Bolton at loggerheads on success of slim bin scheme

Bolton Council is hailing the ‘great success’ of its new slimline, 140-litre bins, reporting that they saved the council £1.4 million in the six months after they were introduced last June, but fire chiefs in Greater Manchester say the smaller containers have played a part in an increase in arson of ‘loose refuse’.

Bolton at loggerheads on success of slim bin scheme
The council halved the size of its residual waste bins in June 2016, in an attempt to increase participation in recycling and save £1.25 million by the end of this coming March. However, figures covering the period between June and December released by the council show that the new scheme has in fact already saved £1.4 million.

Bolton Council is one of nine members of the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority (GMWDA), and by last summer every member council had taken steps to restrict the amount of residual waste being collected at the kerbside in response to rising disposal costs in the authority.

As part of GMWDA membership, the cost of waste disposal and recycling is divided between the councils by a waste disposal levy. This levy is expected to increase by 9.6 per cent in 2017/18 and 7.6 per cent in 2018/19.

At the time of bringing in the new bins in June, Bolton Council, one of seven of the councils to introduce slim bins to restrict residual waste, was spending £68,000 per collection day on disposal of residual waste, totting up to over £17 million a year. The council predicted that the new scheme, which cost £1.1 million to implement would save £12.5 million over the 10 years to 2026 and increase recycling levels across the borough.

By decreasing the size of residual waste bins and maintaining (as in Bolton) or increasing recycling capacity, councils hope that residents will be more inclined to separate their recyclable waste into recycling streams. The council says that between April and December the council collected 33,310 tonnes of recyclable waste, an increase of 2956 tonnes on the same period last year, while the recycling rate for this period rose to almost 45 per cent, compared to 41 per cent for the same period in 2015.

A popular criticism of restricting residual capacity is that it encourages fly-tipping when residents have run out of room in their bins, but the council figures also suggest that the amount of waste fly-tipped in the borough between April and December 2016 (689.24 tonnes) was 11 per cent less than in the same period in 2015 (774.62 tonnes).

However, a poll on The Bolton News website found that 94 per cent of readers (no number of respondents is given) do not believe the council’s slim bin statistics. Over 114 comments have been made in response to the site’s reporting of the council’s figures, posted just three days ago (1 February), the vast majority of which question the veracity of the stats and give anecdotal evidence of an increase in fly-tipping.

Fire services notes bins role in increased arson

Earlier in January, in a performance review, the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority (GMFRA) said the slim bins had had a ‘negative impact’ in fly-tipping and a 30 per cent increase in arson incidents.

The ‘Quarter Two Performance Review 2016-17’ reports: ‘The borough has now virtually completed the change over from large wheelie bins to the smaller versions. This has already had a negative impact on the amount of fly-tipping which will subsequently impact on the volume of deliberate secondary fires over time.’

It states that from May 2016 onwards, fire crews in Bolton had been called to 354 ‘loose refuse’ fires, a 30 per cent increase compared to 271 over the same eight months in 2015.

More flexibility in the budget

Councillor Nick Peel, Bolton Council’s cabinet member for the environment, said: “It has been a great success. We are going to massively exceed our £1.25 million target. That means that we will have a bit more flexibility in our budget in the forthcoming years.

“As well as educating residents on what they can recycle, we’ve upped the number of fixed-penalty notices and we’re taking people to court who are prolific fly-tipping offenders. All that has led to the number of fly-tips actually dropping.”

Responding in January to the GMFRA report on the increase in fires, Peel said: “I don't know how they can say that the number has increased. They don’t have the data to back it up and I think the conclusion is false.

“I don't dispute that there may have been an increase in the number of call-outs to loose rubbish fires, but they don’t collect fly-tipping data. The council has to weigh and measure the amounts that are picked up from fly-tipping in the town, and those figures show that the amount of refuse picked up from fly-tips has decreased.”

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