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Wheelie bins to go city-wide following 91% household approval rate for pilot exercise

Wheelie bins to go city-wide following 91% household approval rate for pilot exercise

🕔06.Sep 2013

Birmingham’s switch from a plastic bag refuse collection system to wheelie bins will be completed by the end of 2015 with Labour councillors set to approve the transformational £62 million scheme within days.

Following successful pilot projects in Brandwood and Harborne, where the roll-out of wheeled bins has been remarkably smooth, the council’s cabinet will have no hesitation in giving the go-ahead for the city-wide project at its next meeting on September 16.

A campaign against the change by opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors, based on an assumption that wheelie bins would be deeply unpopular in Birmingham, failed to gain traction with a comprehensive consultation exercise showing broad backing for the new refuse collection system.

There are signs, though, that fears about some householders requiring help to manoeuvre the bins are justified. The number of requests for assistance in the pilot areas was far higher than the council’s estimates.

Prior to wheelie bins, 58 households in Brandwood and 40 in Harborne were registered for assisted collections. For the pilots, these numbers increased to 497 and 339 respectively, sharply pushing up the cost of the new system.

The council is to carry out checks to ensure that assistance in future” is only given to those that genuinely need it”.

One of the largest opinion polls ever undertaken by the council found that most people believed wheelie bins would encourage households to recycle more and would improve the environment by putting paid to rubbish spilling on to pavements from plastic sacks.

Initial evaluation of the pilot projects showed a sharp increase in recycling rates, enabling the council to increase income from government grant as well as a reduction in landfill tax charges.

– Residual (formerly black sack) waste has decreased by 23.75 per cent.

– The amount of paper collected has increased by 20.22 per cent.

– The amount of mixed materials (plastic, metal) collection has increased by 40.35 per cent.

– Street cleanliness increased by 54 per cent in Brandwood and 50 per cent in Harborne.

The switch to wheelie bins should double recycling rates in Birmingham to 60 per cent of all waste by 2026, according to official forecasts. The figure at the moment is 32 per cent.

Pre and post-wheelie bin delivery surveys were carried out in the two wards. They showed:

– 91 per cent of households are satisfied/very satisfied with bin collections.

– 77 per cent think the scheme has had a positive effect on the cleanliness of their neighbourhood. Seven per cent think it has had a negative effect.

– 76 per cent of households support the introduction of the wheelie bins to their area, with 13 per cent against.

– 47 per cent of households now have a better opinion of the wheelie bin scheme, with six per cent having a worse opinion.

The £62 million cost of the new system is being met by a £29 million government grant and borrowing. The investment will allow the council to purchase a new fleet of vehicles for the new service, 148 in total, buy the wheelie bins and upgrade depot facilities.

Cllr James McKay, cabinet member for a green, safe and smart city, said: “The pilot project has shown that wheelie bins can work in Birmingham and I am encouraged by the results we have achieved.

“Overall residents are happy with the scheme, recycling tonnages are up, and the waste we have to incinerate or send to landfill is down – helping save the taxpayer money, also benefitting the environment in the process.

“This project is a one-off chance to do things in a better way and we are now at the stage where we can begin to roll-out bins across the city so households in all wards can benefit from the cleaner, modern and efficient system which residents in Brandwood, Harborne and 82 per cent of the country already enjoy.“ 

Cover Image: AWM

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