Let me begin by thanking the people of Bermuda, who have adapted magnificently to the implementation of once a week garbage collection. While there are still some hold outs - in the main people have adjusted and neighbours are taking pride in their own neighbourhoods. As we enter week 9 – we are greatly encouraged by the adjustment and I am pleased to report on progress thus far.
Everyone is aware of the inherited challenges we faced with both personnel and vehicles in the waste management section.
The staffing issue has been resolved with the hiring of 5 staff in March – this does not take us to the full established strength for the department but as we are in transition – no additional staff will be hired as we monitor the situation and are presently able to cope under the new arrangements of once a week collection.
This new schedule has also afforded us the opportunity to better manage the maintenance and servicing of trash trucks and we have seen a marked increase in the number in service on a daily basis.
You will be aware that we were sending a team of specialists to the UK to inspect the new trucks we were looking to purchase.
A team of 5 travelled to the UK last week - stopping first in Manchester where they visited a Municipal Garbage collection site using the vehicles we intend to purchase. The company provided access to one of their vehicles and the team went over it in fine detail with a team from the manufacturer Farid Hillend Engineering. They also discussed operational issues with staff at the site who reported that the company was very pleased with the vehicle. They witnessed the vehicle in operation and in particular the bin lifter which used identical bins to those used here in Bermuda.
The vehicle was checked against and met the large majority of our specifications and requirements. Our mechanics were pleased with the truck as it is very similar to ones we already have in the fleet. This particular vehicle had additional optional extras and safety features such as CCTV and automatic braking which were not included in our request.
The team then travelled by train to Dunfermline, Scotland to meet with staff at the Farid plant to view their production facilities. All were impressed with the quality and standard of work. Further discussions took place on availability of parts and repair procedures.
Although a visit to the suppliers was not possible as they are based in London but through Farid, the dealer has agreed to set up an account for the Government of Bermuda so that parts can be ordered directly and they will provide training and technical support.
The trucks meet our specifications – the team were all very comfortable with it and consider that it is the ideal vehicle to meet the needs of Bermuda at this time.
Some of the identified extras such as vinyl seat covers, intercom and CCTV system which were not included in our original request but will enhance health & safety – so I have approved these minimal additional costs and the order for 5 trucks should be placed this week - with delivery anticipated within 6 months.
While in the UK the team also identified potential mobile transfer stations which may suit our purposes. They will investigate potential US manufacturers of similar equipment. This is an option we are exploring to eliminate every full trash truck having to return to Tynes Bay to dump their loads. I must say these workers, all Bermudians, are very conscientious, experienced and dedicated who demonstrated their competence and professionalism on this research exercise. This concept of including all stakeholders will eliminate any challenges going forward in the type of vehicle chosen.
Over the course of the last 8 weeks – I can report that we have seen a significant uptick in the amount of garbage collected when compared to last year’s twice a week figures. As an example in week 5 we saw a 50 ton increase over 2017 from 320 tons to 370 tons with the highest increase so far in week 7 of 71 tons from 319 tons to 390 tons.
We budget $1M annually for garbage collection overtime - on average we spend approximately $70,000 per month – over the 8 week period thus far we have expended just under $13,000 in overtime and this is attributable solely to the Saturday garbage collection over the Easter weekend. So to be clear – we have not spent one penny of taxpayer dollars in unscheduled overtime garbage collection for the entire 8 week period.
Now you will readily appreciate that we have not just saved money as a result of this new scheduling – there have been savings in fuel, wear & tear on vehicles, illness and injuries. Not surprisingly – staff morale has improved as well as these workers - who take great pride in their work are so pleased that they can actually deliver on what has been promised – an almost 100% guarantee that your garbage will be collected on the day that it is scheduled.
Of course as we approach the summer months we increase the amount of garbage we produce with a peak over the Cup Match weekend. We have already begun the internal discussions on how we will monitor and respond to this increase in waste.
Now admittedly there are some weak links – a very small minority of residents - resistant to change who place their garbage out on non-collection days – are keeping our very enthusiastic and vigilant Education & Enforcement officer Vanese Gordon very busy policing this issue.
Additionally, I am increasingly leaning towards seeking approval for mandatory recycling as those who do recycle appear to have no regard for the schedule and simply place their recyclables out for collection whenever the bag is full. That schedule has not changed – every other Thursday in the West and every other Friday in the East. We have the capacity to more than double the amount of recyclables currently being processed at the Recycling Plant – those internal discussions are ongoing as we seek different ways to manage our waste.
Many of us would be completely surprised by the actual amount of items we recycle – Hazardous Wastes by definition are solid waste materials or a combination of solid wastes which can cause harm to human health or the environment when improperly treated, stored, disposed of or otherwise managed.
For instance some of these Special Waste materials that are also managed, handled, packaged and shipped overseas by the department include:
- lead acid batteries and household batteries
- pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers
- fluorescent tubes, associated ballasts, and compact fluorescent bulbs
- oil and water based paints
- fuels, oils, greases and all other forms of hydrocarbons
- laboratory chemicals
- poisons, and
We will shortly re-launch regular hazardous waste drop off days – a free service to the public - so that there is no need to recklessly dispose of these wastes and harm the environment. As well – bulk waste pick up will be reinstituted in some form as funding was removed for this service some time ago.
So with that back ground and all the positive outcomes noted above – the reality is we are duty bound to reassess the whole question of garbage collection and fully understand the challenges we face in this area. As such I concur with the unanimous recommendation of the leadership team in the ministry that I should extend the once a week collection for a further 9 weeks until the 29th June. During that period we will continue to monitor collection schedules and volumes. Of course I shall report any variances in our stance before the expiry of that period.
Let me end where I began – by thanking the public for adapting to this new collection schedule and those workers in waste management who do an outstanding job in collecting our waste.
The financial savings and benefits demand we take another look at how we do things and that is precisely what we shall do.