Laid to waste

Concerns are growing that there is no plan over how some of the most densely populated streets in Southend will be served with weeks to go before a new waste contract is awarded.

Southend City Council is currently negotiating with bidders for a new waste contract due to start in April 2025, when the current contract with Veolia runs out.

It will see rubbish in wheelie bins collected fortnightly, with three bins for rubbish, general recycling like paper, plastics and glass and another for paper and card. In addition there will be a food waste collection and a paid garden rubbish bin collection.

But concerns have been raised that Southend has some of the most densely populated streets, particularly in Westborough.

Many of those roads are narrow and in some cases have a mix of properties that could require different collection methods.

This could mean multiple trips for bin lorries with the potential to cause traffic hold-ups during the morning rush hour.

As of yet, no surveys have been carried out to assess the requirements of these roads and with time running out until the contract is awarded between July and September, the administration has said it will be down to the new contractor to assess the needs of each road in the city.

Despite the concerns, the council’s administration has inisted the primary goal of the new waste contract is to increase recycling rates across the borough.

Daniel Cowan, leader of the Labour Group, said: “There is no plan. That’s what is so concerning. The response at the moment seems to be the contractor will work that out but once we’ve awarded the contract, asking the contractor to work stuff out after the fact may end up with them saying ‘this is how it’s going to be done within the funding you are providing’ so it may be a case that we have to like it or lump it.

“Right now, we need to be doing a desktop exercise to ascertain using our local knowledge exactly which properties could host wheelie bins.

“We need to look at which properties have multiple flats in them because we still don’t have a policy decision on what will happen if there has been a house that could have wheelie bins out the front but it’s been converted into three flats. Are we going to have three sets of bins?”

“Where we have a significant level of variables where say 25 per cent of the street has a different collection regime than the rest we need to simplify it as much as possible and that may mean we have to stick with sack collection.”

“We’ve been warning it could lead to us having four or five tiers of waste collection and a that point you have to ask where the actual savings are coming from.

“The council should be doing as much of this work as possible rather than the contractor making it up on the hoof.”

Down to the nitty gritty

With just a year to go before a new waste operator takes over the council’s biggest contract what changes will residents see?

What about people living in flats?

Flats and other properties which are deemed to not have enough space to accommodate bins will have an alternative service.

Flats will continue to receive communal bin facilities which will continue to be emptied weekly or “as demand requires”.

Properties that do not have suitable space to accommodate wheeled bins will receive a special kerbside Recycling and Waste collection service. This will be an alternative method, likely from sacks collected either on a weekly or fortnightly basis.

To restrict the number of waste sacks put out by residents the council is proposing to supply Southend Council branded bags, with a limit of three bags permitted to be put out per collection.

Residents who are eligible for sack collection will continue to receive deliveries of pink sacks every six months and they can be ordered online or picked up at libraries.

Which homes will be eligible for the new wheelie bins?

Properties will be assessed for their suitability by the new waste contractor once the contract is awarded.

The assessment will take place before the new service is rolled out, and each household will be informed of the decision in advance by letter.

There will be an appeal process in which a household may contact the council to challenge the decision taken.

Householders will be required to confirm how they do not meet the criteria for an appeal to be considered.

  • Exemptions will be available:
    If there is inadequate space to store wheeled bins anywhere within the boundary of the property.
  • The bins would cause an obstruction to the immediate entrance to the property.
  • If it is very difficult or hazardous to move the wheeled bin from the storage point to the collection point.
  • If crews have to wheel the wheeled bin more than 50 metres.
  • Householders will be exempt from presenting a bin at the collection point where they are able to demonstrate that they are unable to do so.

What about big families

Families of six or more, families with two or more children in nappies or where there is a medical need will be eligible for larger or additional bins.

Bins will be 180 litres or 240 litres, with large families able to either able to have the larger bin or two smaller bins.

Will the council make the tight deadline to implement the contract?

The contract with Veolia ended last year but was extended as a bid to find a new contractor suffered delay after delay.

Speaking at a recent council meeting, Meg Davidson, councillor responsible for environment said time was running out to conclude the process. She said: “My focus has been very much on that we need to secure a new waste contract and time is off the essence.

We are really up against it.

All the delays that that have occurred over the last 18 months mean we are on a very tight deadline.

“There are certainly lessons to be learnt where there were errors of omission in the process since the original cabinet decision in June 2022 and even earlier than that but what we really need to focus our attention on now is to make this work. We recognise it is a huge change for the residents and we need to work really hard to make that transition, working hand in hand with whoever takes on the contract to inform residents and listen to their concerns and help them to move into this new arrangement.”

Recycling at the forefront

Recycling will be at the heart of the new waste contract, a councillor who is leading the bid has said.

Meg Davidson, councillor responsible for the environment, said although specific details cannot be released at this stage, “the principle is to improve environmental outcomes and enable more recycling”.

Cllr Davidson said: “Households that have the space will be provided with wheeled bins and a food waste caddy.

“With bidders, the council is looking at all residential properties across the city, including the densely populated central wards. Large areas of the city are expected to be suitable for an enhanced recycling service including wheeled bins.

“Once the procurement process has ended, further refinement will take into account individual needs, including housing density, one-way streets, schools, hospitals and heavily parked roads, for example.”

Cllr Davidson added: “The service will be delivered by recycling and waste contractors who are experts in this field with extensive experience of providing this type of service in local authority areas across the country.

“It is important that Southend’s specific requirements are met, whilst at the same time recognising that there are also similarities we share with other densely populated areas where similar services have been successful. It is important that an equitable service is provided which ensures recycling and waste reduction is prioritised.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter