What’s really happening in Harrow?

A story, first run in the Daily Telegraph and subsequently picked up by the BBC and the Daily Mail (so far) reports that Harrow’s bin men will be ‘profiling streets’ to record recycling activity, paving the way to introducing ‘pay as you throw’ waste charges.  My employer, Bartec Systems, is named as the supplier of this Orwellian technology. So, what is actually being introduced at Harrow and why? It’s perhaps useful to start with the problem that Harrow, and many other Councils, are trying to solve.

  1. Landfill taxes and the general push to reduce landfill and carbon emissions mean they MUST send less waste to landfill
  2. The need to collect different waste types means a more complex service with a greater need to optimise collection routes and use of vehicles and crews (imagine the workload for green waste during an August heatwave compared to a frostbitten February for example)

So, how does a council answer an enquiry from a householder who hasn’t had their bin collected and wants to know why? At present, the majority of bin crews keep paper records on a clipboard of which households have not put a bin out, have presented contaminated recycling or an overflowing bin or what have you.  The amount of paperwork created across a fleet of bin trucks (the largest UK fleet is over 100 trucks) is absolutely staggering.  Worse still, that paperwork is locked in the truck until the end of the day, at which point it lands on somebody’s desk for processing. Harrow, in common with a good number of UK councils, are adopting technology to solve this problem.  Rather than writing this information on a clipboard, the driver can enter it on a touch-screen.  This is faster and more reliable than paperwork.  It’s also much safer, because unlike paper it only works when the vehicle is stationery.  The touchscreen also gives the crew reminders about households which need an assisted collection or have a valid second bin. As a result, the crews will miss fewer collections and will consequently deliver a better service with lower costs and carbon emissions.

Harrow expect to save £3.1 million over ten years through use of this technology.  That is surely a good thing and should be supported by residents of Harrow.

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