Birmingham aims for wheeled bin recycling boost

21 June 2013

Nearly 16,000 Birmingham households are having old recycling boxes collected by the city council and replaced by wheeled bins as part of a pilot scheme to cut costs and drive up recycling rates in the city.

The scheme is part of council plans to introduce wheeled bins for both recycling and residual waste across the city over the next two years. At present, 82% of local authorities in the country already use wheeled bins and Birmingham is the last major city which does not currently do so.

The new wheeled bins with inner 'pod' for paper being introduced in Birmingham (photo: John O'Shea)
The new wheeled bins with inner 'pod' for paper being introduced in Birmingham (photo: John O'Shea)

Two wards in the city – Harborne and Brandwood – are taking part in the pilot. Householders are being delivered 240-litre wheeled bins for recycling which will continue to be collected on a fortnightly basis. This will replace the old system of blue and green recycling boxes.

As before, paper and card will be collected separately from other recyclable materials and sent for processing at Smurfit Kappa’s nearby paper recycling mill, as the wheeled bins include a 55-litre removable ‘pod’ for paper.

The remainder of the bin capacity will take glass, cans and plastic bottles which will continue to be sent for sorting at Veolia Environmental Services’ materials recycling facility (MRF) at Four Ashes.

A further 180-litre wheeled bin for weekly residual waste collections will also be delivered to householders to replace black sacks.

According to Birmingham city council –the biggest local authority in England – the wheeled bins will help drive up recycling rates as they have more capacity than the current box and bag system and will also prevent residual waste bin bags from being torn and contents spilling onto the streets.

Residents in Harborne are having the wheeled bins delivered this week, with weekly collections using these bins due to start in the week beginning June 24. Old dustbins and recycling boxes in the ward are due to be collected by the council on July 6.

Meanwhile, collections using wheeled bins have already started in Brandwood, which according to the council has been “extremely successful”, with old recycling boxes and dustbins due to be collected and recycled in this area on June 22.

Funding

To help fund the roll-out of the wheeled bins and ‘support’ weekly collections in the city, the council was awarded £30 million in November 2012 from the government’s Weekly Collection Support Scheme (see letsrecycle.com story).

Alongside paying for the bins, the funding is intended to enable Birmingham to increase recycling collection frequency from fortnightly to weekly for a quarter of the city and to introduce a recycling incentive scheme (see letsrecycle.com story).

'Our current system is just not affordable and if we adopt a ‘do nothing’ approach there will be an £8 million funding shortfall in the next few years'

Birmingham city council

The wheeled bin pilots in Harborne and Brandwood will be evaluated together with the results from a public consultation, before determining the timing and nature of a full roll-out programme across the city.

As part of the council’s plans, from February 2014 it will also introduce an optional green waste collection service. Residents wishing to take up the service will have to pay an annual £35 charge in advance for a 240-litre wheeled bin. Green waste is currently collected fortnightly in clear sacks free of charge.

Costs

According to the council, managing waste in the city currently costs £60 million a year. The recycling service changes are intended to reduce costs and increase income by driving up recycling.

Recycling rates in Birmingham currently stand at just 25%, while the the city produces more waste per household than any other large city in the country.

A spokesman for Birmingham city council said: “We think it will improve recycling rates as research from other local authorities suggests that introducing wheeled bins brings an upsurge in recycling. It will also divert more waste from landfill as the cost of landfill tax continues to escalate.

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Birmingham city council

“Our current system is just not affordable and if we adopt a ‘do nothing’ approach there will be an £8 million funding shortfall in the next few years. In granting the council £30 million funding last year, communities secretary Eric Pickles supported the strong business case we put forward for the changes.”

Outlining the wheeled bin plans on the city council website, councillor James Mckay, portfolio holder for green safe and smart city, said: “With the government money, we can now invest in millions of pounds of vital new infrastructure, and modern lorries, providing an efficient, modernised service we can actually afford.”

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