A MAJOR review of waste collection across Ards and North Down will look at possibly reducing the size of grey bins and the number of times they are emptied.

The review is being undertaken by Ards and North Down Council in a bid to improve recycling and help the local authority reach an ambitious target of recycling 70% of all refuse.

Currently over half of what goes into grey bins is recyclable and, as the review is carried out, householders can expect to find labels being stuck to their bins alerting them they have disposed of their rubbish inappropriately.

However, the key factor for the council is trying to restrict the amount of rubbish going into grey bins by introducing smaller capacity bins or by limiting the frequency of collections.

Commenting on waste management statistics, the council’s Director of Environment, David Lindsay, said there was a ‘slight improvement’ but it ‘still paints a fairly poor picture’.

“In relative terms we are better at kerbside recycling than we are at household recycling centres (HRC),” he told councillors at a recent meeting of the council’s Environment  Committee. “But we are not nearly good enough at either of the two of them to project us towards the 70% target that we’ve got”. 

The priority target for the council was HRCs, Mr Lindsay said, but it also needed to investigate kerbside performance in terms of recapture.

“We are going to introduce some extra stuff around how many bins we are ‘stickering’ for wrong material in the grey bin,” he explained.

“When we get the new booking system in place we can gauge how many people are coming into recycling centres, the average number of visits, and what is the recycling rate at recycling centres”.

The council has been working with WRAP – the Waste and Resources Action Programme – whose technical consultant Mike Gardner addressed the Environment Committee.

“Currently over half – 55% – of what goes into the grey bin is recyclable, and almost a quarter of recyclable material which ends up in the grey bin is food waste,” said Mr Gardner.

“Reducing the available residual capacity results in higher participation in recycling services and is more successful where more comprehensive kerbside recycling services are offered at the same time”.

Throughout the United Kingdom, Mr Gardner said, the trend was moving towards weekly food waste collections to maximise recycling rates. 

Mr Gardner drew up three scenarios for the committee to consider – to continue with the fortnightly collection of grey bins with a reduction in the capacity of these bins from 240 litres to 180 litres; to continue with a 240 litre bin but with a three weekly collection; or to continue with the 240 litre bin and a four weekly collection.

All three scenarios also included a monthly textile collection.

Other local authorities who had reduced the frequency of collection have put in place special measures such as the provision of an additional bin for larger households. “Households that have medical needs may require a collection of absorbent hygiene products, and some authorities provide a separate collection on demand for those particular wastes,” he said. 

Mr Lindsay advised the committee the team from WRAP would spend the next few months undertaking the review with key findings brought to the September meeting.

Following agreement by the Environment Committee of the preferred waste regime collection there will be a period of public consultation.