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

SHEFFIELD is set to switch to fortnightly black bin collections and, in the longer run, to introduce a single bin for recycling.

The council is also planning to scrap the collection of green waste on the basis that it is no longer affordable.

After months of deliberation, and in the face of Liberal Democrat pressure to retain a weekly black bin service, ruling Labour councillors indicated yesterday that they are preparing to take the plunge.

They say the changes will help save £6m to £7m over the next two years, and they believe recycling rates - currently below average - will improve.

At the same time, council leader Julie Dore said: “I am not under any illusion that these proposals will be popular.”

Lib Dems accused Labour of “throwing common sense in the bin as well as Sheffield’s waste services”.

There will also be implications for the jobs of refuse collectors, who work for waste collection operator Veolia. Up to 40 could be affected.

More than half of local authorities in the UK now operate fortnightly collection of general household waste, and Sheffield is set to join them, although a formal decision will not be made until a cabinet meeting on February 15.

Other places with fortnightly collections have seen a drop in the volume of general waste collected and an increase in recycled material, says Sheffield.

But authorities have been under pressure from the Government to stay weekly, which has offered financial incentives to encourage them.

Yet Sheffield says it has not been given any guarantee to help meet the cost.

Only a highly unlikely Government commitment to give £12m over the next five years could prompt a change of mind.

So preparations are being made for a change to a fortnightly service. No date has been set, although late spring/early summer is being mooted.

A switch to a single ‘co-mingled’ bin for recycling, replacing the blue bins and boxes, will take longer.

The aim is to make the change “in the medium term” because of the estimated £1.5m extra cost for processing all dry recyclables, such as paper, glass and plastics. Officers are being asked to work up options.

The green waste service – both for householders who have green bins and those who use green sacks – is to be halted to save around £1.5m a year.

The council is “hopeful” that Veolia or another operator will fill the gap with a charged-for service.

A public consultation programme as part of the city’s waste review indicated 41% of residents had never used the green waste service.

It also suggested dissatisfaction with the blue bins and boxes, although most people were happy with a weekly black bin collection. At the same time, there was acknowledgement that many black bins are at least half empty when the binmen call.

Labour leader Julie Dore believed people understood the consequences of “harsh cuts” imposed by the Coalition Government.

“We have thought long and hard about these proposals and this has not been easy. We have significant money to save from the waste management budget over the next two years and by proposing to change the waste collection service, we believe we can still offer a good service and boost recycling rates whilst ensuring we can support frontline services.

“I really feel that we have no other option but to move towards these changes. However we will be consulting the public on these proposals and a formal decision will not be made until February.”

Coun Dore added: “Saving millions of pounds within the waste service will allow the council to protect services for those that most need help and support, like vulnerable older people. I think that’s the right choice and I think that Sheffield people will understand and support that approach.”

However, Lib Dems, who have campaigned consistently for weekly black bins and accused Labour of already having made up its mind to make the change, said the latest moves, including alterations to recycling, were “a recipe for utter disaster”.

Leader Coun Shaffaq Mohammed said: “The truth is that the council wouldn’t actually save any money by going to a fortnightly bin service next year, as millions of pounds are on offer from the Government to maintain the weekly collection.

“Precise details are due to be announced this month but by making use of this fund we would be able to keep the service as it is next year and still cover the budget gap. I’m shocked that Labour have turned down extra investment at a time when we need it most.

“What is also clear is that this prolonged consultation period was a total sham from start to finish. Labour had simply been stringing local people along and the decision had been made weeks ago behind closed doors.”