Update on Refuse & Recycling Collections

Published: 15 July 2020

You may be aware that over recent weeks refuse and recycling collections in certain parts of the borough have not met the required standard and this has been drawn to my attention by a number of Members. Whilst the majority of bins have been collected on their scheduled days this has not been the case for some. During the early period of the lockdown a number of services were suspended in order to focus on kerbside collections. The services suspended included garden waste collections, new garden waste subscriptions, bulky collections (charged doorstep collection service) and the Saturday Freighter Service.In addition resources were also directed away from Street Cleansing to help staff the prioritised collection services. As the Covid 19 staffing pressures eased for Urbaser all of these services have now been reintroduced with the exception of the Saturday freighter service. Whilst this is a positive step it does mean that outside influences such vehicles breakdowns, tipping issues and increased tonnages can now have a greater effect on kerbside collections.

As highlighted in my previous update on 5 June Covid 19 has had a significant impact and continues to do so specifically on the tonnages collected as residents have adapted their personal and working lives. The latest data for TMBC indicates increased tonnages of between 23%-28% across the varying waste streams and this is mirrored for all local authorities across Kent, as well as nationally. In TMBC increases of up to 40% have been recorded. The increase has an inevitable impact of increasing trips to the tips, resulting in more downtime for the crews and less time during the normal working day to collect bins.

Other issues related to tipping have also impacted on service delivery as early last week repairs were required to a shredder at the Allington incinerator resulting in additional pressures on the site, queues to tip and again downtime for our crews when they were not able to collect. The fire at Dunbrik Transfer Station also resulted in Sevenoaks’ vehicles being diverted to North Farm, further impacting on vehicle movements and tipping delays there. Dunbrik reopened on Monday this week so some of that pressure will ease. Over the past few weeks service has also been impacted by other factors such as vehicle breakdowns and the recent hot weather also required more water breaks for the crews, reducing their working hours in the day.

I am not trying to make excuses for the contractor and there is no doubt that work does need to be done with Urbaser to improve areas such as repeated missed bins and bin returns though it also does need to be recognised that, without question, external issues have had and are still having a negative impact on Urbaser’s ability to deliver the service.

As highlighted above it is still recognised that improvements on service delivery still need to be achieved by Urbaser and this is being raised with Urbaser at the highest level with the respective Partnership Chief Executives meeting the CEO from Urbaser in the coming weeks. Consideration also needs to be given to the continuing issues related to Covid 19, especially around increased tonnages, and whether the levels we are currently seeing may be maintained for the foreseeable future.

Please also be assured that this is not an issue unique to TMBC/Urbaser and I have been advised that other local authorities in Kent are also having issues with non-collections with some still relying on their contractors commercial arms to deliver kerbside collections.

Please continue to direct any reports or complaints to waste.services@tmbc.gov.uk so that they can be recorded and actioned accordingly. Daily updates on collection issues are available at https://www.tmbc.gov.uk/extreme-weather/waste-service-updates


Robert Styles
Director of Street Scene, Leisure & Technical Services
Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council