HOUSEHOLDS are being thanked for their co-operation four months after major changes were introduced to the borough’s waste collection service.
Collection rounds were reorganised, bin days changed and existing service standards more rigorously enforced for the first time in 10 years in February 2017. Charges were also introduced for the doorstep collection of garden waste in April.
The shake-up of the service was driven by the need to increase recycling levels and to make savings as a result of severe cuts in government funding.
In the first few weeks of the changes, bin collection crews were leaving about 7.5 per cent of recycling bins per round because they were contaminated with the wrong items. That figure has now fallen to 1.5 per cent as households have become more familiar what can and cannot be recycled.
The number of enquiries and complaints about waste collections has also fallen from a peak in late February and is now lower than before the changes were introduced.
Despite the success of the new operation there were some issues with fly-tipping, particularly at local bring bank sites and in areas with bagged collections, such as Oxford Road, west Reading.
Two new Environmental Enforcement Officers, brought in to support the waste changes, investigate incidents of fly-tipping and have so far issued 102 Fixed Penalty Notices since February, compared with a total of 12 in 2016/17.
Reading households had enjoyed free collection of green waste since the service started 10 years ago but the Council could no longer afford to provide a free service and introduced charges in April.
About 16,700 residents took advantage of the service prior to charging and the Council was anticipating a drop-out rate of between 25 per cent – 50 per cent when charges were introduced, based on the experience of other councils.
However, the number of subscribers is currently 14,000 with about 50 new enquiries coming in every week. About 1,000 subscribers are new customers who had not previously used the free collection service.
Councillor Liz Terry, Lead Member for Neighbourhoods, said:
“I would like to thank residents for responding so well to the changes which were made to waste collection services in February.
“Of course, there were some initial teething problems and a period of disturbance but I am glad to see this has settled down well and most people have got used to the new ways of working. I am also delighted so many residents have signed up to the green waste collection service.
“As well as making essential budget savings, this exercise was about increasing recycling levels in Reading.
“Previously, full loads of recycling had to be sent to landfill because the wrong items had been put in red bins. I hope the efforts of households and our waste collection crews will now result in recycling rates going up and the amount of rubbish going to expensive landfill going down.”
The report on Waste Collection Service Changes and Chargeable Green Waste Collections will be discussed at the Housing, Neighbourhoods and Leisure Committee on Wednesday 5th July and is available at: http://www.reading.gov.uk/article/10564/Housing-Neighbourhoods-and-Leisure-Committee-5-JULY-2017