located on the Friends of the Earth website:
or go to the website home page and type in recycling in action in the search field. This document gives details of leading case studies of door-step recycling across England and Wales. Each of the case studies gives the details of a contact at the relevant Council. Has your Department been actively researching how other Councils are facilitating frequent and comprehensive recycling schemes and if not, will you ensure that such research is undertaken as a matter of urgency?
As part of my own research into this matter, I contacted Roy Osborough at Bournemouth Borough Council to ask him about their recycling schemes in view of their very good statistics and high participation rates in recycling and he informed me that they operate a doorstep ‘blue bag scheme’ not dissimilar to the ‘pink bag scheme’. Mr Osborough pointed out that the blue bags are collected on the same day as the other refuse and that this coordination of collection has been the key element which has lead to their success. In order to ensure high participation in doorstep recycling, it is common sense that we need to make it as easy as possible for people participate by ensuring that collections of all waste occur on the same day.
For information, Bournemouth Council also operate collections of Yellow Pages at bring sites and run a competition with local schools to help with collections. In the latest competition 10 schools collected 2500 Yellow Pages (which were then sent to a donkey sanctuary for animal bedding).
Turning to your specific comments on the Wastepack proposals, I note your comment that Wastepack and Tyseley Waste Disposal (TWD) need to negotiate regarding how the ‘Pink Bag Scheme’ would function. Nonetheless, since the existing contract is between Birmingham City Council and TWD, I would have hoped that your Department would have been actively facilitating these discussions.
You also state that the fortnightly paper recycling scheme could co-exist with the TWD contract and a ‘pink bag’ style scheme. As the ‘pink bag’ scheme includes the recycling of paper, surely this would be a duplication of services? As I mentioned in my last letter, the ‘pink bag’ proposals put forward by Wastepack provide for recycling of all recyclables in a manner which fits in with existing refuse collection. Householders would simply put their non-recyclables into one bag and their recyclables into another, differently coloured.
I have copied this letter to Cllr Stewart Stacey and I should be grateful if you would liaise with him and provide me with your response to the above points.
LYNNE JONES MP
My correspondence on this issue has continued and I am still pressing the Council to secure the best recycling scheme possible for the City, so that Birmingham can join those Councils which are leading in this field.
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