Sorting through the rubbish
Our rubbish bins were purchased and paid for by the previous TCDC Council. One figure of $2.7m was in the income and expenditure statement for the purchase of the bins. There would have been implementation costs in the current TCDC’s budget to see it through.
The Informer has had a lot of interaction with members of the public regarding their experience of the new system and apart from teething problems, there are matters that need to be addressed – changes made. In an effort to help further adjustments be open and transparent, The Informer asked questions of Mayor Len who has been open in saying, “We are reviewing” the rubbish bins.
Following are the responses from the Mayor to questions from members of the public via The Informer.
Question: Mayor Len has said that the Council is reviewing the rubbish bins. What actually is being reviewed regarding the rubbish bins?
Answer: Our new rubbish and recycling collection contract began on 1 September 2023 to include a new food scraps collection and the replacement of the pre-paid rubbish bags with wheelie bins. As part of normal contract management, an annual review will be carried out towards the end of this year looking at what has worked well and the opportunity for any improvements.
Question 2: Is this because of the criticism, or is there general acceptance by the Council that it is not working?
Answer: “No. The contract with Waste Management for the delivery of waste services is a 10-year contract. So, it is good business practice to conduct a review of the contracted services early in the piece and make any improvements where opportunities are available. In addition, waste management practices across the country are changing quite regularly and we will need to adjust our approach from time to time. For example, in our district there was no food waste collection five years ago, whereas we have them now.”
Question 3: Could you let us know please why it is we are not using the sensors that are already on the bottom of the bins?
Answer: This question was responded to in a previous media query from the Informer, dated 4 December 2023. The response hasn’t changed since then. Here it is again:
The technology to have bins scanned upon emptying and then invoicing customers, instead of using pre-paid tags, will likely be available at some point but is not viable for our Council to use at the moment.”
The aim of this question was to seek the reason WHY it was not viable, but that has not been forthcoming.
Question: Mayor Len is very clear that this was all set up and paid for by the last TCDC? Does this include the tag system?
Answer: Capital funding to pay for the purchase and distribution of wheelie bins was approved by the previous Council. The Revenue and Financing Policy adopted as part of the 2021 Long Term Plan calls for a ‘user pays’ approach to be implemented to pay for services where possible, and this policy has to guide Council decision making. Given that more than 50 per cent of our ratepayers live outside the district, a ‘Pay As You Throw’ (PAYT) tag system where users are only charged when a rubbish wheelie bin is put out for collection was considered equitable and complied with our Revenue and Financing Policy. Western Bay of Plenty and Hauraki District Councils have a similar PAYT approach. A PAYT system is a common approach to encourage householders to minimise the amount of waste they produce that goes to landfill.
In early 2023, we asked for public feedback on different options around how much should be charged for PAYT tags and how much the targeted solid waste rate (for those in the area of service) should increase to pay for the upgraded service. After considering the public feedback, our Council landed on a price of $8 per PAYT tag and a 76 per cent increase in the solid waste rate. In the past residential kerbside customers paid $3.90 for a 60-litre blue rubbish bag that was disposed of weekly. Customers are now paying $8 per throw for a 140-litre wheelie bin that is collected fortnightly, and this is approx. equivalent to two of the pre-paid blue rubbish bags. So, costs to the customer have largely remained about the same.
Question 5: So, when was the tag system thought through exactly? How much has it cost? I know the angst it has created is expensive. Everyone is working harder as well as paying $8 a fortnight, the practical matter of older people dragging a bin to the gate where previously they had control over what went into the blue rubbish bag and was a lot easier to handle for many.
Answer: Answered in Q4.
Informer comment: People are coming in complaining that someone has taken their tags….
Response: We’ve heard some complaints about tags being stolen. Given that 27,000 properties are receiving kerbside collections, with many of these receiving two rubbish collections per week from late December to early February, the total number of stolen tags reported appears to be a small fraction of the total number of successful collections. We recommend that people only put their bins out on the morning of their collection day. For people visiting their holiday home and leaving before their collection day, we recommend dropping your rubbish, food waste and recyclables at your nearest Refuse and Recycling Transfer Station. They are all open from 8:30am-5:30pm daily. A standard 60L rubbish bag costs $5 to dispose of. www.tcdc.govt.nz/rts for more information on our transfer station and tipping fees.
Conclusion: We all rely on rubbish collection to some degree. The system needs to serve those who are paying for it and be sustainable and reviewed as Mayor Len has said, so ongoing communication is vital.