WHEELIE bins have not been ruled out by New Forest District Council leaders as a way of boosting the area’s poor recycling rates.
The controversial containers have been forced onto the agenda by the government launching a national consultation on how to improve waste disposal.
The latest official recycling figures for 2016/17 ranked NFDC 308th out of 350 local authorities in England, with a rate of 31%.
The council, which has legal responsibility for collecting waste, has always resisted the introduction of wheelie bins which are perceived as unpopular among voters who mostly leave loose bags out for collection. There are local elections on 2nd May.
But the administration could be pushed into making major changes to its approach within a few years as the government looks to standardise operations in an effort to drive up the national recycling rate from about 45% now to EU targets of 55% by 2025.
The local consultation response will be led by Marchwood Cllr Alison Hoare, the Conservative cabinet member for environment and regulatory services.
After a cabinet meeting that discussed the issue, Cllr Hoare told the A&T: “At the moment I am quite comfortable with the bags. But going forward we will have to review our waste strategy and I would like to go forward with an open mind. I will not rule [wheelie bins] in or out.
“The government wants consistency throughout the country, even down to the colour of the bins.
“I think it’s difficult. There are some places in the Forest where you could not have wheelie bins. I would say Beaulieu, for example, mainly because the pavements are so narrow.
“I think we would have to put our case forward to the government that we have a unique situation and circumstance here in the New Forest.”
NFDC leader Cllr Barry Rickman added: “I think the whole idea of having a good consultation is that you consult on every possibility to do a good job. I would not rule [wheelie bins] in or out.”
Some people prefer wheelie bins as a way of securing rubbish away from New Forest livestock which are sometimes known to leave waste strewn across the roads after tearing open the bags.
Others see them as an eyesore in the street that can be difficult to handle and find room to store.
The cabinet meeting was updated on the government’s plans by Chris Noble, NFDC service manager for waste and transport.
He said average English recycling rates had been stuck between 44% and 46% for the last six years, and action was needed to meet the EU targets of up to 65% by 2035, which the government intends to stick to despite Brexit.
Proposals are to make recycling more consistent across the country, including methods and materials, as well as setting up deposit return schemes, collecting more thrown-away food, and cracking down on waste crime, such as fly-tipping.
Proposed for acceptance under national recycling standards are plastic pots, tubs and trays – which NFDC currently does not recycle.
Other ideas include free garden waste collections, for which NFDC charges, and more separation of materials such as paper and glass.
Mr Noble pointed out the government said local circumstances would help determine recycling containers, and councils would receive extra funding for set-up and operational costs.
Cllr Hoare told members: “The government is changing the way we deal with waste as a country. It’s important that NFDC are involved and we put our thoughts forward.”
A group of councillors will be tasked with drafting a response to the government which will be put to Cllr Hoare to sign off before the May deadline. Project Integra, the Hampshire-wide waste disposal operation, will offer data to inform the reply.
A more technical consultation will follow before draft legislation is expected in 2020.