A MASSIVE bins crackdown is only two weeks away from coming into force. In a fortnight’s time, householders throughout Ards and North Down will start to receive leaflets through the post explaining tough new rules on both street collections and using Household Recycling Centres (HRCs).

The crackdown could see people cut off from household collections if they put rubbish in the wrong bin, and banned from using HRCs if they either throw recyclables into landfill or bring in waste that isn’t from their own home. Two small details about the new rubbish regime are still being worked out by Ards and North Down Council officials, but the bulk of the new rules will start to come in this month – starting with explanatory leaflets mailed out as part of a publicity biltz. That’s the news from a council meeting last week, during which the body’s environment director, David Lindsay, said he hopes to start getting the leaflets delivered early in the second half of November. The bins crackdown comes as the council continues to struggle to get to grips with its two-year recycling crisis, which has seen it plummet from being one of the best performing boroughs in Northern Ireland to one of the worst which has seen landfill fees skyrocketing. Due to those two outstanding issues, however, the council won’t be able to tell locals the full ramifications of the new regime until after it has already started. But, said Mr Lindsay last week, the bulk of the crackdown has been approved by councillors and so can begin, while the design and wording of the explanatory leaflets had to be agreed before those two issues have been sorted out in order to post them in time.

The two outstanding issues both concern HRCs. One, relatively minor, is a change in the rules determining what size of trailers can be brought into each facility, The other, which is causing great concern among many councillors of several parties, involves a new rule specifying that householders must go to an HRC with any private sector disposal business they’ve hired to confirm that the business is leaving off specific household waste from a single home in the borough.

Councillors fear that could force vulnerable people – anyone from the elderly to single women to people with disabilities – to climb into the vans of strangers if they need large items taken away, exposing them to risk or at the very least leaving them feeling unsafe. Arguing in favour of the rule, Mr Lindsay said that under the current system, householders who want large items such as a Householders facing tough new regime settee or a table and chairs taken away from their homes have to obtain a permit from the council, then hand that permit off to the third party disposal business for them to use an Ards and North Down HRC. “But,” he said, “there’s nothing to stop that commercial enterprise gathering up waste – it could be industrial waste, waste from other businesses, waste from Belfast or Lisburn and Castlereagh – and then bringing it in along with the waste the permit was originally secured for. “In recommending this part of the regime, officers [feel] that if a householder has large items of waste, which is their waste and they have a responsibility for ensuring that it’s disposed of properly, that it wasn’t unreasonable for them to be expected to accompany that waste to their local HRC and verify to staff that the waste in the van is all coming from [their] own home in the borough.” Mr Lindsay added that people could be granted exemptions from that rule if they can demonstrate ‘exceptional circumstances’ due to their specific needs. However several councillors felt that the risk to vulnerable people’s wellbeing is too high, and are insisting that the rule needs to be rewritten.

The trailer issue involves a change to the size permitted into HRCs. Currently the council says that only single-axle trailers can be brought in; that, however, has allowed modified single-axle trailers with much larger capacities to be used. As a result the body wants to redefine permitted trailers by a specific size, only allowing six-feet by four-feet trailers in. Those two issues will likely only be resolved towards the end of the month, Mr Lindsay said, which the senior official admitted would mean the council will not be able to answer all questions the public has about the crackdown in the planned information leaflets. “We will get calls,” he said. “It would have been preferable to have it in the literature to cut down the number of potential enquiries officers have to deal with, but we will get enquiries. “[The issues will only be properly dealt with] at the end of November, by which stage householders may have started to receive word about the various things we’re trying to implement to improve our recycling rates.”