THE introduction of Opotiki’s new kerbside collection has not been smooth sailing for residents with many expressing concerns and seeking answers from Opotiki District Council.
Irene Cameron said the contractor had refused to pick up hers and a neighbouring Church Street businesses’ cardboard bins, deeming the quantity of cardboard to be “commercial”.
When the other business owner called the council, she was patched through to the contractor who said “they would not pick it up because they were a business”.
Mrs Cameron said they had both refrained from putting their cardboard bin out for the previous collection because it was raining.
They had wanted to make the contractors work easier by not having them pick up soggy cardboard.
“But why bother if you’re punishment is not to be collected the next time,” she said.
Mrs Cameron said she had tried to find out if there were different rules applying to businesses and residential addresses, even though the bin sizes were the same.
“I have checked as many spots on the council website as I could and there doesn’t seem to be a separate set of rules for refuse collection for the commercial businesses in town,” she said.
Mrs Cameron also said she worried that the plastic bins would break from exposure to the weather and handling.
“I spoke to the people who delivered them,” she said. “The contractors said the bins were breaking already, and that they weren’t being harsh in handling them.”
Asking the hard questions
Opotiki District Council engineering and services group manager Ari Erickson answers questions related to the new kerbside rubbish collection system.
Q. Where have these bins been tested before?
A. The Matiussi Easy Trolley bins have been used extensively in Europe in particular Portugal for refuse and recycling collection. Matiussi, the Italian manufacturer, guarantee their products fit for purpose and has successful product deployments for various municipalities. They even have a Scotland partnership award for a sister product used for Aberdeen City Council.
Q. What tests have been conducted to establish how the frail-looking bins will cope with handling, rain and sunshine?
A. Aside from the manufacturer guarantees and test reports, the bins were stress tested by council staff – we twisted the handles and lids and put pressure on them until they broke. They are not industrial strength but they did take a good amount of force to cause breaks. The hinge in the lid was the weakest point, but again, needed to be twisted in a particular way under force. One thing we don’t recommend is using the lid to squash waste down.
Q. How many bins have been delivered overall?
A. Approximately 1900 at last count at the end of July with a couple of hundred left to go, generally those non-full-time residents, which we expect to come during the Christmas period. The roll-out went well and most people had no issue getting their bins delivered or picked up.
Q. What checks are in place to ensure the contractor does not break the bins, but treats them carefully and places them upright from where they were put by the resident?
A. We’ve had cameras installed on the collection vehicles making sure that due care and tidiness is adhered to as well as to enable health and safety audit.
Initially we had good performance in this regard from our contractors but have observed a reduction in the level of service over the weeks. We have raised this issue with them and will continue to work through that with the contractor.
Since the first collection on July 3, we have had about a dozen users come in with broken bins, the majority of which have been minor chips and cracks in the lids generally caused from trying to squash waste down.
Q. Is there a difference between how much a residential address and a business address can deposit in their bin, of say, cardboard?
A. No. It is the same amount. Each address is allocated rubbish and recycling bins and pay the same amount in their rates. So if they are a small business that only creates as much waste as an average household, they are entitled to use it. But if the business has more waste than can fit into the bins and crates, then they must deal with the extra themselves.
The collection capacity is based on the waste created by the average household, which is 2.7 people in Opotiki township. Obviously, some businesses and large households create more waste but unfortunately, if capacity was increased, it would result in the small households subsidising the large.
The only alternative to this method is to allocate large bins to large households and businesses and set them on a separate targeted rate. However, this causes numerous complications for things like renters moving address and requiring a rate change and the collection methodology would need to switch to mechanised instead of manual pick-up.
That is a significant cost increase. The additional cost to move to large bins can’t be understated. Worksafe requires big bins to be lifted mechanically and I’m sure you can imagine how much slower the trucks with the mechanical arms move in comparison to the work teams. Slower is much more costly.
Q. When a resident complains that their bin has not been emptied, is it correct procedure that the resident is switched through to speak to the contractor?
A. No it isn’t. Council staff should relay the service request to the contractor. If their refuse bin or recycling crate is not emptied and they have not received a note from our contractor, either inside their bin or in their letterbox, to say why it was not emptied, then we ask them to contact the council from 4pm on collection day to investigate. The Opotiki District Council asks that waste is kept out for collection until 4pm, as the new method, combined with new Worksafe regulations, means it is taking longer than previously to finish the collection.
Q. Is there a register kept of complaints regarding the handling of bins and performance of the contractor?
A. Yes. All complaints council receives are entered in our customer contact centre. We also report on this in our non-financial key performance measures in our long-term plan.
Q. How will ODC monitor the performance of the contractor?
A. We periodically observe collection and can upload video records for review if problems are reported or occur. We also monitor the number of service requests related to specific aspects of the contractors’ performance.
Q. How will ODC determine if the contractor or the resident is at fault when a bin is damaged?
A. There are cameras on the collection vehicles which should make it clear if the contractor damages a bin during operations.
Q. What component of rates is the cost of the bins?
A. They are only a small percentage. The big drivers are the collection costs and the costs to transport and dispose at landfill. Recyclables, except for aluminium, do not offset the cost of processing and transport when sold to market.
Even aluminium only provides a minimal return which is used to offset rates.