FORTNIGHTLY bin collections are to be rolled out in Sheffield from next month.
Half of the city will be faced with the new arrangements from July and the other half from September, although householders have not yet been told which phase they are in.
The controversial changes are being made against a backdrop of the threat of industrial action by binmen because of the impact on jobs.
Already strikes by the GMB union are hitting Sheffield’s household waste recycling centres in a dispute over job losses and shorter opening hours.
Three days of walk-outs will end tomorrow (Friday).
The controversy over whether the city should switch from weekly to fortnightly black bin collections has raged for many months – and now preparations are being made for the switch to fortnightly rounds.
The new system means that the black bin for non-recyclable waste will be emptied one week and the blue bin and blue box for recycling the following week.
In another change, residents will be able to choose which recycling container to use for their glass bottles, plastic bottles and cans and which to use for their paper and card.
Details of the roll-out will be given in leaflets to be delivered to households. The council and its waste collection contractor, Veolia, are asking residents to continue using the all bins as normal until they receive an information pack about alternate week collections.
Opposition Liberal Democrats have fought a long campaign to try to save the weekly collections, but the ruling Labour group has opted for a system that will save the authority £2.5m a year. It also points to a public opinion survey suggesting 58% of residents had black bins that were half full or less each week.
Coun Jack Scott, cabinet member for environment, said: “The fact is that we have been left with a massive budget gap because of this Government’s cuts. If savings are not found in the waste budget, other services would have to be cut even further to fill the gap.”
But the GMB, which represents about 200 binmen employed by Veolia, says it will be balloting for industrial action if there are any compulsory redundancies, and is planning to work to rule in protest at shift changes.
Regional organiser Peter Davies said: “The numbers of redundancies due to the change to fortnightly collections is about 42 – none of whom will be management.”
Meanwhile, contractors SOVA Recycling Ltd said they were committed to keeping open two of Sheffield’s five household waste recycling centres this week, despite the latest strikes. The locations are Longley Avenue West and Beighton Road in Woodhouse. The other three centres are in Blackstock Road in Gleadless Valley, Manchester Road in Deepcar and Greaves Lane in High Green.
Already opening hours have been shortened to save money, and five jobs are being lost. The union claims enough money could be made from selling recyclables to more than cover the cost of retaining seven day opening.
But Stephen Bennett, operations director for Sova Recycling, said: “We’ve ploughed all the income we have received through the resale of recycled goods straight back into the business and that has helped us to save some jobs.”
Protesters staged a demonstration outside the town hall yesterday (Wednesday).