Workers only given 90 seconds per recycling box
Dave Thomas, leader of the Conservatives on Torbay Council, met workers from the council’s contractor Tor2 after criticism of delays to waste being picked up after the Christmas and new year holiday.
Cllr Thomas says he was told workers are given 90 seconds to sort and empty a recycling collection box.
But many people are mixing plastic, metal, cardboard and glass in a single box, which can take up to five minutes to sort and empty.
If people leave out their recycling in an extra cardboard box, that has to be emptied into an official collection box to be sorted because it has to be hung on hooks on the recycling vehicle.
Teams are also limited by the hours that drivers are allowed to work. Traffic congestion means returning to the depot in Paignton can take 40 minutes, which reduces a vehicle’s time on the collection round.
Those issues have been made worse by the extra recycling left out after over Christmas and the new year.
Cllr Thomas praised the effort and commitment of the Tor2 recycling teams, but said the service needed a major review by Torbay Council to solve the problems and delays.
He has issued a formal question to the council’s leadership asking whether anything is being done to find solutions to the collection delays, which he says are a repeat of what happened in the summer.
He has asked the executive lead for waste Derek Mills, deputy mayor and a member of the Torbay Community Independents group, for an assurance the problem would be resolved “once and for all”.
Tor2 blamed the problems in the summer on the large amount of cardboard being left out along with a shortage of staff and vehicles.
It says it has fallen behind after the festive season because of “larger than normal volumes of recycling for this time of year”.
The contractor says its plan to catch up with recycling collections includes working over weekends, and has asked residents to put out their waste on the usual day.
Steve Darling, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council, said residents felt collections should be back on track two weeks after the festive break.
He said: “Leaving waste and recycling outside for days results in littering of our streets and unnecessary obstacles for people such as wheelchair users or guide dog owners.
“I am aware that TOR2 have an emergency plan to get collections working properly again but if this is being activated then it is not having the impact one would hope.”
Rod Lester, who lives in Watcombe Heights, Torquay, said recycling had not been collected for the whole of Watcombe, Barton and St Marychurch areas of Torquay on Monday.
He said: “What is really bad is that you can’t even ring them to complain any more.
“Nobody picks up the phone. You just get an answerphone message asking for your patience.”
Meanwhile the GMB union says 20 Tor2 office staff are facing redundancy as a result of £500,000 cuts due to an internal restructure by majority owner Kier.
Branch secretary Paul Raybould said staff feared the job losses were only the first round of cuts as he claimed the council has been underfunding the service.
A Torbay Council spokesperson said: “We have been advised by TOR2 that due to an internal restructure there will be some job losses to their back office functions. This is not related to the mayor’s budget.”
TOR2 was set up by Torbay Council and services group Kier in 2010 to collect waste and provide other support services in a ten-year multi-million pound deal.
In June the council announced it was aiming to take full control of the joint venture.
But in November that decision was put on hold to allow further “due diligence” to be carried out into the deal.
The statement from Torbay Council says: “Due to the larger than normal volumes of recycling for this time of year, particularly cardboard and glass, TOR2 are currently running just over a day behind on the recycling rounds.
“They have a plan in place, including working over the weekend as part of the catch up process.
“Please leave your recycling out on your normal day and they will pick up your recycling as soon as they can.
“Please accept our apologies for the delays. If you can any queries regarding your collection please contact TOR2 directly.”