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While councils should make it easy to report missed bins, misuse of this service can cost them a lot of money. Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council has reduced missed collections by two-fifths by getting drivers to collect information electronically, allowing the council can challenge those who simply forgot to put bins out. Photo copyright Graham Davies
Pendle Borough Council’s online form for reporting a missed bin collection is five pages long and also asks users for their year of birth, whether they consider themselves disabled and for their relationship status. “Now it’s chatting me up,” said Better Connected reviewer James Coltham. While he said that councils have to check they are serving all parts of their communities, “in this context, it’s kind-of crazy”. http://www.pendle.gov.uk/forms/form/125/en/report_a_missed_rubbish_collection_or_a_problem_with_your_collection
Coltham, speaking at the Better Connected Live event in Birmingham on 24 May, said that Pendle was an extreme case. However, many councils asked more questions than were required for a missed bin collection, such as insisting on both a telephone number and an email address.
Some authorities also force users to register for their website to allow what should be a one-off report. Coltham recommended that registration should be optional, and that sites should explain the benefits in doing so.
But Coltham praised Barnet Council in London, whose site tells users it needs the address of the uncollected bin and provides an estimate of how long the form will take to complete of two minutes. https://barnet.gov.uk/citizen-home/rubbish-waste-and-recycling/forms/report-non-collection.html
While councils should make it easy to report missed bins, misuse of this service can cost them a lot of money. Andrew Bird, recycling strategy and commissioning manager for Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, said his council has reduced missed collections by two-fifths by getting drivers to collect information electronically, meaning the council can challenge those who simply forgot to put bins out.
Bird said that the council has installed in-cab computer systems from Bartec in its waste collection vehicles similar to those used by delivery vans, allowing drivers to report when bins are not available for collection. This data is passed to the council’s customer relationship management system: “When a resident rings to say, ‘you’ve missed my bin’, well according to our driver you haven’t put it out – and by the way, we’ve got 360-degree cameras, so we’ll check,” he says. “We do get a lot of people trying it out.” The data is also useful when people put out the wrong bin or leave excess ‘side waste’ which the council does not take.
Using the system has paid dividends, Bird added. “In the first few months, we’ve had a 40% reduction in missed bins – simply because people don’t tell the truth,” he said. It has also allowed the council to remove more than 200 illegal bins and challenge 150 assisted collections, as drivers can flag up when someone who is entitled to such help appears to be moving out, such as through seeing For Sale signs.
He added that introducing such a system requires a lot of training for drivers, supervisors and customer services staff. It is also important to act on what drivers report, so they can see it is being taken seriously.
Bird also recommended banning supervisors from phoning drivers to ask where they are, as they have done in the past. The new system maps vehicles in real time, allowing supervisors to shorten the round of a slow-running vehicle by getting another nearby one to take over some of its work.
Better Connected missed bin research: https://betterconnected.socitm.net/services/rubbish-and-recycling/report-missed-bin/2015-2016