It’s official, one year later, Public Works Minister Lieutenant-Colonel Burch has decided to pull the plug on twice-a-week garbage collection and moved it down to once-a-week permanently.
Speaking at a news conference on Friday, the Minister noted that it was one year ago on January 31 in 2018, that he “first reported publicly on the challenges we were facing with garbage collection and announced the implementation of once a week collection.”
“To briefly recap the situation – we had issues with the number of vehicles in service, the abuse workers were being subjected to, the unreliability of pick up, exorbitant overtime, injuries to staff and general dissatisfaction with service levels,” he said.
“As an example a section that should have 54 staff and 19 serviceable vehicles – had 40 staff and 9 working vehicles on average.
“There was also a significant gap in the communication chain both internally as well as efficiently communicating with the public. We have implemented new protocols to mitigate against this happening again.
“We worked through all those issues with our staff along with our Union partners and I believe we have open lines of communication that flow both ways that has contributed to a better working environment and improved morale.
“A lot has happened in a year – locals and residents alike have in the main adapted magnificently to the once a week collection and the common refrain I have heard is that most people are pleased with the reliability of collection.
“The opening hours of the public drop off were extended to make use of the facility more convenient and the results are a significant increase in its use [ a graph comparing 2017 to 2018 volumes.
“Overtime has been cut by more than half from $1.2M to $320,000. The number of injuries are down significantly, the number of vehicle accidents are also down and the work / life balance of staff has improved since they no longer work into the evening hours.”
He also noted that “a team inclusive of a driver and worker” was sent overseas last year, “to select the next batch of garbage trucks”. Those trucks arrived on island in January.
“They cleared customs and were released on the 11th January following which they were cleaned, inspected, modified, decals added and paperwork submitted to TCD. They were taken to TCD on 21st January and all are currently licenced for road use.
“Four of the trucks suffered minor damage during offloading by and the replacement parts are in transit from the UK, one truck has a minor electrical problem which will be addressed by the supplier Farid when they arrive on 10 February to commission all the vehicles.
“Chassis underseal, fitting of radios, GPS systems along with driver training is currently under way.
“Realistically we anticipate them being placed into service the week of February 18th – assuming all goes well with the manufactures representative.
“Concurrently, we will be installing a new Wash Station at Marsh Folly to ensure the new trucks can be maintained in pristine condition.
“You will know that I met last week with the senior management team in public works to review the data and discuss the way forward.
“I can now report that after reviewing that data and receiving input from staff I have decided that once a week collection will become a permanent feature of the Bermuda landscape.
“The aim always is to rid the country of garbage, manage the expectations of the public by not falsely promising what we cannot deliver,” said Colonel Burch, who urged the Bermuda public to get on board.
Citing “additional measures” to “assist the Bermudian public”, he said: A consistent complaint during this period has been from those areas that utilize the very large gray bins in communal disposal areas as we have experienced a severe shortage of the bin lift trucks.
“We have utilized private sector contractors and Corporation of Hamilton trucks to assist us on weekends to address this deficiency. The 5 new trucks all have that capability and it is our expectation we will now be able to collect that waste on the day it is scheduled without the need to utilize outside contractors.
“All of us can help in that regard, however, by reducing the incredible amount of waste we generate, recycling and composting food waste. We are experiencing an increase in maggots in the waste – this is mainly due to a combination of food waste and the climate which are the perfect conditions for them to flourish. Some members of the public have suggested lidded trash bins and freezing food waste until the day of collection,” he added.
“I know that our Education Officer would wish that I recommend to you that you also consider composting – which is a painless way of helping the environment as well as successfully disposing of food waste without running the risk of attracting feral chickens, cats or vermin to your trash. Of course it is made considerably easier if you purchase a composting bin from any of the local hardware stores or the best type can be purchased from the Ministry of Public Works.
“In this vein as well the Ministry has purchased 300 – 95 gallons wheelie bins – scheduled to arrive on island next week – to be followed shortly thereafter by a similar number of 48 gallon recycling bins. These will be sold at landed cost and initially be targeted at those neighbourhoods that use communal collection points to help address the challenges with vermin and feral chickens attacking trash bags.”
The Minister also thanked the public “for adapting to this new collection schedule and those workers in waste management who do an outstanding job in collecting our waste under the most trying circumstances”.
“| encourage members of the public to give a thought and even express thanks directly to those workers who so efficiently collect our garbage every week.”
To “make things better”, he added:
- Cut back trees along private estate roads – as this causes damage to our vehicles – smashed windscreens and mirrors.
- Do not place garbage out before collection day.
- Do not place too much garbage in a bag that one man cannot carry it.
- Do not place dangerous or prohibited items in garbage.
- Do not place garbage in paper bags.
- Do not put out recyclables on non-collection days.
“There has been general acceptance of the once a week schedule with a small minority of people ignoring the rules. We are determined to address this bad behavior by encouraging our workers to take pictures of any infractions, report it to their manager – so that we can take action,” said the Minister.
“They are not expected to collect trash that is strewn all over the road because of someone’s bad behavior. They are not expected to drive up a road that does not have a clear path to gain access and either injure themselves or damage the vehicle. We will enforce the rules and address the guilty as appropriate.
“We as a people — all of us – must do better — I’d like to take this opportunity to remind the general public, to be more aware of what they put in their trash and always remember that the collection is carried out by hard working staff who take pride in their work and deserve our thanks and respect.”