Call for rethink as council agrees to continue bin trial

Banbridge District Council
Banbridge District Council

Banbridge Council is to continue its black bin trial until the end of this month when the current bin collection calendars, and the council itself, will expire.

Evaluation of the scheme passes to the new Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon council, whose members will decide on the trial’s immediate future.

However, against a background of some public protest on social media, two sitting Banbridge District councillors, both elected to the new supercouncil, continue to press for a return to fortnightly collections until the amalgamated authority decides the wider future of waste disposal.

In line with a party position recently outlined by Upper Bann MP David Simpson, the DUP’s Paul Rankin and Hazel Gamble last week proposed to Banbridge Council’s Environmental Services Committee that the more-or-less monthly collections cease.

“I have always stated that I was not a cheerleader for the four-weekly scheme council was intent on imposing,” said Councillor Rankin. “I have always had reservations, particularly around the disposal of nappies and medical waste and the need for additional green bin collections; in consultation with the entire group of ABC DUP councillors I made a formal proposal to cease the trial with immediate effect and present all data to the new ABC Council for consideration . . .

“I firmly believe Banbridge has led the way with regards to recycling and I am content that a saving has been made, and that recycling rates have improved. However, there are fundamental flaws in the policy and to that end we need to ensure that the vast majority of our ratepayers are satisfied with the council policy, which is not the case at present.”

Council officers, meanwhile, last week presented councillors with what was later hailed a “very positive” evaluation of the trial, which over the past four months had taken in some 75% of district households, they said.

Officers reported a 35% fall in waste placed in black bins, a 35% rise in dry recyclable waste placed into green bins, a 25% increase in compostable waste placed into brown bins and a kerbside recycling rate of 64.5%.

Councillors were also told an independent householder survey indicated “Overall a strong evidence base showing positive behaviour change and support for the scheme”, with just 13% of residents surveyed voicing a preference for the fortnightly collections.

The council’s Acting Chief Executive, Pat Cumiskey, recognised that for “a minority of householders” it was a difficult change, requiring, in some cases, direct support and engagement with council staff.

“However,” he said, “it is clear that many of the concerns regarding fly-tipping, vermin, smells and environmental difficulties envisaged by some protesters to the scheme have been overstated.”

Councillor Rankin said the ABC council would certainly be looking at the Banbridge data in detail and it would contribute to the wider debate at its Services Committee meeting this month.

The new council’s DUP group leader, Carla Lockhart, said theirs was a commonsense proposal aimed at defusing the “very volatile environment” concerning four-weekly bin collections.

“It is evident,” she said, “that there are those who are very supportive of this four-weekly cycle and can make it work for their household.

“However, there are those who have small children, people with medical issues, green bins overflowing because of the increased recycling rate that it just does not work for; therefore we believe a more bespoke, well thought-out proposal for the area should be reached.

“Our party initially supported the trial and we believe that the findings will be extremely useful but in the interim the Council should revert to the two weekly cycle and allow the ABC Council to decide the future of the waste disposal in Banbridge, Craigavon and Armagh.”