Bins debate hots up

binsram'Veolia bin collection in Sheffield
binsram'Veolia bin collection in Sheffield

A SURVEY of Sheffield residents could open the door slightly to fortnightly bin collections but has also indicated demands for a better recycling system.

Almost 3,300 people gave their views online, and five focus groups were consulted, as part of the council’s public consultation on waste collection.

The results can be interpreted as offering evidence for supporters and critics of a switch from weekly bin collections.

The vast majority of people were satisfied with the current black bin system and half said keeping weekly bin collections should be top priority, compared with 43% who said extra recycling and 13% who said cut the cost of collection services.

At the same time, more than half of respondents admitted that their bin was half full or less when collected each week and most of these would not object to a fortnightly service.

According to the independent market research company that conducted the survey, “there is some scope to introduce alternate weekly collections but other measures should be implemented alongside it to ease transition for all residents. The most popular measure would be to increase the range of plastics collected at the kerbside.

“Residents’ priorities are to improve the currently recycling scheme by increasing the range of materials collected, particularly plastics, rather than reduce the cost of collection services.

“Consideration should also be given to a one-bin solution for recyclables as respondents indicated that this would make it easier to recycle.”

Many residents were dissatisfied with the blue boxes for paper and cardboard, saying they became full too quickly and were too heavy to carry to the kerbside for fortnightly collection. They also collected water when left outside and the contents blew away in the wind.

Most residents were satisfied with the blue bins for bottles and cans but only a third said they were full by the time the binmen came every fortnight.

There was widespread support for the free garden waste scheme to be retained but if a charge was made, green bins should be offered, not green sacks.

Councillors will decide what to do, probably later this month. Switching to fortnightly collections would save an estimated £2.4m a year.

Opposition Liberal Democrats want to retain the current weekly bin collection, especially now that the Government is making available £250m nationally to encourage local authorities to stay or go weekly.

However, the ruling Labour group is keeping open its options, saying the Government money would not cover all Sheffield’s extra costs.

Coun Leigh Bramall, Labour cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “We would welcome any financial support from the Government to help fund the waste service, which costs far more than the council can now afford due to the £220m of Government cuts. However, as with all Government announcements, the devil is in the detail.

“The cost of guaranteeing to keep weekly bin collections for the next five years is in the region of £12m. Early indications suggest that the money that the Government will give the council towards this cost is around £2.5m.

“Clearly this would leave a massive shortfall for the local taxpayer to pick up.”