At a meeting with councillors, Biffa management outlined steps already taken and further actions to improve waste collections.
Biffa experienced an unprecedented 32 percent employee turnover in the 12 months to July. There is a national shortage of qualified HGV drivers and loaders. Refuse crews have been leaving for better paid jobs elsewhere. Replacement crews have been hard to recruit, and inexperienced replacements have led to longer collection times and missed collections.
Maintaining vehicles and crews
Many of the current vehicles are getting older and more prone to breakdowns. Global supply chain problems have made repair and replacement much harder. Available replacements are often less suitable, making the collections less efficient and delays longer.
Crews are working longer as a result. They walk an average of 32,000 steps a day – or roughly 12 miles. Shifts are starting before 7am and not finishing until 5pm. The summer heatwaves have made matters worse. The crews are fatigued before they start.
Biffa has spent more than £600,000 on agency staff and £169,000 on replacement vehicle hire to help fill the gaps.
The Epping Forest district contract has now been included in the national pay awards agreed by Biffa and the GMB union. Drivers and crews can look forward to substantial pay awards which should help to stabilise turnover and retain experience.
A new Biffa management team has come in to run the contract. A brand new unbudgeted 26 tonne recycling collection vehicle has been added to the fleet. Biffa is working to speed up repairs and maintenance on older vehicles.
Residents can help
Refuse collection is a tough and dirty job. Your help increases the efficiency of our crews and speeds up collections.
The further the crews walk, the longer it takes to collect your waste. Position waste as close to the road as you safely can. Point bin handles in the direction of the road. One bin only takes a second to spin around but our crews collect around 1,700 bins in a single round.
You and your neighbours could save your collection crew an hour or more by carefully placing your bins where they are most accessible.
Weight and storage
Please consider the welfare of your refuse crew. Don’t bury heavy waste at the bottom of your bin. Refuse collection is hard manual work. Our crews are prone to injury.
We have seen piles of recycling bags stacked higher than a man’s head. Bending, over-reaching, and lifting from height are all common causes of injury. Injuries lead to time off work. Time off work leads to delayed and missed collections.
Cardboard and polystyrene
Help us to speed up the collection of cardboard for recycling. Remove any contents from cardboard boxes and fold them flat. Cardboard acts as a sponge, adding weight and mess. Bag it properly to keep it dry and clean for collection.
Polystyrene packing cannot be recycled. Separate it from cardboard and put it in your black residual waste bin.
Food waste and disease
Rats, foxes and cats should never be interested in dry recycling sacks. If you rinse all the food from cartons, tins and containers, there is nothing to attract them.
Unrinsed food containers quickly attract vermin. Weil’s disease, also known as Leptospirosis, is carried by animals. It is common in rats and can be caught by anyone in contact with rat urine. Please help to protect our crews from disease by keeping your dry recycling clean.
Even with smaller refuse trucks for narrow roads, it can be a struggle or sometimes impossible to get by badly parked cars. Please leave enough room for your refuse crews to collect your waste. It also allows other vehicles from supermarket delivery vans to ambulances and fire-engines down your road.
On the road
Refuse collection can be a dangerous occupation. Please be patient in your car. Help our vehicles through traffic. Give our crews plenty of time and space.
Nigel Avey, cabinet portfolio holder for contracts at Epping Forest District Council said:
Epping Forest District Council and Biffa are continuing to find ways of improving your waste service. As home deliveries soared during the pandemic, refuse crews were among the unsung heroes taking huge quantities of extra waste from people’s homes. They worked hard to keep our streets clean.
Few things in life are as frustrating as a missed collection. We are working to improve communication – helping you to report missed collections on our website and communicate directly with Biffa when something goes wrong.
There may be other ways we can help. Biffa has suggested the replacement of recycling sacks and boxes with another wheelie bin. Most people are fans of wheelie bins but not everyone. Some people struggle with storage. But wheelie bins are faster and safer to collect. They make less mess and could represent long-term cost savings for Council Tax-payers compared with sacks.
Waste collection is a tough and dirty job. I want to thank our crews for the hard work they do, keeping our district safe and clean. I also want to apologise to those residents affected by missed collections in recent months. The service has performed below the high standards we expect. We are facing national problems. There are no easy fixes, but we are working with Biffa every day to improve the situation.
Refuse and recycling is part of a much bigger picture. Reduce, reuse and recycle. Cutting waste is vital for the long-term health of our world. Everyone can help. The efforts you make as an individual multiplied across the district can reduce landfill and the pollution it causes into the ground and air. Reducing waste and recycling raw materials has a global impact, burning fewer fossil fuels, mining less precious metal, and preserving the environment.
We have made tremendous progress. The management of our waste today is so much better than it was 30 years ago when recycling was almost unheard of. I am very sorry for the disruption to our service in recent months. I hope everyone will understand the unprecedented pressure of recent times and work with us towards the solutions.
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