A statement from Bill Handley of South Cambridgeshire District Council
When we suspended the Green Waste Service, we announced that we hoped to be able to reintroduce it on 4th May. I’m pleased to be able to say that we are going to do that, albeit in a phased way, initially starting with a monthly service.
The original decision to suspend the service was an urgent one, taken through necessity. The number of absent staff due to sickness and self-isolation meant we could not cover all of the normal rounds. Although staff numbers have returned to near normal the other reason for the change – the need for social isolation – is still affecting operations. The cabs of our refuse collection vehicles are over 2 metres wide but with a normal crew of a driver and two loaders, this means that we cannot not meet the national 2 metre social distancing guidance. Unlike some other authorities, we decided to put the health of our workforce first and reduced the compliment to a driver plus one loader, which means that the 2-metre social distancing can be maintained. It also means that more vehicles and crews are needed on any collection route. While the social-distancing guidance is still in place, we will therefore not be able to re-establish the full fortnightly service because we do not have the vehicles or the crews to do it.
So, what do we plan to do?
It’s easy, I hear people say; collect green bins from half of the villages on the first fortnightly collection and the other half on the next. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. The waste collection service is a complex logistical operation which depends a on a number of factors, including how full and heavy each bin is (on average) and how long it takes for the vehicle to get to and from the recycling plant. A vehicle may be able to collect all of the green waste from a village on one occasion and only a fraction of it on the next, making planning difficult. If a vehicle has to travel from the depot to the furthest village in the district, it may only be able to collect one load in a shift, whereas closer to the depot, it can do more.
The way that the Waste Service managers plan to tackle this is to give a monthly guaranteed collection to every property but in the hope that they can do more. Some residents will be asked to put their green bins out with the blue bins every fortnight, but they will not always be emptied – it depends how far into the round the vehicles and crews get. This is clearly not an ideal situation, but we feel that it the only way to reintroduce the service in any form with the only alternative being worse – to offer no green waste collection at all until the Covid-19 crisis is over.
Although some people will resent the inconvenience and some will continue to try to score political points, we hope that most will accept it as a necessary compromise to get the service going again whilst keeping our crews as safe as we possibly can.
We will be mounting a big communications campaign to get the message out. We will advertise it via parish council notices, on our website, in the Cambridge News and Cambridge Independent, on radio, television and social media. Despite this, we know that the message will not get to everyone; even the relatively minor changes around a bank-holiday lead to confusion for some people.
We hope that residents will help to get the message out, for example, people who have access to the internet telling neighbours. Volunteer groups could play an important role in helping us too and we will be contacting them in due course.
We hope that if people help us to make this work and accept the necessary inconvenience, we can make this work.
Watch this space.
South Cambs Lead member for Environmental Services and Licensing.