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Wokingham’s new bin collection arrangements

by Prue Bray on 7 March, 2012

What new bin collection arrangements do I hear you saying?

They start on 1st April.  But nobody seems to know about them – or if they do they are confused as to the details.   Hopefully BBC Radio Berks has helped to spread the word a bit this morning by featuring the changes on the Andrew Peach show.  

The thing is once people DO find out what’s going on, almost to a man and a woman they are not very happy about it.

So what are the changes?

Let’s start with the easy bit, describing what’s going to happen. 

First, your normal rubbish.  Probably you put it out in a black sack once a week.   Well, from April the Conservatives have decided you will have to put it out in a blue sack, supplied to you by the Council.  Rolls of 80 bags – a year’s supply – have started arriving on doorsteps across the Borough.  Families of more than 4 will be able to request an extra quota of bags.   If you need more, you will have to buy them from the council, at a cost of £4 for 10.  

Then, recycling.  The black boxes continue, with the same limited range of recyclables, but they will be collected every week instead of every fortnight.  There is to be a recycling incentive scheme.  The precise details of what the rewards will be are not yet known.   What is known is that you have to register for it, and then it appears you need to ring up every week to report that you have recycled.  The rewards are to be based on recycling rates across the Borough.  There does not appear to be any way to check what an individual or a family actually recycle.

And finally, garden waste.   Green waste is one of a few parts of waste collection that councils are allowed to charge for – although they are not supposed to make money from it.  The existing free green bag scheme is being abolished.  Instead you can pay £60 a year to have a wheelie bin, which will be emptied fortnightly, or £1 a time for a paper bag, which will also be collected fortnightly.

Oh, and the day on which your rubbish is collected may be about to change.

With me so far? 

Here are the top 3  things I think are wrong with this.   There is only 1 thing that’s right – and that’s trying to reduce the amount of rubbish that goes to landfill.  There are actually far more than 3 things that are wrong, but you don’t really want to read a 5 page essay, do you?

1  The council says it will not take rubbish away unless it is in their blue bag, and that rubbish put out in black sacks will not be removed.  So are they planning to leave it on the side of the road?  They won’t necessarily know whose black sack it is.  If they don’t take it away, imagine the mess after foxes and magpies have got at it.  And if they do take it away?  People will realise they can continue to put out black sacks….

2 £60 for the garden waste scheme is too much.  The wheelie bin only costs the council £25, and they only have to supply it once.  If you choose the bags, at £1 each, well, they only cost the council 15p.  There are no concessions for people on low incomes.  That is a lot more than many other councils charge.   They are pricing the service above what most people seem prepared to pay – meaning it isn’t going to work.

3 The recycling incentive scheme won’t incentivise anyone.  Why would it?  You can recycle a cereal box or recycle 3 full black boxes and you will get the same reward.  And with no way of checking who has recycled what,  there is tremendous scope for the unscrupulous to claim rewards they are not entitled to.   

The decision to change was made by the Conservatives some time ago, without consultation.  Had they consulted before doing it, they might have found these problems at a time when it was still possible to change the scheme.  But no…..

Would it be too much to say Wokingham’s new bin collection arrangements are a bit…..  rubbish?


4 Responses

  1. Anon says:

    Prue, You have been very critical of the new scheme but you have not offered any alternative ideas. You keep saying what’s wrong with it, but not what you would’ve done.

    How would’ve you have communicated it differently? I’ve seen it in the Wokingham Times on many occasions including the letters page, the Borough News (everyone receives a copy), council exec meetings, it’s been discussed on the getwokingham website for so many months, I think I even saw an article in the the national newspaper the daily mail last year. Maybe if you tell us how you would have communicated it differently it could be adopted by WBC in the future?!?

    I think you are very misleading with your second point. Yes the bin may cost £25 but as I understand it the service costs a lot more hence the £60 annual charge. The charge covers the cost of the bin, delivery, collection and disposal of waste and any admin work involved in the process. It is the same for the paper sacks.

    Your point about Recyclebank is also a bit pointless. WBC are not paying for it. You couldn’t possibly reward residents individually unless you chip every waste box and weigh them at the side of the road. How much would that cost? It’s simple really you either opt in or out. If you can be bothered to register and say you recycle every week then you might as well recycle in the first place! So what if someone says the recycled and eventually get enough points to have £5 off a supermarket shop?!?

    You can also register and say you recycle by the internet and not the phone as you are saying. You should really get all the facts first before trying to influence people. You can really tell it’s coming up to election time!

    Looking forward to your comments on here!

    • pruebray says:

      Interesting that you choose to post anonymously but have a lot of inside information – such as that apparently WBC is not paying recyclebank. Are you by any chance a Conservative councillor?

      Before I go on to alternatives, can I just point out that the cost of the wheelie bin CANNOT BY LAW include the cost of disposal of waste. It can include admin and handling, but NOT the cost of collection or the cost of disposal. Reading Borough Council provide a wheelie bin for £32.50, a one-off charge for buying the bin, with no on-going costs. In West Berkshire, the green waste collection is free. £60 is one heck of a mark-up for admin and handling, especially as it is payable every single year – when there is no bin supplied, no admin, and no handling.

      As for alternatives, how about: recycling food waste – West Berks does it, and handles it using its facility at Padworth. If they can do it, why can’t Wokingham?

      And how about putting a bit of effort into education on reduce, reuse, recycle, and on campaigning to reduce packaging in local shops, getting people to use freecycle and similar schemes, instead of trying to force people into putting out less waste? The council is expecting a 20% cut in waste collected per household, but has done nothing to try and cut the amount of waste generated. So where is the 20% going to go? It’s still being created. And don’t say it will go into the recycling, because we are talking 2.3 kg less of rubbish per household per week according to the council’s own figures, while recycling per household is only expected to go up by 0.3 kg. That’s 2 kg of rubbish that the council seems to expect to magically disappear. I wonder how much of it will turn up at the tip?

      And a green waste scheme at a reasonable price – say £35 a year – or at the very least some discounts for those on low incomes. All the £60 price tag does is discourage people from using it. Will they all be composting instead? No. From what people have told me, they will either be fly-tipping it or ferrying it to the tip themselves.

  2. Matthew S. Dent says:

    If you want a five page essay (with sound!) you should tackle my blog on the matter.

    I completely agree with you on this one Prue, and I thought you did very well on BBC Berkshire this morning. To your list you could add:

    – The scheme is probably illegal.
    – The execution has been woeful. Leaving them on doorsteps, to be stolen? Ridiculous, and how many of the savings will be wiped out by sorting out that blunder.
    – 80 bags is not enough. Not for large families, or families with young children. The scheme is a stealth tax on those people.

    And that’s just for starters…

  3. […] Now, if we take away the cost to the council for each bin (which, after the local budget, we now know is a mere £25) and we get £175,000 profit. An extra £175k to plug the gap in finances created by […]

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