Public Works Minister Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch told MPs that overtime costs have been reduced by more than half from $1.2 million to $320,000 over the past 18 months, with the number of injuries and vehicle accidents down since staff “no longer regularly work into the evening hours”.
Speaking in the House of Assembly on Friday, Colonel Burch also noted that “five new trucks arrived on island last month at a cost of approximately $140,000 each, and once a week garbage collection will become permanent”.
“All five trucks have been licensed by TCD, four suffered minor damage during offloading, and one had a minor electrical problem which was addressed by the supplier’s representatives who were on Island this week to commission the vehicles,” he said.
“As the new vehicles have some enhanced and additional operational features –Marsh Folly staff participated in training this week to familiarize themselves with the new vehicles and one was used for the Tuesday collection.
“Realistically we anticipate them all being placed into service next week,” he added.
“Following meetings with the senior management team to review collection data, staff survey results, operational efficiencies and savings – I can now advise that 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 in a healthy and safe manner, manage the expectations of the public by not falsely promising what we cannot deliver.”
Issues encountered by his Ministry over the past 18 months, included “the unreliability of collection, the number of vehicles in service, exorbitant overtime, injuries to staff, the abuse of workers and general dissatisfaction with service delivery levels”.
“As an example a section that should have 54 staff and 19 serviceable vehicles – had, on average 40 staff and nine working vehicles,” said Colonel Burch.
“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 refrain I have heard most often is that people are pleased with the reliability of collection.
“Opening hours of the public drop off were extended to make it more convenient to use the facility and we have seen a significant increase in the amount of garbage disposed there.
Concurrently, we will be installing a new Wash Station at Marsh Folly to ensure the new trucks can be maintained in pristine condition.
Despite the challenges and the steps taken “continually” to address them, “the vast majority of our residents” have “adapted to the new collection regime”, he added.
“To assist the Bermudian public in managing this new reality”, 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 regular shortage of the bin lift trucks.
“As a result we have utilized private sector contractors and Corporation of Hamilton trucks to assist us on weekends to address this deficiency. The five 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 for outside contractors.
“All of us can help in that regard, however, by reducing the incredible amount of waste we generate, by recycling and composting food waste.” Composting is another “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”.
The Ministry has also purchased 300 – 95 gallon wheelie bins which arrived on island this past 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 highlighted a number of additional actions that we – the general public can take to make things better:
- Cut back trees along private estate roads – as this causes damage to 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 or cardboard boxes
- Do not put out recyclables on non-collection days
Moving forward, the Ministry will continue to push back against the “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 the appropriate action,” Col Burch said.
“Our workers will not collect trash that is strewn all over the road because of someone’s bad behavior. They will not 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 directly those who insist on flouting the law and not taking pride in their own neighbourhoods.
“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.
The Minister concluded: “Let me end where I began – by thanking the general public for adapting to this new collection schedule and also thank those workers in waste management who do an outstanding job in collecting our waste under some of the most trying circumstances. I encourage members of the public to express their thanks directly to those workers who so efficiently collect our garbage every week.”