RECYCLING rates in Sheffield have risen by more than a fifth since the start of controversial fortnightly bin collections - but hundreds of complaints about the change have been received by the council and the political fallout continued this week.
Initial figures from contractor Veolia indicate collections of paper and card have gone up by 17%, while the amount of glass, cans and plastic bottles put out for recycling rose by 27%.
The council believes the increases can be attributed to people taking more care to sort their waste due to reduced rubbish collections. Another reason is thought to be the roll out to all areas of ‘flexible collections’, allowing householders to choose which recyclables to put in blue bins and boxes, making recycling easier.
After the switch last month from weekly black bin collections, the authority received up to 1,000 calls a day to its helpline, many of them complaints about a lack of information about the new collection day. The figure has dropped to between 300 and 400 a day.
Coun Jack Scott, Labour cabinet member for environment, said: “We had to move to alternate week collections because of the massive cuts the Government has forced on the council. We have a £170m gap over the next four years and moving to alternate week collections saves £2.5m every year.
“I am aware there have been some localised issues with the information provided for new collection dates. We have already apologised for any inconvenience or problems this may have caused.”
But the political row continued this week as opposition Liberal Democrats accused the ruling group of “sheer incompetence” in their handling of the changes to Sheffield’s waste management system, saying that the start of weekly bin collections at the same time as cuts to dump-it site funding was “a recipe for disaster”.
They lodged a motion yesterday (Wednesday) that lamented “the complete failure of the current administration to effectively communicate the change of collection to some local residents, despite spending £400,000 on a propaganda strategy”.
Lib Dems also criticised the “mishandling” of the household waste recycling centres, including the closure of the Blackstock Road tip three days a week, which has caused long traffic tailbacks on the days it is open.
Talks were being held yesterday to try to find a resolution to a dispute over pay and hours that has resulted in strikes at the recycling centres, which are run by SOVA on behalf of the council.
*Transitional arrangements allowing householders to leave extra rubbish sacks with their black wheelie bins are ending from next week.