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Deputy council leader Barrie Grunewald defends bins collection shake-up
2:49pm Friday 22nd March 2013 in News
ST HELENS Council’s deputy leader has mounted a robust defence to Star readers who claim he misled them two years ago about the council’s plans for rubbish collections.
The Star revealed earlier this year how a shake-up on the bins – aimed at cutting costs and boosting recycling – will be brought in next year.
It will lead to brown bins collections going fortnightly – although there will be a weekly food waste collection as part a vastly-expanded and altered recycling process.
But readers furious with the council’s changes questioned Cllr Barrie Grunewald on Twitter by pointing to remarks made to the Star in 2011 in which he reassured St Helens residents that the Labour administration had no plans to “introduce fortnightly bin collections”.
Critics seized upon the U-turn as an example of Labour misleading residents.
However, Cllr Grunewald said there had been no long-term plans to enforce the changes, and that the financial realities of addressing £50 million of Town Hall cuts by 2014/15 had hit home.
He said: “I understand residents’ concerns in moving to a fortnightly brown bin collection, and this was not something we were looking to implement in 2011.
“However the financial reality of having been clobbered by the Tory-led Government’s cuts mean we had to look again at each and every service – and when the facts change we must again re-examine the options before us and some very tough choices are having to be made.”
Currently St Helens recycles 32 per cent, but the target is to reach 50 per cent by 2020 to avoid the prospect of fines from Europe.
Another complication is a European directive which seeks to ensure a consistent quality of recycling, requiring authorities to provide separate collections of paper, metal, plastic and glass by 2015.
Council reports show it considered various options – including a co-mingled weekly collection, which would have resulted in recyclables being separated at a factory before being taken to a processing plant.
However, it would have meant a £3.3 million investment and increase in cost of £650,000, whereas the preferred system of kerbside collections will save £250,000 a year and require an investment of £1.7 million.
Cllr Grunewald added: “Additional to the cuts forced upon us is the looming possibility that if recycling does not increase then the council will be hit by huge fines – running into millions of pounds.
“The key thing to remember is that food waste will still be collected weekly and there will be an increased recycling offer for residents.
“On the whole, where this system has been implemented it has always been launched to concern and controversy, but often proven to be a success.
“Only time will tell if that will be the case in St Helens.”
The council will embark on a “marketing” push about the services changes, which could be introduced before the end of the year.
A council spokesman said there will be no job losses as a result of the changes.
How new system will work
ALL 80,000 households will be switching from fortnightly to weekly box and bag recyclable collections.
Brown bins will be collected once a fortnight, rather than weekly, alternating on a weekly basis.
Recycling will be significantly expanded, with all items taken from homes on the same day of the week.
A key factor in reducing brown bin volumes will be the introduction of “food caddies”, which will be collected as part of the weekly recycling sweep.
Cans, glass, paper, plastic bottles, kitchen waste and cardboard will be among items that can be handed to the council every week.
Single collection trucks – with segregated compacting and storage areas – will replace multi-vehicle collections.