Resource Use

Birmingham to move to wheelie bin recycling


Birmingham City Council (BCC) has confirmed that it is to move to wheelie bin recycling collections from summer 2014.

Following a ‘successful’ trial in Brandwood and Harborne wards, the council will soon be rolling out 240-litre wheelie bins for dry recyclables – including metal, glass and plastic, with a separate insert pod for paper and card (collected fortnightly) – to all other city wards. The bins, manufactured by Straight plc (and pictured right), will replace the two 40-litre recycling boxes (one for paper and card, and one for all other dry recyclables) that are currently collected every fortnight.

Residual waste will continue to be collected on a weekly basis, although the current black bag system will be replaced with a 180-litre wheelie bin (equivalent to around two to three black sacks).

The move has been funded through a £29.8 million grant awarded to the city by the Department for Communities and Local Government as part of its Weekly Collection Support Scheme to ‘protect weekly refuse collections’.

All wheelie bins are expected to be delivered to the remaining wards by December 2015.

Wheelie bins will be delivered on the following timetable:

March – July 2014

  • Ladywood District

August – December 2014

  • Hodge Hill District
  • Hall Green District
  • Yardley District

February – June 2015

  • Erdington District
  • Perry Barr District
  • Sutton Coldfield District

August – December 2015

  • Edgbaston District
  • Northfield District
  • Selly Oak District

The green waste service is also changing, with the council introducing a chargeable service from the end of this month (February 2014).

Although an optional service, those wishing to carry on having their garden waste collected for composting will be required to pay a service charge of £35. Residents will however receive the 240-litre wheeled bin for this service free of charge.

Those not wishing to take up the service will have the option of buying a composter, at cost, via the council’s website.

Changes due to budget cuts

The changes come following central government cuts to the authority’s finances. For the 2013/14 financial year the council’s overall savings requirement is £102 million. Of this, £6.57 million will come from waste services.

Speaking last year, Councillor James McKay, Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart City at Birmingham City Council, said: “Cuts to the services that help make our city a cleaner and greener place are not something that sit easy with me.

“However, given that the controllable part of the council’s budget – which we can choose to prioritise – will be halved by 2017, we are simply left with little or no option but to consider some major changes to our waste management service.

“What we have done is come up with a package that tries to minimise the impact felt by citizens, embracing innovation and modern ways of working where possible – such as with the introduction of wheelie bins, to replace a system that is firmly stuck in the last century.

“But we want to be open and transparent about some of the less palatable changes helping up meet our financial challenge – that is why we are giving as much notice as possible of our intention to introduce fees and reduce the level of services [such as providing one free bulky waste collection per year, down from three] where applicable.”

A break down of the roll out on a ward-by-ward basis can be found on Birmingham City Council’s website.

Decision taken in absence of TEEP guidance

The change in service comes at a difficult time for local authorities, as there is still some debate over the legality of not collecting recyclables separately.

Following a judicial review into the English and Welsh transposition of the revised Waste Framework Directive, it was ruled that co-mingled collection of recyclables would remain legal from January 2015, but only when separate collections were not ‘technically, environmentally and economically practicable’ (TEEP).

TEEP, however, has not been defined and, following Defra’s decision not to issue guidance on the term, local authorities have been left without any steering from central government.

Indeed, the only guidance from government since the conclusion of the judicial review has been an open letter to councils from Lord de Mauley shortly before he was replaced as Resources Minister by Dan Rogerson. In it, de Mauley wrote: ‘It appears that some local authorities may be taking the view that co-mingled collections of paper, glass, plastic and metal waste streams will remain permissible in all circumstances after 1st January 2015. I therefore thought it would be helpful now to remind local authorities of the effect of the regulations.’

The letter concludes: ‘Any local authorities considering new collection or disposal plans should take care to ensure that they are placing themselves in a position to fulfil their legal duties from 2015. This is particularly important for local authorities who may be considering moving away from separate collection, or including glass within a co-mingled stream. Local authorities should consult their own lawyers as necessary, and should keep a clear audit trail given the potential for legal challenge.’

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