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Johannesburg - Guard your refuse bin with your life, even when it is standing outside your property for hours, and sometimes days, waiting to be emptied. And then carefully watch refuse removal workers as they empty it. If you don’t, and your bin is stolen, or damaged by Pikitup workers, you will face a replacement fee of R385, excluding VAT.

To add insult to injury, residents will not be able to pay this levy through their banks or on line, but will have to take time off work to go to their nearest peoples’ centres to make an up-front payment.

Only then, when proof of payment indicating the ratepayer’s account number is faxed to Pikitup, will a new bin be delivered.

This is what Pikitup is now expecting Joburg residents to do if their bins are damaged or stolen.

Pikitup has announced that from February 1, a charge of R385 plus VAT will be levied for broken or stolen bins.

Residents, however, are demanding to know how they are supposed to protect their municipal wheelie refuse bins from damage and theft when they have to be left outside.

Residents claim they cannot be expected to guard the bins.

Furthermore, Pikitup workers themselves are often not careful with the bins, throwing them around and often leaving them lying on their sides.

Pikitup spokesman Pansy Oyedele said Pikitup previously issued the first 240-litre refuse bin, as well as replacement of stolen and damaged bins, free of charge.

During the 2011/12 financial year alone, Pikitup replaced about 8 500 wheelie bins at a cost of about R3 million.

“This trend is not sustainable, and this money could well be spent on accelerated service delivery. Furthermore, it has come to the entity’s attention that bins are being utilised for purposes other than refuse containerisation. Some people utilise the bins for storage of goods other than refuse, as well as transportation of goods,” she said.

Oyedele reminded customers that wheelie bins remained the property of Pikitup and could not be used for any purpose other than for waste, nor could they be moved out of the jurisdiction of the city.

Stolen or damaged bins will, from February, only be replaced by Pikitup on receipt of an up-front payment by the user. The first bin will be issued free of charge.

Kensington resident Madeleine Fullard said the new charge for a replacement bin was “terrifying”.

“It is now going to place a monetary value on these bins and make them targets for theft, and innocent residents will become victims, having to fork out replacement costs for what is not their fault. My bin was outside my gate for an hour last month and was stolen. What do we have to do? Place a security guard next to it every week?”

In her street alone, several bins have been stolen. “As it is, it is difficult to get a bin. When I moved into my property, I waited six months to get bins because there was none when I moved in,” she said.

The DA says it has received numerous complaints about the proposed charge.

Councillor Alan Fuchs said one should have no difficulty with the user having to pay for a replacement bin, if the user was negligent, damaged the bin or used it for purposes other than that for which it was intended.

“But what is likely to happen with the new charge for the replacement of stolen or damaged bins is that it will be implemented across the board, irrespective of whether the loss or damage of the bin was caused by the user or not. This charge is thus likely to become nothing more than a money-making racket for Pikitup, which finds itself in a financial pickle as a result of many years of mismanagement,” he said.

Furthermore, because of poor management, which has resulted in Pikitup not having sufficient trucks, in recent months refuse has not been collected on time and residents are expected to leave their bins on the pavement.

“Will Pikitup be lenient when the bin gets stolen under these circumstances? Will Pikitup provide a bin free of charge if it is damaged by the refuse collectors and not by the resident concerned?

“You can bet that no flexibility will be shown and residents will be charged whether they are personally responsible or not,” he said.

The Star