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Today I've gained an insight into the issues our refuse collectors face when emptying household bins and it's made me realise that my support of fortnightly collections has been misguided.
I stayed overnight at my daughter's. She lives in a mews-style development with parking bays in the middle. Bin lorries can't be driven in so collectors have to drag bins quite a way along narrow pathways for emptying. Thanks to shrubbery, it's difficult to see anything that's lower than waist-height and this morning bins weren't collected along the back where my daughter lives. With fortnightly collections and her bin full of cat litter from an unexpected kindle of kittens, it couldn't go another two weeks, so I grabbed it and wheeled it in search of the bin lorry. What a job! Just tipping the thing was tough enough but to have to manoeuvre it along pathways - some of which were blocked by badly parked cars - was really difficult. It was heavy, too.
In checking neighbours' bins to see if they'd been emptied, I encountered some stuffed so full that the lids wouldn't shut; one had maggots not only inside but crawling around the rim. Today's lesson has made me rethink the whole idea of collection schedules...
With fortnightly collections, bins left out for emptying are often overflowing, potentially smelly, may have maggots and are likely to be heavy. Likewise recycling bins and boxes. These will be packed to the brim with food cartons and drinks cans that may not have been washed properly. Although these are less likely to have maggots, they will attract flies - as well as wasps in Summer.
The extra difficulties encountered by those making fortnightly collections means the round takes a lot longer, the job is more unpleasant and there will be health and hygiene issues - and fly-tipping - when bins are deliberately (and quite rightly, in my opinion) not collected because they're overflowing or too heavy. I can picture the detrimental effect this will have on the operations that follow, such as those carried out at civic amenity tips and recycling centres.
Weekly collections eliminate these problems, but require more fuel and man-hours. I'm sure councils will have carried out analyses of the costs and am interested to learn why some have continued - or reverted to - weekly collections while others are sticking to fortnightly, and others, I believe, still collect only once every three weeks. Does the local environment, politics or staffing come into it, I wonder?
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6th August 2020