YOU’VE PROBABLY read by now about plans for a new waste collection system to be introduced across the borough in early October.
Put simply, it means a move from two-weekly to three-weekly collections of your grey, general waste bins – plus other measures to help people recycle.
I must stress that we haven’t done this lightly – and also that we did our research first.
I know kerbside collection is the one service that every single resident relies upon. That means making changes to it is a big deal and that we must get it right.
After weighing up all the options the decision boiled down to some inescapable facts.
At present, the cost to Oldham Council for disposing of grey bin waste comes to hundreds of pounds per tonne. Yet for every tonne we recycle, we actually get a small income.
That means our future simply has to be about less waste and more recycling – which are environmental and economic ‘wins’ for everyone.
The more money that we can save by doing this, the more funds we can then put back into protecting vital frontline services as Government continues to slash our funding.
We’re not unusual in making this change. Across Greater Manchester there is now only Wigan that still has fortnightly collections of the standard 240-litre grey wheelie bins.
Other authorities have all either introduced three-weekly collections – or moved to 140-litre versions of the general waste (grey) bins, which are 40 per cent smaller than the standard containers.
By not changing bin sizes we don’t have to spend money on replacing all your bins, which is a considerable cost. It’s been reported that Manchester’s switch to slimmer bins, for example, will cost them around £1.8m.
We’ve also looked closely at how three-weekly collections are working in other areas.
Bury were the first to introduce them and faced a storm of national headlines about fears of overflowing bins and infestations of rats and insects.
In the first year of the new scheme thousands of tonnes of general waste – a drop of 16 per cent – were no longer sent to landfill. Bury’s recycling rate jumped by nine per cent and they saved hundreds of thousands of pounds.
In Oldham we estimate we can increase our recycling rate by 12 per cent through these changes which – over the next two years – would save us up to £3 million during a time when we need to find £37 million in savings.
I’ve heard it said this move will lead to a more flytipping here, and I understand that concern.
However, our experience with flytipping – as detailed in my blog two weeks ago – is that the majority of it isn’t down to selfish residents. It’s lazy trade waste discarded to avoid costs/responsibility, and bad landlords dumping items left by departed tenants.
The new collection regime will be a simpler one.
Grey bins for general rubbish will be collected one week. Blue bins for paper and card the week after, and then brown bins for glass, plastic and tins in the third week.
We’ll also continue collecting all garden and food waste on a weekly basis. That’s to stop the potential for bad smells and flies/insects, especially during the summer.
Households with extra waste they cannot recycle could be entitled to an extra grey bin and they should contact us to discuss the options. And we’re also offering – free – any extra blue, brown and green recycling bins you need, or upgrades to bigger recycling bins if you have the smaller ones.
Before the new system starts I’ve been very clear that we must contact every resident with information packs that explain your options and help with the changes.
Those will include new collection calendars, plus information about how to recycle more effectively. I’m sure the Stretton household isn’t alone in having had many debates about what can and can not be recycled, and exactly how(!).
You can read about the new arrangements on our website at www.oldham.gov.uk/waste or find out more by calling 0161 770 6644.
Change brings challenges and I can moan as much as the next person when asked to do something a different way after years of habit.
But we also know doing things differently is our best chance to help find the savings we need to provide good services here.
For now all I ask is that you give the new arrangements ‘a go’ as others have elsewhere.
Please do ‘your bit’ and get behind our mission to recycle as much as we possibly can.
‘Our bit’ is a pledge to monitor this scheme.
We will test how it is working on an ongoing basis and, if something is wrong, we will try to fix it.
Together we can make this work for Oldham.