Birmingham City Council begins wheelie bin trial

wheelie bin

Birmingham City Council has launched a wheelie bin trial in two city wards as part of a pilot project into boosting recycling rates. 

Funded by a £29.8 million grant awarded to the city by the Department of Communities and Local Government as part of its Weekly Collection Support Scheme to ‘protect weekly refuse collections’, the three-month trial project will see residents in Harborne and Brandwood receive an 180-litre bin for residual waste (collected weekly) and a 240-litre bin for dry recyclables such as metal, glass and plastic, with a separate insert pod for paper and card (collected fortnightly). Some houses will also receive a green wheelie bin for garden waste. 

The wheelie bin trial will increase the amount of recyclable waste and limit the amount of residual waste collected from householders. At the moment, residents can put out an unlimited amount of residual waste black sacks for weekly collection, and are restricted to using two 40-litre recycling boxes (one for paper and card and one for all other dry recyclables), which are collected fortnightly.

The three-month trial forms part of a ‘learning process’ for the council to help shape and develop the new waste system before it is extended city wide (expected to be completed by the ‘end of 2015’).

Birmingham runs an in-house waste collection service, with residual waste sent to Veolia for incineration and dry recyclables sold on to reprocessors such as Smurfit Kappa.

Current system ‘no longer affordable’

The council said that it decided to introduce the trial after WRAP research showed that the top 100 local authority performers for reducing rubbish and increasing recycling used the wheelie bin system.

Councillor James McKay, Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart City, said: “The current system of black bags and small recycling boxes is costing us money we can no longer afford. Recycling rates have flat-lined, so the city is left picking up a huge bill for disposing of waste and paying landfill taxes. In these austere times, we can’t just carry on burning money.” 

Birmingham City Council collected around 488,868 tonnes of municipal rubbish from residents in 2012/13, costing the council around £60 million per year in collection and disposal charges. According to the council’s figures, it recycled, reused or composted just 32.31 per cent of its household waste, placing it in the bottom quartile of all waste disposal authorities. 

It is hoped the wheelie bin system will also reduce the amount of litter on streets caused by rodents and birds ripping open the sacks. 

Councillor McKay continued: “The pilot will help us refine and shape the plan to roll out wheelie bins across Birmingham in the coming years, delivering a better deal for taxpayers, along with cleaner streets for us all, as bags will no longer get ripped open by vermin.” 

The move has been largely welcomed by residents, with a survey carried out by Opinion Research Services Ltd finding that 61 per cent of residents thought the wheelie bins would help to reduce the number of vermin in their neighbourhood, 58 per cent thought that wheelie bins would reduce the amount of rubbish spilt onto the street, with 51 per cent agreeing that wheelie bins will improve the cleanliness of their neighbourhoods. 

Birmingham's strategy to continue with weekly collections of residual waste contradicts recommendations published in the University of Southampton's study 'The impact of alternative weekly collections on waste arising', however, which found that alternate weekly collections of ‘black bag’ residual waste and dry recyclables can increase recycling rates by up to nine per cent and reduce collection costs.  

The wheelie bin trial began in Brandwood this week (3 June), and Harborne residents will start receiving their bins from 17 June, with collections commencing the week after delivery. 

Read more about Birmingham’s wheelie bin trial.