City’s missed bin collection blackspots revealed

Rannoch Grove residents complained the most about rubbish not being picked up by bin men. Picture: Toby Williams
Rannoch Grove residents complained the most about rubbish not being picked up by bin men. Picture: Toby Williams
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THE neglected streets most often missed by bin men have been revealed today in a new league table.

The top 20 residential roads for missed refuse collections are dotted around the city.

But the streets with the most complaints about forgotten bins are Rannoch Grove in Clermiston – which has just 49 homes, but recorded 47 complaints between April last year and the middle of last month – and Nile Grove in Morningside, where residents went ten weeks without a regular bin collection while their road was being resurfaced.

“We had the road completely stripped down to the mud and there was trouble,” said resident Peter Rankin.

“They were working in the street for two lots of five weeks, and people were complaining then.”

The council received a total of 24,563 complaints about missed collections over the last 12 months.

Frustrated residents claimed that over the past year-and-a-half, fortnightly collections were regularly missed, with overflowing bins left full of rubbish for as much as six weeks by bin men who “can’t be bothered”. Rannoch Grove resident Jill Jackson said: “In the past 18 months, they’ve missed at least seven collections. We’ve had to contact the council to complain regularly, but last week the garden waste wasn’t collected and the food waste has been there for over a week.

“Because it’s on a hill, the lorry has to reverse around a corner at the top, so I think they would rather leave it and hope that someone else gets sent out.”

Ms Jackson claimed that when a council official came out to the street to investigate, he admitted to her: “It’s just because they are lazy.”

The period includes the controversial switchover to fortnightly collections, when complaints were running at 72 a day – but council chiefs insist the system has now settled down.

The street-by-street breakdown was revealed after Tory environment spokeswoman Joanna Mowat asked for the data on how often bins were left uncollected across the city.

She said: “Our concern was we were getting a lot of repeat complaints. It’s not acceptable there should be some streets which are missing out on collections again and again.

“There are lots of streets where there have been 20, 30, 40 or more complaints about missed collections.

“The figures are not detailed enough to show if it’s the same houses being missed. But if somewhere is not having bins picked up 30 times, that’s potentially every collection that’s being missed because they are only every fortnight.”

Councillor Mowat said the figures fitted with a picture of missed collections in certain areas. She said: “These figures show in general the service is performing well, but there are still pockets where it is not.”

Drumbrae Liberal Democrat councillor Robert Aldridge said he knew there had been particular difficulties in Rannoch Grove and some other streets in the ward. He said at the time of the move to fortnightly collections there had been a flood of complaints, but now the system seemed to work well.

“There are still a few hot spots, but supervisors are now double checking when there are repeat complaints,” he said.

The statistics from April 2013 up until mid-May this year show there were complaints from 3253 streets across the city, with 1913 streets reporting general waste wheelie bins being missed, 1537 reported missed food waste collections, 2005 missed garden waste collections, 1056 missed blue and red box recycling collections, and 192 missed black sack collections.

In addition, 991 streets recorded missed communal on-street bin collections, including 69 over food waste bins, 374 over packaging recycling bins and 808 over general waste giant wheelie bins.

The council pointed out that though it can record the number of complaints received, there is no accurate record of how many bins were missed.

Environment convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said she had ordered action to address the problem of streets being repeatedly missed on collections. She said: “There were a number of streets where people were continually e-mailing me or other councillors on a regular basis.

“Sometimes the roads are difficult to access or there are particular problems. I wanted to target these places, get officials to go and speak to the crews, and get it resolved instead of just going to pick up the bins and then waiting for it to happen again.”

She said a new £790,000 tracking system which will put a tablet computer in the cab of every bin lorry should also help to sort out the problem.

The device allows routes to be viewed on a map or by a list of properties. The crew will tick off each street as it is completed and record any issues such as overflowing bins, uncollected side waste or being unable to access the area.

The details will be automatically updated on the system so a customer calling the contact centre can be given real-time information on what is happening with their collection.

The council said the system would pay for itself, with projected savings of up to £2.6 million over five years.

The move from weekly to fortnightly bin collections, introduced in late 2012 and accompanied by a reorganisation of routes and crews, sparked a massive controversy.

The council was accused of being unreasonable in refusing to take bins whose lids were slightly ajar. And there was a row over the policy of not picking up surplus bin bags left next to wheelie bins.

Cllr Hinds said there were still some areas experiencing problems, but mostly the new system had now been accepted.

She said: “I’m not saying it’s perfect, but I think it has bedded down.”

‘You’ve got to keep an eye on the bin men’

RANNOCH Grove, a Clermiston cul-de-sac on the western slope of Corstorphine Hill, looks like a appealing place to live. Children play in open front gardens that have superb views of the Almond Valley – but there is one problem.

Because the curving, sloping street presents a challenge to the bin lorry driver, residents claim that on a regular basis, they just don’t bother coming up the street at all.

Over the past 18 months, seven collections have been missed at one address alone, according to local resident, Jill Jackson.

“I think they would rather leave it and hope that someone else gets sent out later,” she said.

Repeated complaints have brought out a council employee to investigate.

Ms Jackson claims he told her: “It’s because they’re lazy.”

That hasn’t fixed the problem, though: the most recent food and garden waste collections have both been missed.

The situation is worse for residents at the top of Rannoch Grove, who claim they are forgotten most often.

“My husband is constantly on the phone to the council,” said one resident, who asked not to be named. “If there’s anything parked at the bottom of the road, they won’t come up. Some of them are good, some of them can’t be bothered.”

Even when the bin men do arrive at Rannoch Grove, they still cut corners, neighbours claim. Marjorie Williamson said: “Quite often they’ll look in the bin to see if it’s completely full, and if it isn’t, they won’t take it away. By the time they come back for it a fortnight later, it’s overflowing. You’ve really got to keep an eye on them to make sure they actually pick up the bins.”

The situation has residents taking matters into their own hands in creative ways. One resident said she no longer bothers putting out recycling, taking it to a nearby Tesco sorting point instead.

James Milne says the street has experienced flytipping problems, and that neighbours will furtively stash their trash in his bin. “It’s OK for me because I live alone, so I don’t fill up the bin as much, but then other people on the street are toiling and come and put their rubbish in without asking.”