A CONTROVERSIAL refuse collection service has come under renewed fire from residents who saw recyclables being hoarded together into a normal bin wagon.
But St Helens Council has insisted the measure was used as a temporary solution after one recycling sorting vehicle had to be taken off the road following a crash with a forklift truck at a warehouse.
Councillor Seve Gomez-Aspron, the politician tasked with overseeing the most significant changes in rubbish collections in decades, offered the explanation after Star readers complained recyclables sorted into a variety of containers were being lumped together.
Cllr Gomez-Aspron said the wagon had been brought in to get a backlog of rubbish off the streets early in the new year because a sorting vehicle was sidelined and the waste was sorted into recyclables at a council depot.
However, it is not the first time residents have complained to the Star about recyclables seemingly being pooled together after previously being separated by households in the correct containers.
Four months into the new system – which saw brown bin collections go fortnightly and a weekly food waste and recycling round brought in – it continues to be a talking point.
The council insists it has been a success, stating that 4,800 tonnes of recycling material had been collected between September and January – an increase of 3,300 on the corresponding period for the previous year.
The scheme does have its supporters, with some readers writing to the Star to question what all the fuss is about.
But 59 per cent of people who voted in a recent Star online poll stated that the new service was not working for them.
It is the system, not necessarily having to recycle, that has been a common complaint.
Some residents are unhappy that rounds go uncompleted or that individual houses are missed out.
The number of containers – black box, blue bag, pink bag, food caddy and general bins – is also a bugbear, as is the mess occasionally left on streets when the containers have been emptied. Collection times which can run to 9pm on weekdays are another gripe.
In a letter to the Star Clock Face resident Stan Bate wrote: “Collection vehicles appear to be scurrying around like busy fools, without any apparent purpose.
“If you’re lucky your collection can take place any time between 6.30am to 9.15pm on the day publicised, but often it runs into the next day, and sometimes not at all.
“To add insult to injury, you find the waste you’ve placed neatly ready for collection has been flung haphazardly along the footpath after being emptied.”
Cllr Gomez-Aspron maintains the system is working and that extra sorting vehicles have been ordered to meet, what he argues, is residents’ demand for recycling.
JOHN BEIRNE, the former Liberal Democrat councillor, added his voice to the criticism surrounding rubbish collections after a Freedom of Information request to St Helens Council showed the overtime bill for bin men had jumped by more than a third in one year.
Figures released by town hall chief showed the bill had leapt from £65,311 in 2012/13 to £103,228 in 2013/14 – a rise of £37,917.
He said: “It’s not just teething problems. No-one knows when their waste is getting collected. The portfolio holder responsible needs to take urgent action before more money is wasted.”