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We know the move to a new waste contract has not gone smoothly, and collections have not all been reliable.

Some waste, recycling and garden collections have been delayed as it is taking longer for them to be carried out, whilst the crews learn the new routes and get used to the different vehicles.

This is improving with every fortnightly cycle, however, it will still take some time for collections to settle and for the situation to recover.

We are very sorry to all residents affected by these delays and missed collections .

If your collection has been missed - especially if it is more than once - please report it so we can work to resolve the issue.

We want to explain what’s happened, and answer some of the concerns you’ve been raising.

The key things we have done or are working on:

  • Regular engagement with Suez at all levels including Chief Executives
  • Recruiting new staff to add in extra rounds and catch ups and provide cover for daily issues
  • Making further changes to the new rounds now tested
  • Improving forms that residents use to report their problems to us
  • Providing resident information on issues to the contractor to add into their system to inform crews

This page contains information about:

  • why we’ve got a new contract
  • why there are new routes and changes to collection days
  • how collections work
  • catching up on missed collections
  • how we’re letting you know about collections and issues
  • issues with new bin deliveries

New contract

The previous contract with Biffa – which we shared with Ashford and Maidstone borough councils – was coming to an end. The three councils carried out a re-tendering for a new contract together, and Suez were the sole bidder.

As part of their bid, they included better technology for crews and back-office systems, to help improve the reliability of collections, and to provide residents and the council with more information.

A new fleet of vehicles has been rolled out, as the old ones were at the end of their life, and breakdowns were regularly disrupting collections. The new vehicles are equipped with 360-degree cameras to monitor the collections in case of complaints.

The crews also have new devices that they use to update on the progress of collections, and to report issues. This will be valuable information in future as it will help residents know why there may have been issues such as blocked access that affected their scheduled collections.

Suez provided training for the crews before the contract started, which was well attended. This was helpful, but training can’t fully replicate real-world experience, and crews are working hard to get used to the new systems, but this is taking time and means collections are taking longer than we’d like.

We know this system works elsewhere in the country, and once settled, we’re confident it will lead to a more reliable service.

New routes

To make the recycling and refuse collections more efficient and reliable, there have been changes to the routes the crews use to get around the borough.

The routes haven’t been updated for a long time and they aren’t as resilient as they need to be.

The new routes will see all the crews out in an area on the same day, instead of travelling from one end of the borough to the other as happened with the previous contract.

This will mean that once settled, if one round is behind, other crews in the area will be able to help them complete it on the same day.

The drivers and loaders are continuing to get used to the new routes and systems, but this will take time.

We are also making further changes now we have tested the routes. This is particularly the case for those on ‘narrow vehicle’ rounds. Should we need to change your day, you will receive a letter through the post or put through your door.

Collections

There are some changes to how the crews collect waste:

Food waste

Food waste is now deposited in a side pod, rather than a separate hopper on the back off the vehicle. Crews use a separate bin to collect food waste from a number of properties, before depositing it in the side pod. This might appear like it is being mixed with general refuse or recycling, but it isn’t.

We are aware there have been occasions where your waste or recycling is taken but not your food waste. This happens for a number of reasons – the food waste pod may be full, temporarily not working or if you are being provided a catch up the vehicle used may not have separate compartments. Food waste is recorded a separate collection for each property so on the occasion that your food waste is not collected, the crew should be logging it as not collected. This enables us to come back for it at a later point.

Narrow vehicles

The new contract also includes more narrow vehicles which can access areas we have struggled to collect from in the past. Where possible, these rounds will coincide with others in the area, but this is not always possible. That could mean you see some properties in an area being collected at different times or on different days to others.

For some longer roads, or on busy roads, it may be unsafe to collect bins from both sides at the same time, so it is possible that one vehicle round may collect on one side of the street and another vehicle collect the other side at a different time of day.

Information and reporting

In the weeks leading up to the start of the new contract, we wrote to more than 63,000 properties telling them about the new service and giving advice to the 42,000 properties whose collection day was changing.

We know this is important for people to find and check information about their collection days and we also updated the bin look up tool so people could find out when their bins were scheduled to be collected.

We know there issues with the tool in the early days, with the initial volume of traffic hampering performance. Since traffic has settled down, we have identified, and have either fixed, or are working to fix, a number of issues.

We’re continuing to listen to your feedback to make sure the tool is as easy to use as possible, and we’re working with Suez to make sure the information is up to date and accurate.

Postcode not recognised

Some people are finding their postcode isn’t recognised.

This is normally because of a space before or after the postcode so please double check when entering the postcode. We’ve updated the tool to advise people of this.

This may also happen if Suez are updating the data, so you may need to try again later.

Address not showing

When the postcode is entered, a list of addresses should appear on the next screen. Clicking on this will give a drop down menu of all the properties in that postcode. We've updated the layout for this so the drop down arrow is clearer on mobile devices.

If your address doesn't appear in the drop down list of properties, please let us know via the feedback form on the tool

1 January 1900 collection date

In a small number of cases, people were getting a next collection date of 1 January 1900.

This is where the property is found, but there is no collection date in Suez data. This is due to the property not having been passed across in the data from the previous contractor, and these are being added as we identify them.

If this happens to you, please let us know via the feedback form on the tool.

Collection dates different from neighbours

Some people have reported different collection dates from their neighbours. This could be because a property is on the boundary of a round or is on one of the narrow rounds.

If you do not think this may be the case, for example if you’re in a terrace and your immediate neighbours on both sides are on different days, please let us know let us know via the feedback form on the tool so we can check what has happened.

Collection days on different days of the week

Some people are seeing next collections falling on unexpected days of the week. For example, their regular days are a Wednesday, but the next collection is a Friday, and subsequent collections are on Wednesdays.

This is usually because Suez know a collection was missed and have reallocated the outstanding collections to a catch up round. We have made this clearer on the bin look up tool.

Garden waste not showing

Some people are not able to see the next scheduled collection for their garden collections.

This was due to an issue with the data being transferred to the new contractor, and most cases have been rectified. If we missed a collection because of this, we will add one to the end of your subscription.

If your active subscription is not showing, please let us know let us know via the feedback form on the tool so we can fix the issue.

Catch ups

Where collections have been missed, Suez have been working to catch up, with additional crews brought in to support the new service. With completion rates improving each day, it means we are now in a position where we can prioritise catch ups quicker.

Our usual advice is to leave bins out until we get to them, though we may ask you to bring them in on days no catch up collections are taking place.

Bin deliveries

We recently cleared the backlog of bin deliveries from the old contract. If you ordered a bin prior to the 25 March and still haven’t received it, please contact us.

We have had periodic issues such as vehicle breakdowns and whilst we try to get a new bin to you within 10 working days, we know we have not met that target all the time.

Litter bins

There have been issues with emptying litter bins as regularly as we would like.

We are working with Suez to make sure these rounds are completed as scheduled.

If you see an overflowing litter bin, you can report it online.

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