West Norfolk council issues waste warning cost fears

Bins await emptying in Loke Road.
Bins await emptying in Loke Road.

Bin collection services could be removed from areas of West Norfolk with high waste contamination levels, a council committee has been told.

The idea is one of a range of potential measures which have been outlined by officials, as research into ways of reducing the cost of waste collection services across the county continues.

Although recycling rates in West Norfolk have increased to more than 47 per cent, three per cent higher than the previous year, latest data has also shown an average 16 per cent of material put into the green recycling bins was incorrect.

Wednesday’s meeting of the borough council environment and community panel was also told that as many as 40 per cent of bins in one area of Lynn had the wrong material in them.

Officers are looking at employing staff to go out to known problem areas to discuss the issues with residents, which they believe are reducing the value of the reusable material that is sold on after processing.

They say the problems are partially caused by some residents putting inappropraite material in the bins and others being “too keen” and putting in things that they thought would be accepted.

Panel member Thomas Smith was sceptical about the response to visits from officials, saying his own survey of opinion suggested a majority were hostile.

He said: “Over half the responses included the word ‘off’.”

But chief executive Ray Harding said: “We have to make inroads into this problem of contamination.

“If we don’t find a way of addressing that, we’ll have to look at a more nuclear option of starting to withdraw the service from areas with high levels of contamination.

“Some residents are costing other council tax payers money.”

Panel chairman Colin Sampson told colleagues: “We might have to earn our keep and persuade residents a change in their ways may be useful.”

The panel also heard more work was needed to increase use of the current weekly food waste collections, which officers say is currently costing the council £480,000 a year.

Documents published ahead of the meeting also revealed officials are looking at the possibility of cutting black bin collections to once every three weeks, instead of the current fortnightly pattern.

However, after the meeting, environment portfolio holder Ian Devereux said there would be no change to the current collection pattern for at least another three years, until the present contract with Kier expires.

While other Norfolk districts do not operate a similar food programme, council leader Brian Long insisted the authority had done the right thing by introducing it and said they had “a financial and environmental obligation” to the public.

And Barry Brandford, the council’s waste and recycling manager, said officials were looking at ways of encouraging increased use of the service, or enforcing it if necessary.

He said councils in other parts of the country had seen increases in the amount of both recyclable and food waste collected when new collection patterns were implemented, and improving those streams would help to generate more income.

Mr Harding added that members, not officers, would have to decide if the cost of the food service became unsustainable.

He said: “You all know our financial position is getting tighter by the year, hence it’s really important to drive the use of food waste up rather than continue seeing it slip down.”