The cost of the new system was outlined in confidential papers presented to the city cabinet.
But the details were obtained and leaked by former Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Mullaney, who described the project as “insane” and claimed the Labour-controlled council was obsessed with introducing wheelie bins.
Mr Mullaney defended his actions, claiming that the proposals are so contentious that it was right to publish the confidential reports. It is not known how he obtained the cabinet papers.
He believes the scheme is fatally flawed, partly because it does not include separate bins for food waste. There are also concerns about imposing wheelie bins on ‘unsuitable’ properties such terraced houses without easy access.
Mr Mullaney said the proposals would not increase recycling rates and would encourage people to create even more rubbish. “Give someone a large container and they will fill it,” he added.
The council cabinet has agreed to bid for £28.5 million from a special Government fund set up to protect weekly collections of household waste. If the bid is successful, the sight of black refuse sacks piled in the streets of Birmingham waiting to be picked up will become a thing of the past.
The new system, from 2013, is based on:
- A weekly residual waste collection with a choice of 140 litre or 240 litre bins depending on household size.
- A fortnightly recycling collection for glass, plastic, card and paper with 240 litre bins.
- A fortnightly green waste collection with 240 litre bins.
High-rise flats and hard-to-reach properties will be supplied with bulk containers for recycling material under the plan.
The cabinet papers make it clear that the council would in any case have to spend £32 million by 2015 simply to maintain the current refuse collection and recycling service. By spending an additional £28.5 million, the local authority can move to a comprehensive wheelie bin system.
Environment and Culture Strategic Director Sharon Lea described the proposed scheme as “transformational” and said it would help the council meet its recycling targets.
The cost of buying the wheelie bins is estimated at almost £19 million, while a further £7 million will have to be spent on purchasing new vehicles.
Former Councillor Mullaney, when chairman of the transportation scrutiny committee, published a report recommending limited trials of wheelie bins in certain parts of Birmingham. But the proposal was rejected by the then Tory-Liberal Democrat cabinet, partly on cost grounds.
In a press release issued before the cabinet meeting, the council said the move to wheelie bins would help improve service delivery and meet the challenge of collecting rubbish from an estimated 10,000 new homes in Birmingham each year.
The statement continued: “Evidence from other authorities shows that recycling performance improves when wheeled bins are introduced* and the council’s bid aims to build on this by rolling out an incentive-based recycling project for the whole of Birmingham.
“Recycling rates for Birmingham are currently at 31.5 per cent, which compares poorly with other local authorities. The proposals being drawn up will help drive the city towards its 50 per cent target by 2020 and a 60 per cent target by 2026.”
Cllr James McKay, cabinet member for a green, safe and smart city, said: “The proposal we are putting forward to Government will ensure our waste management service is delivered in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible for the citizens of Birmingham.
“We are always looking at how to improve recycling in the city and we believe Birmingham will become a cleaner and greener place if we are successful in our bid. We will maintain our weekly collection. Wheeled bins will not be used in a small number of cases where they are impractical, and assisted collections will continue.”
The council intends to begin a period of public consultation about the proposals later this month.