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Cash-strapped councils are slashing their bin collections to make ends meet, which means some residents are now waiting an entire month for someone to pick up the rubbish. The move is causing widespread misery.
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Conwy in north Wales is one of the first to move to collections every four weeks - along with South Lanarkshire and Falkirk. Some 10,000 homes in the area are part of a trial running from September 2016 to September 2017. The logic behind the move is to encourage people to recycle more. Councils have sizeable recycling targets, and if they fall short, there will be severe financial penalties.
The council said: "The decision was made following a year-long review of households' recycling and waste practices, which found that over half of the items thrown into wheelie bins in Conwy could have been recycled, wasting £1.6m every year. By collecting refuse less frequently, households are encouraged to make full use of weekly recycling and food waste collections by recycling more and throwing out fewer recyclable items." The council says that in the first three months of the trial, recycling has increased 15%.
Unfortunately, the trial is not going quite so well for residents. One family told the Daily Mail they were forced to burn rubbish in the fire, and that they were taking bags to work to throw them away. Another family said they had to do regular tip runs - driving nine miles to get rid of their rubbish. Daily Post readers commented that they had seen a dramatic increase in fly tipping and rubbish in the streets - which wasn't great for an area that relies on the tourist trade.
Clwyd West AM, Darren Millar, said in a statement: "The pilot currently underway in Conwy is proving to be a nightmare for the residents affected. Whilst I appreciate the Council is keen to encourage recycling, they are going the wrong way about it. The changes are very unpopular and have resulted in more fly-tipping, an increase in pest control problems, and public health risks from pet waste."
Residents have taken to Facebook to complain. One said: "Its wonderful: rubbish in the streets, rats growing bigger by the day, the smell is amazing, flies everywhere. What's not to like?" Another added: "They should have kept it as it was - fortnightly collections. Why change something that was working fine? Many people (not all) seem to be having problems with the monthly collections - one being overflowing bins. The wrong move by the council in my opinion."
What it means for you
This is bad enough for the residents hit by the trial, but what's even more worrying is that four-weekly collections could become more widespread. There are a number of other councils considering the move - and Fife even ran a trial last year. Meanwhile, there are plenty of councils who only collect every three weeks - including Oldham, Bury, Agyll and Bute, East Renfrewshire, Anglesey, North Devon and Gwynedd in Wales - which could see collections fall even further in future.
The only hope for homeowners lies in Banbridge in Northern Ireland. It experimented with monthly collections a while ago, but after the trial ended, they went back to collecting the rubbish every two weeks. The council said they had changed back due to 'operational difficulties'.
There is always the hope, therefore, that good sense prevails, and when councils see the knock-on effects of less and less frequent collections, they decide that enough is enough.