Waste management modernisation update - 22 October 2018

Cllr Majid Mahmood, Cabinet Member for Clean Streets, Waste and Recycling, writes about the service modernisation and the context of the scale of the change being carried out...

This week marks a significant milestone in our plan to improve Birmingham's waste collection service.

All staff at all depots have moved over to the new way of working under the operating model agreed with our trade union colleagues last month.

At the time our first crews began the new way of working* on September 24, we said it would take time to bed in and there might be some initial disruption to services. This is because routes have changed and staff are developing local knowledge as they get used to the new rounds.

I thank anyone affected for their patience as the crews get used to their new rounds and the introduction of the WRCO (Waste and Recycling Collection Officer) role and related technology.

As a result of the roll-out, our collection rate has dropped slightly from the 99.86 per cent we achieve during business as usual (inevitable issues such as vehicle reliability and blocked access to streets are factors which mean councils up and down the land do not hit 100 per cent) – but we are getting back up to the rate we had before the changes came in.

And I want to make it clear that we are committed to this new operating model and making it work - but it is really important to understand the scale of this transformation and modernisation.

Every week we serve 360,000 properties – roughly double the number in the likes of Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow and Leeds.

During the Garden Waste season, we serve approximately 70,000 households every fortnight, almost 50 per cent more addresses than in the whole of Walsall’s regular refuse collection service.

We have 18,000 households still on sack collections, a sixth of the size of Wolverhampton’s complete refuse collection service.

On a typical day we collect 1,000 tonnes of waste. A quick Google suggests this is equivalent to the weight of 250 hippopotamuses or in ten days of collecting, we pick up waste that weighs as much as the Eiffel Tower.

The figures are staggering. No other council has a service on the size and scale we do.

It was in recognition of this that our Memorandum of Understanding with the unions outlined an initial review at the three-month mark.

We're absolutely committed to making this work because waste collection is one of the few universal services accessed by all households.

And as things arise, we aren't waiting until the three month mark to tweak things where necessary – for example we have mop up crews in place to assist where they do and provide support.

This modernisation programme is essential if we are to have a sustainable, modern, effective, affordable and efficient service - increasing our recycling rates and cutting the use of agency staff, both of which will help as the council continues to respond to the challenge of year on year budget cuts from central government and increasing pressures for other services like social care.

We're still in the early days of this change - and any current issues are clearly not ideal, but are hopefully understandable when the size, scale and need for this change are considered.

Note: *The new way of working includes five-day weeks instead of longer hours over four day - and the introduction of the new Waste and Recycling Collection Officer role, and related IT for crews to help citizens manage their refuse more effectively.

This blog was posted on 22 October 2018

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