Residents in Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire are being asked to put their green bins out on their normal days from Monday 4 May as part of a phased reintroduction of garden waste collections.
Households would usually have two green bin collections between 4 and 30 May but, due to the impact of national social distancing measures, only one collection will be guaranteed. Crews will try to empty more bins on each occasion if they can.
For clarity, households can check their online bin collection calendar to find out their guaranteed green bin collection date. In addition, Greater Cambridge Shared Waste Service crews may be able to collect some green bins more frequently than this - when there are enough staff and vehicles. Putting your green bin out with your blue bin every fortnight will mean it is available for them to empty if they are able to.
The national social distancing measures outlined for waste collection services mean that each collection vehicle currently has a driver and only one loader (the crew member who loads the bins onto the lorry), rather than the usual driver plus two loaders. This is in order to ensure enough space is left between staff when travelling, which means what would normally be one week's work could be spread across two weeks.
Councils in other parts the country are making similar arrangements for their green waste collections as the recycling and waste industry deals with the impacts of this global health emergency.
The decision to suspend green bin collections in March was taken to ensure black bin (general rubbish) and blue bin (recycling) collections could be maintained despite crew members becoming ill or needing to isolate. At one point, around a third of operatives at the Shared Waste Service were absent for one of these reasons.
While the service runs with only one loader per truck, in line with Government guidance on avoiding spreading the virus, it takes longer and is much more physically demanding to complete each round.
Although crews will do their best to collect as many green bins as possible during the first fortnight, only half of residents will have a guaranteed collection in these first two weeks of May. As well as finding out when their scheduled collection is via the councils’ websites, residents will be able to report any accidentally missed bins online, on their guaranteed collection date, as usual. It will not be possible to report a missed green bin collection on non-guaranteed days. Residents are being asked to continue home composting as much of their garden waste as possible until collections return to normal.
Cllr Bill Handley, Lead Cabinet Member for Environmental Services and Licensing at South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “Most residents have been very supportive in the last few difficult weeks, sending messages and pictures of thanks and this is very much appreciated. We are very pleased to be able to reintroduce the green waste collection service, albeit in a phased way and we hope residents will remain patient while the service ‘beds in’ again. Our crews will be working flat-out to catch up and it would be a big help if residents could avoid the temptation to over-fill their green bins or maybe even wait a little bit longer before they put them out for collection. I suggest that residents continue to put food waste into their black bins for the next few weeks, until we are again able to guarantee a fortnightly green bin collection for everyone.”
Cllr Rosy Moore, Executive Councillor for Climate Change, Environment and City Centre at Cambridge City Council, said: "I would really like to thank all of our waste crews for their continued hard work throughout this difficult time and also thank residents for their understanding of the changes to their service without the normal information campaign. We have made these changes to ensure the safety of our staff so it is really positive that we are now able to bring back a green bin collection whilst continuing social distancing measures. We are confident that going forward we can maintain, at a minimum, a monthly green bin collection. This also means that as soon as the social distancing restrictions are lifted we will be ready to return to our normal fortnightly collection using one driver with two loaders. Please watch this space, check our websites and sign up for our online portal for the latest information.”
Kevin Roberts, Branch Secretary for the Cambridge 2 Branch of the GMB, said: “During the COVID-19 emergency we have worked closely with the Greater Cambridge Shared Waste Service to ensure that our members in the workplace have everything in place to ensure they remain safe and informed at work. Greater Cambridge Shared Waste Service have consistently communicated with us and have supported the national published guidance by Waste Industry Safety And Health Forum and Public Health England to ensure their staff are socially distanced and provided with all the necessary additional PPE as well as adjusting working arrangements.
“We support all the efforts that our members are putting in to support the new driver plus one loader arrangements and the management team continue to work with us to support the return of the green collections on 4 May by upholding their existing safety measures.”
Gordon White, GMB Regional Organiser, said: “This is a great example of union and employer partnership where an employer puts health and safety standards for its staff to the forefront whilst also managing to maintain an excellent service provision to its residents and customers, and we hope that other employers follow the same collaborative model.”
For information about bin collection services or to find your usual collection date visit www.cambridge.gov.uk/recycling or www.scambs.gov.uk/recycling, where you can also find answers to Frequently Asked Questions related to green bin collections. These include information on how to help avoid spreading Coronavirus via your bins; how to store your green bin to avoid pests if it contains food waste; how to set up a home composter; and why the green bin collections were suspended as opposed to the blue or black bin collections. These services remain unaffected and residents should continue to put their black and blue bins out as normal.
The Greater Cambridge Shared Waste Service is a partnership between Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District Councils.