Three-weekly bin collections prompt 'foul smells and health crisis' warning in South Gloucestershire

A general image of black bins left out for collection
A general image of black bins left out for collection -Credit:Birmingham Mail

Proposals to move to three-weekly black bin collections in South Gloucestershire have been met with demands from opposition councillors for a rethink. Last month, the council's Liberal Democrat-Labour coalition green-lit the reduced frequency from 2026, informing the Government that bolstering recycling rates would only be possible through such measures.

However, the plan has detractors from the Conservatives, labelling it as "flawed" and "short-sighted". They argue that South Gloucestershire Council should instead cooperate more effectively with the residents to raise awareness about waste disposal and what should not end up in the black bin.

They say the proposed shift is misguided, taking into account that the district already demonstrates an impressive recycling rate at 60 percent on a national scale. In response, the Liberal Democrats and Labour ward leaders accused the Tories of misinterpreting the financial strains bottling up due to the policies implemented by their own Conservative government.

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They say scaling down collections is the sole measure left to even out budget deficits. But Cllr Kris Murphy, Conservative representative for Longwell Green, said: "Reducing black bin collections to three-weekly will leave a stink for residents."

“If the administration wants to improve recycling rates, it does not need to introduce three-weekly collections to do that – it just needs to engage with residents. Reducing black bin collections to as little as once a month is simply not an acceptable level of service.

“Residents pay their fair share of council tax and should expect a minimum standard of service.” Tory group leader Cllr Sam Bromiley (Parkwall & Warmley) said: “Three-weekly collections will be almost impossible for large families who already recycle all their waste, use a lot of nappies and have no extra room to spare in their black bin.

“The reduced frequency of collections could also mean that bins will be left to overflow, resulting in foul smells, more vermin and a potential public health crisis.” Conservatives say residents raised serious concerns about a move to three-weekly collections during public consultation earlier this year, including the lack of free space in black bins, hygiene and pollution issues and increased nuisance from wildlife.

Cabinet member for communities and local place Cllr Sean Rhodes (Labour, Kingswood ) said: “These comments from the Conservative group show that they neither comprehend the degree of strain caused by the Conservative government’s cuts to council budgets across the country, nor do they seem able to acknowledge solutions to problems they left behind when they were voted out in May 2023.

“We have consulted with South Gloucestershire residents and they have told us that over 30 per cent of current black bin contents could be recycled. So we are investigating a range of additional strategies, such as expanding the collection of flexible plastics for recycling, to meet our environmental commitments.

“The proposed changes to three-weekly collections will bring a service that currently costs more than the funding we receive to pay for it into a balanced budget position. So when we place this saving alongside a range of additional recycling strategies, we achieve a more environmentally sound service, which has a reduced overall cost to the council and thereby residents.

“This is common sense, evidence led and ultimately it finds a solution to a problem that was flagged by the Conservatives when they were in charge of the council. They seem to have a problem with well-managed, environmentally sound council services.

Criticism 'misses the point'

“The irony of the current administration once again tidying up the mess left behind by the Conservatives won’t be lost on the residents of South Gloucestershire.” Lib Dem lead member for communities and local place Cllr Jayne Stansfield ( Thornbury) said: “These comments from the Conservatives are missing the point.

“Yes we want to improve recycling rates but the real issue is the cost of the waste contract. We have to make a saving, and moving to three-weekly collections is the only option.

“We believe that by helping people to improve their recycling they will not find the change that difficult – we are extending the soft plastics recycling which makes up a lot of what is in the black bin. We already offer a nappy collections service and people can leave out more rubbish at Christmas time. Neither of these will change.

“We’ve looked at other parts of the country where this has happened and people have adapted really well and there have not been significant problems – we’re confident the people of South Gloucestershire can do the same.” A council spokesperson said: “The recent public consultation was really helpful in helping us to understand what issues some residents may have, were black bin collections to move to three-weekly.

“The council is determined to try to address these issues and if the decision is taken to move to three-weekly collections under the new waste contract, which doesn’t take effect until 2025/26, it would be alongside a range of other steps to support more recycling, including collecting food waste from flats.”

The authority is looking for a new waste partner after its current 25-year contract with Suez expires in August 2025 and has asked bidders to submit costs for both the existing fortnightly and proposed three-weekly black bin collections. It has not asked for options around monthly collections after cabinet members decided there was too much opposition from residents during the consultation.

In October, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) proposed future statutory guidance that would require local authorities to collect black bin waste no less than once every two weeks. But the council has taken external legal advice that says this would not be compulsory as long as it gives the Government “cogent reasons” to do it less frequently.