OPPOSITION councillors say they are being inundated with complaints about the new refuse collection service as official figures reveal more than 8000 calls have been received about missed bins in the five weeks since it was introduced.
Meanwhile, the Evening News has been passed a report showing how, on a typical day, collections were falling behind because of vehicles being unavailable or breaking down.
The council switched to a new four-day waste collection system on October 8, which included new collection days for many homes.
But complaints about missed collections, which previously averaged 400 a week, rose to 1089 in the first week of the new system, then doubled to 2135 the next week and now seem to be coming down slowly – from 1706 to 1609 and 1567 last week, a total of 8106 since the launch.
Tory councillors said they were being inundated with complaints, many of them about “assisted collections” for elderly or disabled residents who cannot put their bins out and where binmen go into a garden to pick it up.
Alison Weir said she and her husband arranged for her mother-in-law Agnes Weir, 92, to be added to the assisted collection list in the summer.
“She’s a very small lady with arthritic knees. If the bin is full she can’t tip it and push it and we’re not always able to go up and put her bin out for her.”
The arrangement was for the bins to be collected from just inside the gate of her house in Parkgrove Terrace. But since the new system came in, her bins have gone uncollected.
“The service had been recommended to me by a friend. When it started Agnes was quite relieved – it was one thing less to worry about – but then it just fell apart. She didn’t have a collection for five weeks. She was getting really frustrated and quite distressed.”
So Alison stuck a notice on the bin: “I am an assisted bin – please uplift”. She said: “It got lifted, but we don’t know whether it was the notice or because they were told to. We’ll find out on Friday when it’s the recyclables that go out.”
Irene Paterson and Kenneth Murdoch are also listed for assisted collections at their home in Howe Park, Hunter’s Tryst.
“Because we’re disabled they come in and take them from outside the front door,” said Ms Paterson.
“When it changed they have sometimes missed us. They said, ‘We’re new’. But I said, ‘You’ve got an iPad and it tells you which houses you’re meant to do’.”
An internal report from Seafield depot on missed collections for October 30 listed a series of issues, such as: “Route 22 EFW [energy from waste]: Route operating 1 day behind schedule due to no vehicle provision; Route 91 EFW: Portobello, Niddrie, and Grassmarket outstanding due to briefing and vehicle breakdown; Route 63 DMR [dry mixed recycling]: Operated only half the day due to lack of vehicles.”
Tory councillor Jason Rust said: “It’s incredibly disappointing that after lots of talk about improvements to the service and more efficient collections it turns out there are still serious issues. It’s also galling that if it’s down to issues like lack of vehicles or vehicles not being operational that seems a fairly easy fact to identify and to deal with.”
Environment convener Lesley Macinnes said: “With such a complex set of changes to bin collections across the whole city we would expect to see a rise in complaints from the low levels we have been receiving as the new service beds in.
“Our staff are working very hard to reduce the number of missed collections and complaints are now beginning to reduce.
“We fully understand missed collections can be inconvenient and frustrating for householders and I can only apologise.
“I would encourage anyone who has not had their bin collected, especially assisted collections, to let us know.”