Missed bin collections on rise in Borders, council admits

Councillor Davie Paterson believes inconsiderate parking is to blame for many missed bin collections.
Councillor Davie Paterson believes inconsiderate parking is to blame for many missed bin collections.

Council chiefs have owned up to missing more than 2,000 bin collections a year across the Borders.

Figures released in response to a freedom-of-information request found that over the last five years, Scottish Borders Council bin crews have failed to empty more than 11,000 bins at around 50,000 addresses.

On top of that, the number of bins missed each year is rising.

In 2014, 1,803 bins collections were missed. That number rose to 2,173 last year, and so far this year, 2,758 bins have already been missed.

Opposition councillors have lined up to criticise that performance, particularly in the wake of claims that the council is considering moving to three-weekly bin collections when its next budget is proposed in February.

Hawick and Denholm councillor Clair Ramage said: “Bin collection is a very emotive subject and, as councillors, we receive many complaints over this very issue.

“To see that there has been a rise in the number of missed bin collections is extremely alarming, and it has to be investigated as a matter of urgency, but this is only the tip of the iceberg.

“In the last month, we have been informed that the council is considering tri-weekly uplifts, a change that I am completely opposed to.

“At the moment, the council is struggling as we have seen householders use their recycling bins for general waste when their general waste bins are full.

“This creates other problems as the recycling vehicles are then contaminated with general waste and have to pay penalties to the processing company.

“If bi-weekly lifts are not working, then tri weekly lifts will create even more problems – for example, fly-tipping.

“I realise that budgets are tight, but the combination of missed bin collections resulting in rubbish spilling over, encouraging vermin, is not something that as a community we should accept.”

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer added: “I am regularly receiving complaints from constituents who find their bins still full on the pavement after the collection date.

“While there will always be occasions when the council have no control over the situation, the figures being produced certainly challenge the current collection policy.

“Can you imagine the problems this would cause if three-weekly collection was to be introduced?

“I, for one, will not support such a move and would ask the council to explain to council tax payers why this problem exists and what they are doing to resolve it.”

Fellow Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson added: “The most likely scenario is when someone parks in a precarious fashion, making it virtually impossible for the vehicle to gain access to a particular street. Because of that, they have to go back and collect the rubbish on a different day.

“I have asked officers to issue letters, and that has been done in areas that have been guilty in the past of preventing cleansing vehicles gaining access.”

Tweeddale East councillor Stuart Bell said: “There has been a gradual introduction of food waste collections into the larger communities in the last few years, so the number of total collections may have increased at the same time as the number of missed collections has increased, but I am concerned to see the detail of missed bin collections.

“I had expected, and can see, that the number of missed collections is higher in the winter months when the teams can have difficulty getting round in the snow, but it is worrying that the level of missed collections never drops below 100 in any one month.

“The public needs to know that there is a very easy mechanism for reporting missed collections on the council’s website and, in my experience, refuse and recycling staff do follow-up on issues if there is a systematic cause.”

A spokesperson for the council said that the number of bins left unemptied each year is actually very small compared to the number dealt with.

The authority’s waste management service says it empties around 4.3m bins each year, meaning the proportion missed bins is less than 0.5%.

The spokesperson said: “The number of missed bin collections over the last five years will be dependent on a number of factors including the provision of a new weekly food waste service to around 27,000 households in 2015, access issues due to obstruction and road closures, vehicle breakdowns, adverse weather, service error, an increase in the number of new homes bins are collected from each year and bins not being presented by householders by 7am on scheduled collection days and incorrectly reported as missed.

“It is not possible to determine the exact cause of any increase in missed collections, but the increasingly challenging winters experienced across the Borders will be having an impact.

“That was the case this year, when the extreme winter conditions experienced in January, February and March caused significant disruption, with three full days when collections were unable to be carried out across the Borders.

“Householders reporting a missed collection over this period will have contributed significantly to the increase this year.”

According to data collected by the local government benchmarking framework, 78.9% of Borderers are satisfied with their refuse collection. That’s below the Scottish average of 81.7% and is the second lowest of the rural and island councils that Scottish Borders Council is classed among.

The council spends £86.90 per premises on waste disposal, below the Scottish average of £98.90.