Piles of uncollected trash alongside Bermuda’s roads will be cleared by the end of the day today, with once-a-week trash collection set to go into effect on Monday for a ten-week period.
Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Public Works Minister Colonel David Burch said: “This time will allow us to conduct a full assessment of the trucks that are serviceable, conduct extensive repairs, complete the TCD relicensing process and return a larger number into the operational fleet.”
And an “island-wide blitz” to “clear all the garbage from every neighbourhood” started today, using every truck in the Ministry, with assistance provided by the Hustle Truck workers.
In follow up to the suspension of the work-to-rule taken by garbage collectors last week, the Minister said garbage collectors were back to working overtime .
“The net result of that is still an unsatisfactory state of affairs as we were unable to fully complete designated collection in any one day,” he said.
Overall, he said: “The aim here is to rid the country of garbage, manage the expectations of the public by not falsely promising twice weekly collection when that is virtually impossible to accomplish at this time.
“A full media blitz to alert the public of these new procedures will occur so that everyone is aware of the steps being taken to address the problem.”
In the interim, he said: “We will continue our deliberations with our union partners to devise new ways to combat the problem.
“We believe this is a sensible approach and as my custom I shall keep the public informed of any adjustments to this plan.”
Despite the challenges, he said garbage collectors are “dedicated and committed workers” who take pride in their jobs under some “very trying circumstances”.
“They do a good job and I will not tolerate any abuse directed at them,” said Col Burch.
He also noted that interviews were being conducted today for five additional waste collectors that were approved last year but never hired.
And for that he said knuckles had been “rapped” and those five positions are expected to be filled before February 23.
“Internally, within the Ministry, I have voiced my displeasure to those people who did not bring it to my attention that three months in, they’re still waiting for approval from somewhere else,” he said.
“I think it’s fair to say that I don’t think that will be happening again.”
Moving forward, he said five new trash vehicles will also be bought. And a team including a truck driver and a trash collector would travel overseas before the end of the month to select the next batch of trucks.
“To be clear, though, there is a lengthy lead time involved, so it will likely be November before they arrive on island,” he added.
The estimated cost for five new garbage trucks runs in the region of $90,000 each.
The Minister also appealed to residents to help make trash collection easier by not overfilling bags and cutting back trees along private roads.
He urged residents to be mindful and respectful of their neighbours and workers by not putting out garbage before collection day.
But for those who don’t Col Burch said: “If that does not work then we shall resort to enforcement and prosecution of those who refuse to follow the law.
“The law is clear – garbage cannot be put out earlier than 7:30pm the night before and no later than 7:30am on collection days. So if you arrive after 7:30am and all your neighbours’ garbage has already been collected – then you must take it back home and secure it until the next collection day or deliver it yourself to the Tynes Bay Public Drop Off.”
He also noted that he took two photographs last Sunday on his way to work of trash that had been put out on the weekend.
“No one should be putting out their trash on Saturday and Sunday – well before any scheduled collection,” said Col Burch.
“At this stage I am asking members of the public to help them by being considerate of their neighbours and our workers.
As it stands now, he said: “The island is divided into 24 zones – 12 in the west and 12 in the east. It will come as no surprise to anyone that with an average of seven trucks in service to complete 12 zones – that is ‘mission impossible’.
“The actual process has seen garbage partially collected in the west on Mondays to be followed by completion on Tuesday mornings before those same workers can begin the eastern zone collections.
“A similar situation occurs on Thursdays and Fridays in the east,” he added.
Said Col Burch: “Clearly this plan is unsustainable as it does not allow proper time for regular truck maintenance let alone any repairs.