On Monday (4 March 2019) I got the chance to spend some time with the team that collects Cottingley’s black bins. I was really impressed with how hard they work, how quickly they get round and their ‘can-do’ attitude.
I arrive keen and ready to go at the end of Cottingley Approach, just after 7am the team leader arrives and gives me an overview of the route, and the different types of collection, he also explains that the usual driver has called in sick, so an replacement driver has been arranged, hence them running a little bit late.
When they arrive, the speed of their work is remarkable! They are consistently moving two wheelie bins at once and directing them directly onto the back of the wagon, which has a sensor and automatically lifts when the wheelie bin is in place (unfortunately they won’t let me have a go at the back of the wagon). We move up the road very quickly.
I’d asked to visit the Cottingley bin round to see how the bin collections work where there are no wheelie bins, usually because there are steps between the front door and the road and residents have had issues with rubbish not being collected (as raised at a local action day back in November). As we go up Cottingley Approach, every now and then, one of the lads would call to me and we’d dash up a path and get some bin bags out of someone’s bin cupboard – this knowledge of the route was essential.
We were quickly at the Beechcrofts, and the driver negotiated the wagon up the small close with what seemed to me like remarkable ease!
It wasn’t until the top of the Approach did the real bag collections get going, collecting from a number of houses and piling them up in one place, which is really heavy work! Not only have you got a number of bags, you are worried that they might break open, which would cause a mess, you also want to limit your trips as the amount of time to do the round is limited. Once the wagon caught up, it was a matter of throwing these bin bags into the back of the lorry.
The bin bag collections cause a particular challenge, and shows to me one of the challenges of the layout of the estate. Some bags are not tied up, some seem to be about to split and one or two bin cupboards are in a pretty poor state, with rubbish seemingly left to fester in the cupboard not bagged up at all. The team collect the bags they can and move on. A good number of the houses have left their bin bags out from the night before, probably with the best intentions, but the team leader explains to me that sometimes a fox or a cat gets to the bag overnight and makes a mess.
Next, to the sheltered accommodation, but the code had been changed and the team didn’t know! After a few minutes someone lets us in, and there bins are collected from the ground floor, 1st floor and 2nd floor (using the lift)!
The team splits up and the wagon with a couple of lads goes around the estate while one of the lads goes the other way to accumulate more bags – I go with him. It goes on like this.
I know there are frustrations with the community that not all bags are collected, or that a bag has split and there is a mess on the road. I recognise these challenges, but also think we need to be more mindful of the bin men when we’re putting out our rubbish. This means ensuring bin bags are not overly full and tied at the top so rubbish doesn’t fall out. It also means only leaving rubbish at the right time and in right location. Rubbish left at other times is fly tipping and you can report it here: www.leeds.gov.uk/residents/environmental-health/flytipping-and-waste-issues
Talking to the team, they recognise that they do, sometimes, miss a house which they should have collected from and that the route is one that really needs to be learnt through experience, so having a stable team is critical to minimising the number of houses missed.
Going forward, I’ll be looking at ways of ensuring any residual waste left, due to broken bags or missed collections, is picked up and processes to ensure the bin men get access codes when they are changed.
Another common issue, not just in Cottingley, is around access for the wagons. Leeds City Council is currently planning to update its fleet and from September, the new wagons will have a narrower wheel base (so as to improve access). They will also have cleaner engines.
I would welcome any other suggestions, particularly from those who live in Cottingley. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
This post was written by Councillor Andrew Scopes (Beeston & Holbeck)
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