Bid to solve town's rubbish problems

PLANS to solve a borough's long-running rubbish collection problem by introducing more multi-purpose bin lorries could be a case of "papering over the cracks," it has been warned.

PLANS to solve a borough's long-running rubbish collection problem by introducing more multi-purpose bin lorries could be a case of "papering over the cracks," it has been warned.

Richard Bourne, a Labour Colchester borough councillor, said he was sceptical a move to lease three more multi-purpose waste and recycling trucks at a cost of more than £120,000 a year would improve the situation,

A proposal by waste chiefs at Colchester Borough Council to increase their fleet of bin lorries has been "called in", which means it will be analysed more carefully by a special committee later this month before a final decision can be made.

They want to lease three more of the controversial vehicles that many have blamed for periods when rotting waste has been left uncollected in many parts of the borough.

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Ever since a new "cleaner and greener" recycling and refuse collection system was introduced in April last year, it has been dogged by problems.

Thirteen new trucks were deployed at an annual lease cost of about £500,000, which was partly funded by a £750,000 Government grant.

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The lorries contain five separate compartments with two at the rear used for normal domestic black bin bag rubbish and paper/cardboard, while the front was reserved for plastics, glass and cans.

Compared to standard bin lorries, the overall capacity was reduced from 12 tonnes to about 10, but bosses insisted they were far more efficient as the number of journeys was also cut.

However, the scheme descended into what generally became accepted as a shambles and urgent measures were taken, including changing routes and limiting garden waste to three bags per household.

A high profile local government consultant, David Axom, was also hired by the council earlier this year to act as a trouble-shooter and it was his advice to lease three more lorries.

The council also wants to adapt two of its standard bin lorries currently used for trade waste so that they can be drafted in for the domestic bin run when needed.

But Mr Bourne said: "We need to see a lot more detail than they've supplied. It all smacks of making policy on the hoof.

"This latest proposal is a total admission of failure. We've been told there's a review of the system under way, but what we need to know before we fork out even more money is whether the scheme is fundamentally flawed and they're just trying to paper over the cracks.

"The whole thing has been a disastrous implementation, but sadly predictable."

Dave McManus, the council's waste and transport manager, put part of the blame for the past year's problems on a lack of thorough analysis by consultants prior to the launch of the scheme, but added lessons had been learned.

"The analysis by the consultants could have been more stringent at the time of the introduction of the system, but people have to remember that we were pioneering something.

"I'm not sure that there have been mistakes – I prefer to think we have learned from experience.

"Things conspired against us. People might laugh, but the weather was not what we were expecting and so residents put out more garden waste than we predicted - we even had one person who put out 97 bags of garden waste.

"These new measures, which we hope will be approved, will give us even more capacity and flexibility to meet demand."

Christopher Arnold, council cabinet member with responsibility for waste, said: "When the new scheme was introduced it was nowhere near as good as people had hoped, but since then there have been substantial improvements.

"If this proposal gets approval then it will provide extra capacity and move us towards getting the kind of service we all want – and, frankly, expect."

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