ISSUES acquiring materials from China due to the coronavirus pandemic has caused further delays to a planned recycling pilot in St Helens.

Collection trials using new recycling containers were supposed to start in the Shires Estate and Fingerpost areas of the town centre earlier this year.

The multi-box recycling system is being produced by Coral Products, based in Haydock Industrial Park, and has been hailed as the first of its kind in England.

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St Helens Borough Council unveiled a prototype of the new containers last July and the final version had been expected to be completed by January 2020.

However, the extraordinary situation with Covid-19 lay waste to those plans, throwing up unforeseen complications for the much-delayed pilot.

A spokesman for St Helens Borough Council said: “The impact of Covid-19 has significantly impacted on the delivery of the materials from China for the recycling receptacles.

“We are in discussions with the contractor (Coral) to try to resolve these issues.”

St Helens Star: A prototype of the new receptacles was unveiled in July 2019 yearA prototype of the new receptacles was unveiled in July 2019 year

The setback is the latest in a long line of complications for the council’s planned revamp of waste services.

Revised recycling trials were originally due to begin in February 2019, but were delayed due to issues with securing new recycling containers.

Three-weekly brown bin collections were also due to form part of the pilot, although this was put on hold following the appointment of David Baines as leader of the council.

Revised collection trials using Coral’s new system was expected to begin earlier this year, following the completion of the final version.

The council insists the project has not been canned, but it won’t say when it is planning to finally begin the revised recycling rounds.

Away from the pilot, the council will be taking a fresh look at the entire waste system as part of a review of all council services being undertaken in light of the pandemic.

This work is being carried out to assist with the development on an emergency budget in response to the massive impact the pandemic has had on the council.

In March, the council suspended its recycling and food waste collection service, with weekly brown bin collections returning for around two months.

Brown bin services began to go back to fortnightly collections in May as part of a phased return.

Cllr Andy Bowden, who took over the environmental services portfolio from Cllr Lynn Clarke in March 2020, said at the time that he wanted the council to look at why it had to take the action it did and ask whether there were any lessons to be learned.

While St Helens Borough Council was forced to make big changes, neighbouring authories such as Warrington and Wigan councils were able to maintain their usual service.

Throughout the pandemic, Warrington Borough Council has continued to collect all domestic waste from the kerbside, including mixed recycling, general household waste and garden waste.

In Wigan, there has also been no disruption to the waste collection service.

Wigan Council prioritised and deployed waste collection crews as normal and also provided residents with extra waste by collecting one surplus bin bag for a period of time.

One thing the Warrington and Wigan have in common is that they both use a system of mixed recycling.

In St Helens, residents have to wrestle with five recycling containers, as well as a brown bin for general waste.

Sorting out all of this waste is also labour intensive, and is understood to be part of the reason why the council had to strip back its services for a period of time.

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As part of the review into waste services, it is understood that officers will try to assess just how susceptible the current recycling system is to future events of this nature.

This, in turn, could bring about fresh changes to the way waste is recycled in the borough.

For now, a council spokesman said the authority is still working with Coral on its new multi-box recycling system, but “can’t give any dates at present” as to when it will be ready to launch.