Row over costs halts change in use of blue bins

Bin men emptying domestic waste bins
Bin men emptying domestic waste bins
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A PROMISED change to the recycling system for Sheffield households has been held up by a row over costs between the council and its private waste contractor.

Sheffield Council bosses pledged a shake-up to kerbside recycling last November, after a year of complaints from irritated city residents unhappy with the way the system was run.

Many householders complained the blue boxes used for paper were too heavy to lift and unsuitable for newspaper, with little protection from wind or rain.

They said it would be better if the blue wheelie bins - meant for bottles, plastics and cans - could be used instead. The bins were used previously for paper until the council decided to introduce boxes. As a result Liberal Democrat councillors announced that, from April 1, residents would be allowed to choose themselves what to put in which of their boxes or bins.

The decision was approved by the council’s ruling cabinet in February, who confirmed the change would be made in April.

But April 1 has been and gone - and a confirmed date has still not been set for the switch.

The problem is believed to hinge on money. It is thought bin lorries belonging to recycling contractor Veolia Environmental Services will need to make more rounds if the changes are implemented, increasing costs.

Coun Andrew Sangar, Lib Dem cabinet member for climate change, blamed the delay on Veolia.

He admitted negotiations were going slowly and added: “We are hoping to get the issue resolved in the next couple of weeks and then implemented, so local people can have the choice the council is committed to.

“I’m disappointed negotiations with Veolia are taking longer than expected, but there is no way we are about to allow the taxpayer to be ripped off.

“It is best to get this right rather than saddle Sheffield taxpayers with an over-inflated cost.”

Confused residents contacted The Star complaining they did not know when they should start changing the way they recycle.

Jean York, from Norton Lees, said: “I rang Veolia to find out when this change would be implemented and had a statement read out me over the phone which said they did not know when or if it would be implemented.

“I’m beginning to believe they’ll tell us they’ve looked into it and ‘in this time of cutbacks’ it’s too expensive so won’t happen.”

A 28-year-old, from Crookes, who also rang the Veolia helpline to enquire about the new arrangements, was stunned to be told by Veolia staff that they weren’t even aware the switchover had been agreed.

She said: “They had no idea what I was talking about. Luckily I’m a keen recycler so will carry on doing as I’m told until I hear otherwise, but I can imagine lots of people would simply give up if they hit a brick wall like this.”

The Star also contacted Veolia’s customer helpline - and an officer insisted the council had not confirmed the switch.

“Nothing has been decided by the council at all,” he said. “They are looking at the options and that is as far as they have got.”

A Veolia spokeswoman declined to comment on the ongoing negotiations, but asked residents to continue to use blue boxes for paper and blue bins for glass, plastics and cans.

She added: “We are looking at the options to offer a choice for residents. If a decision should be taken to make this change, we will publicise it.”

Labour’s environment spokeswoman Coun Gill Furniss slammed the Lib Dems for making “promises they can’t keep”.

“The whole blue bin and blue box situation has been a complete farce from day one,” she added.