Residents call for blue boxes to be binned in recycling shake-up

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HOUSEHOLDERS in Sheffield are unhappy with their blue box recycling service after lodging thousands of complaints in the last year, the newly-published results of a waste consultation have revealed.

A total of 3,291 people responded to Sheffield Council’s public consultation on waste collections, which is being carried out as the waste management department is facing cuts of about £6m over the next two years.

One of the options being considered is moving from a weekly black bin collection to a fortnightly collection, although some 91 per cent of respondents said they were happy with the current black bin service.

Shifting to alternate weekly collections – collecting black bin waste one week and recyclables the next – would save an estimated £2.44m a year.

Just 60 per cent of respondents said they were happy with the recycling service, however, which involves having a blue bin for tins, plastic bottles and glass, and a blue box for paper.

During the 2010/11 financial year, Veolia – which carries out waste collections for Sheffield Council – received 3,051 complaints about the recycling collection, compared to 1,175 complaints about the black bin service.

The target of most dissatisfaction was the blue box, which people said was too small, too heavy when full of paper, and likely to be affected by windy or rainy weather.

At a meeting on Thursday next week, members of the authority’s economic and environmental scrutiny committee will discuss the feedback from the review and discuss potential changes to waste collections in the city.

Sheffield Council, which had to save £84m in the current financial year, is now tasked with finding savings of more than £50m next year.

The waste contract budget for 2011/12 is approximately £27m and about £6m needs to be cut over the next two years for the council to “deliver a balanced budget”.

Although 91 per cent of people said they were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with black bin collections, 58 per cent of people said their bins were “half full or less each week”.

A spokesman for Sheffield Council said yesterday: “There may be scope to reduce the size of the black bins or the frequency of collection if other measures are introduced to help residents use the system, such as improved recycling and bigger bins for large families.”

A total of £1.48m could be saved by starting to charge for the green waste collection service, which is currently only used by 41 per cent of people.

Reducing the size of black bins, meanwhile, could save £1.14m if a blue bin of the type currently used for recycling is issued instead.

The report set to go before next Thursday’s meeting also recommends that the council should “make efficiencies and deliver savings through joint working with other local authorities and partner organisations across the city”, particularly around treatment facilities for food waste and mixed recyclable materials.

The chairman of the scrutiny committee, Coun Mazher Iqbal, said: “We are very grateful to everyone who took part in the consultation process and these views will be considered carefully when we discuss the report.

“The consultation has highlighted many issues that are important for local people.

“I’m particularly pleased the consultation emphasised that many people want to be able to recycle more of their waste and want the council to make it easier for them to do this.

“Clearly, all the issues that have been raised regarding people’s preferences for waste collection services will have to be balanced against the difficult budget pressures that the council faces.”

The scrutiny board’s report and recommendations will now go before the council’s cabinet committee in “due course”.