Recycling shake-up on the cards – but no funds yet

A CHANGE in Sheffield’s kerbside recycling system is being planned from April – although no money has been set aside to pay for it.

Councillors were expected yesterday (Wednesday) to press ahead with giving residents the option of how they use their blue bins and boxes.

At present paper and card goes in the blue boxes and glass, cans and plastic bottles in the blue bins.

After complaints that some people find the boxes too heavy to carry to the kerbside, ruling Liberal Democrats decided in principle last year to make the system more flexible from April.

It means householders will be able to switch – to put paper and card in blue bins, as previously, and glass, cans and plastic bottles in blue boxes, or they can stick to the current arrangements – but they must not mix the materials.

The council believes it will prove more convenient and further encourage recycling but it has not identified where the money is coming from at a time when its budget for the next 12 months is already extremely stretched because of cuts in Government grants.

While officers negotiate a contract with waste collection operators Veolia, no costs are being estimated but the additional bill can be expected to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, which would have to be found from council money that has already been allocated.

The council says the new system will cost more because it will take refuse collectors longer to check the contents of bins and boxes and lorries may fill quicker with one set of materials, meaning they have to be emptied more often.

The financial obstacle was spelled out yesterday to the council’s cabinet. “There is no provision within either the existing or the proposed 2011/2012 waste management contract budget to fund this initiative,” says executive director Simon Green.

“It has not been considered as one of the policy options and if this report were to be adopted, members would have to agree a significant virement from other service budgets to fund the policy.”

The authority says the existing kerbside service has helped to boost recycling, and two-thirds of survey respondents say it is easy to use, but it accepts some people may have difficulties.

“Since the introduction of the blue box, representation has been received from customers with restricted mobility, largely due to age, that the weight of a blue box full of paper and card is too heavy for them to move,” says Mr Green.

Residents will receive a leaflet to inform them know when the new service begins in their area.