West Norfolk food waste collections 'impossible with social distancing', says council leader
Council chiefs have admitted that food waste collections in West Norfolk will not resume while current social distancing guidelines remain in place.
The weekly service remains suspended, having been halted in April at the peak of the coronavirus crisis.
But officials insist they remain determined to reinstate the programme from next spring, when a new waste collection contract comes into force.
And residents are being urged to hold onto their food waste caddies, so they can be used again once the service resumes.
Council leader Brian Long said today: "The guidance on Covid made it impossible for us to continue with the collection, as we had to ensure that our contractor's staff's health and wellbeing was being looked after.
"A reduction in the number of people in each vehicle meant there wasn't time for the food collection to take place, without impacting on the black and green bin collections.
"It just wasn't an option, and still isn't while the government guidance remains unchanged."
But he added: "We do have, however, an opportunity to look at the detailed arrangements for the provision of the service through our new contractor, who will take over in April.
"Rest assured that we are exploring all possible options with the new contractor and are committed to reinstating the food waste collection in April, when the new contract starts."
For now, the council says food waste should be bagged up and put into residents' black bins.
Earlier this month, the authority said it was examining options with its current waste contractor, Kier, to see if the service could restart before the present contract expires.
That followed comments by former borough mayor David Whitby, who suggested that separate vehicles may be used to collect food waste from people's homes under the new arrangement with Serco, which comes into force in April.
The agreement was jointly procured with the district councils in Breckland and North Norfolk, in a move which the authorities is cheaper and will use more efficient vehicles.
Serco crews are already working in the North Norfolk district, as its previous contract expired in April.
Meanwhile, Mr Long has thanked both staff and residents for their efforts and understanding during the pandemic.
He said: "We committed significant additional resource to collect all household bins during the period and, apart from a week, everyone who has one, has had their brown bin emptied too.
"Under the circumstances this is pretty impressive, so thanks also to the staff who have kept the service running - as key workers, they were often the unsung heroes."