Council says: Help us make bin changes work

Bin collections:  Bin collecting in Platt Bridge
Bin collections: Bin collecting in Platt Bridge

Feedback from residents about controversial waste service reforms has forced changes to the new system, council bosses have said.

The borough’s proposed move to a once every three week collection for black bins later this year had received criticism despite its cost-saving potential.

Missed bins is a particular issue for us and we’re well aware it will take people a bit of time to get used to the new routine

Karl Battersby

With the service shake-up having now been approved by the council’s ruling cabinet, officers are stressing to residents that they will be able to cope with the new rota.

Updates to the plans include the scrapping of a proposed winter change to the green bin rota to allay fears about flies and vermin causing a public health hazard.

Instead, green bins will remain on their current fortnightly pick-up schedule with households urged to put food waste in their green bins to cut down on the amounts going in their black equivalents, which will move to a three week cycle.

Meanwhile, brown bins (glass and plastics) will move from a two to three week rota and blue bin collections (paper and card) will be more frequent, moving from a four to three week cycle.

Officers say these changes “as a direct result of feedback” will simplify the calendar and ensure households will only have to put out two bins at any one time.

Paul Barton, assistant director for environmental services, told the Observer: “We’ve gone through very scientific modelling in terms of what’s the contents of an average resident’s bin.

“In some samples of black bins, around 40 per cent could have been recycled if residents had done it properly. So we’re confident that, other than the larger families with extenuating circumstances, everyone should be able to make the changes.”

Each household will receive an information pack detailing the changes before they are rolled out in September with a “bedding-in” period to follow.

Karl Battersby, Wigan Council’s director of economy and environment, said: “One thing we’ve learned from our neighbours is about flexibility and pragmatism.

“Some authorities when they’ve introduced this have taken a very robust and harsh approach from day one, we’re not proposing to do that at all.

“Missed bins is a particular issue for us and we’re well aware it will take people a bit of time to get used to the new routine.

“We will effectively be suspending the missed bins policy for three months or so.

“Rather than ‘sorry, you’ve not put it out on the right day so it’ll be six weeks until it gets picked up’ we realise that isn’t appropriate and it will cause problems. So we’re going to be flexible.”

The service shake-up - generating an annual saving of £2m for the cash-strapped town hall - will see binmen asked to adopt a common sense approach and act as officers’ “eyes and ears” on the streets.

Mr Battersby added: “They’re the only council workers to be on every street week in week out so we want them to carry out a wider role around the Deal.

“The Deal of the Street is about being a good neighbour, so if they notice someone’s post hasn’t been collected for a number of days and it’s an elderly resident or if they see something that isn’t quite right then they need to report it.

“Lots of councils have a policy about how full your bin can be, so if your lid is up they won’t pick it up or if it’s above 30 degrees they won’t take it.

“We’re not having anything like that, the only way we won’t pick it up is if it is a health and safety risk to do so; if it’s that full it’s difficult to move or we can’t put it on the back of the lorry.”

Larger families or households with extenuating circumstances will still be able to apply for special dispensation, the officers added.

Previously, council leader Lord Smith had said the move to three week rota would help keep council tax rates down in addition to boosting recycling rates.

The current 44 per cent level needs to rise to 50 before 2020 otherwise the authority will incur huge fines.

Mr Barton added: “It’s a behaviour change, we want people to take in the information, we’ll support them and we should be okay. We’ve been lucky in the sense we’ve been able to look at other authorities and pick their brains and see the mistakes they’ve made and come up with our plan.

“We’ve seen across the board a move like this, as a minimum, boosts rates by six per cent, so hopefully we’ll be up to that magical 50 mark.”