Households in and around Buckstone said food waste bins were full to overflowing after a scheduled pick-up on June 18 was missed.
After filing a complaint, Buckstone Wood resident Lindsay Walls was told by a council officer that the collection service had been hit by a number of “vehicle issues” over the past fortnight.
The staff member also revealed that, at one point, 19 trucks had to be taken out of service, with most withdrawals believed to have been caused by unforeseen mechanical and maintenance snags.
Environment leaders were last night unable to say whether the trucks involved were council or contractor-owned, and also declined to confirm how many they have in total.
The admission has sparked disbelief and anger among residents, who said they had been forced to consider sharing bins as rubbish piles mount.
Mr Walls, 73, said: “I felt I was being fobbed off and then I got this appalling e-mail.
“It begs the question – what has happened to maintenance? Is this a sub-contractor or are these the council’s own lorries?
“If it’s sub-contracted, is there a fall-back clause, a penalty that can be levied on the contractor for not picking it up at a certain time?
“If it’s in-house then I would have thought they’d make sure their own house was in order. I can think of no reason why so many should be off at once if you have a proper vehicle maintenance contract and they’re being maintained on a regular basis.”
He added: “I wonder if there’s a shortage of manpower or it could be the traffic commissioner has said, ‘these vehicles are not being maintained properly’? There are questions to be asked here.”
Councillor Jason Rust, Conservative member for Colinton and Fairmilehead, said the admission that 19 vehicles had been withdrawn was “incredible”.
“My constituents are wondering what on earth is going on as they seem to receive excuse followed by excuse for the lack of service,” he added.
“Food and garden waste collections are basic council services for which not inconsiderable sums are being paid in local taxation. The council needs to get a handle on this and the situation around these vehicles needs to be properly investigated.”
City bosses said they were working “flat out” to deal with the backlog and revealed they were set to bring in 19 new waste vehicles as part of a fleet modernisation drive.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, environment leader, said: “It will increase reliability as all of them are under warranty and come with free-of-charge replacements if off the road for more than 24 hours.
“Waste Services make over two million collections a month and 99.88 per cent of these take place without any complaint, however we do apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused.”