COUNCIL staff will be on-hand to give residents “face to face” advice when three-weekly brown bin collections are piloted in St Helens town centre.

Last month St Helens Council’s cabinet agreed to trial a revised weekly recycling and waste service in an effort reach a national recycling target of 50 per cent by 2020.

The pilot will begin in two areas of the Town Centre ward from February and is due to run for several months.

Cllr Lynn Clarke, portfolio holder for waste services, revealed this week that the council has recruited two new recycling advisors and four advisers/enforcers in preparation for the pilot.

The Town Centre councillor gave an update to the council’s environment, regeneration, housing, culture and leisure overview and scrutiny panel on cabinet’s response to findings from a task force set up to review the plans.

She was joined by Paul McHenry, the council’s service manager for environmental and transport services.

Mr McHenry said the new staff will be able to answer any questions and deal with any issues residents may have during collections.

He said: “The pilot will give us the opportunity to judge what the concerns are of the community.

“The fact that the council want to run this pilot over a considerable period of several months to get all the feedback, is something I think is going to be extremely useful for us.

“In terms of three-weekly systems, of which I’ve got some experience, what you tend to find is the biggest and best thing you can do for the householder is actually have people on the ground when the collections take place.

“Because that face to face contact is absolutely key.

“In terms of people struggling with the new regime, or who have queries or questions, there’s really nothing better than face to face contact.”

Mr McHenry told members the council have a variety of tools at its disposal for residents who cannot, or will not, take part in the pilot.

However, he said the council want to take more of an educational response.

Mr McHenry said: “It’s a big change to an awful lot of people.

“Just as it was twenty some years ago when we moved to wheel bins. It’s as big a change.

“I think we have all the tools we need to help the community and that will not just be the face to face contact, we will be using social media tools, as well as our own website.

“There will be a lot of information for people and lots of officers to talk to as well.”

Residents will also be able to recycle a greater variety of plastics during the pilot, with cling film and plastic bags the only exclusions.

Cllr Clarke said this was a “major step forward” for the borough.

Parr councillor Kate Groucutt called the move a “game-changer”.

Mr McHenry said it is not anticipated the additional plastics will boost recycling rates to a great extent but said it would free up space in residents’ brown bins.

He also said families with a high volume of nappy waste can request an additional brown bin from the council.

More frequent collection of nappy waste and other absorbent hygiene products, such as incontinence pads, can also be requested.

Mr McHenry said such requests will be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Conservative Rainford councillor Linda Mussell asked why the council did not choose to run the pilot in a ward with high recycling rates, as well as one with poor rates.

Cllr Clarke said the council wanted to look at the worst recycling area because if it could tackle that area then it could tackle anywhere in the borough.

Mr McHenry added that two areas close together was easier to manage.