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New Forest wheelie bins – what's next with NFDC's waste plans?

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A BIG vote will be held next month when New Forest District Council decides whether to scrap the rubbish sack system and roll out wheelie bins to local homes from 2024.

NFDC’s ruling Conservative administration has said they are needed to bring the New Forest’s recycling levels up to government targets, and opposition Liberal democrats have not made a big noise against them.

But among residents the scheme divides opinion with some praising them as convenient storage that prevents sacks shedding waste all over the pavement, and others criticising them as eyesores that will clutter up the area’s picturesque roads and prove a handful for vulnerable or older people.

As the clock ticks down to the big council vote on 11th July, here’s how things stand.

NFDC say it will help residents who can't manage wheelie bins
NFDC say it will help residents who can't manage wheelie bins

How will it work?

At a media briefing last week, NFDC’s service manager for waste and transport, Chris Noble, said mixed recycling and general waste would be collected on alternate weeks from 180-litre wheelie bins.

Each home would also be issued with seven-litre and 23-litre caddies for food waste, which would be collected weekly.

The idea is for residents to keep the smaller caddy in their kitchen, before transferring waste from it to the larger one outside.

People would also be supplied with a separate 90-litre reusable sack for paper and card.

The council would continue to offer its chargeable fortnightly garden waste collection but this would be in a 240-litre wheelie bin instead of the current green sacks.

How much will it cost?

Mr Noble said the new containers would cost £4.5m to buy, but he added: “The key thing here, however, is that some of those collection containers will last up to 20 years, so if you spread out that initial cost across the life of the containers it is about £250,000 per year.

“By way of comparison, our annual cost for purchasing clear and black sacks for the current collection system was £388,000, and that does not include delivery costs.”

The council would also need to spend £1.1m in set-up costs, including training extra staff.

He said some of the council’s vehicles could be adapted for the new service and some were already suitable.

What if you don’t want a wheelie bin?

A comprehensive survey of residents has been promised to determine which households could be exempt, such as not having enough space, or need help with their new wheelie bins – which has been forecast to be about one in 10 across the district.

But if the scheme goes through, NFDC has warned any residents who refuse the bins without good reason that their rubbish might not be collected.

Mr Noble told the A&T: “Ultimately, as the waste collection authority, we do have the authority to stipulate which containers we would like residents to use, in the legislation, and that is the basis that we would run the service, so we would have to bear that in mind.

“We would expect, where suitable, for people to use that container if they wanted us to collect their waste.

“But clearly we would want to work with residents so we don’t end up in that situation.

“Ultimately we want everyone to participate as we know we will get the higher rates of recycling and reduce the carbon impact, which are our key objectives.”

Campaigners against the changes attended a meeting of New Forest District Council
Campaigners against the changes attended a meeting of New Forest District Council

For and against

The first step on the way to the final vote on 11th July was a meeting last week of councillors on the environment and sustainability scrutiny panel at NFDC’s Appletree Court HQ in Lyndhurst.

Eight objectors carrying a placard and pamphlets gathered outside before some had their say at the meeting.

A report to the panel said a consultation between 12th November and 20 December 2020 had gathered 3,863 responses – with 50% having “concerns” over the use of wheeled bins.

Thirty-seven per cent said it would be a “good” idea with 13% agreeing but with worries about where the bin would be stored.

The report argued losing the sacks would be “good for the environment” and stated: “The strategy will help to reduce carbon emissions, increase recycling, reduce the amount of single-use plastic bags used in the New Forest, and preserve natural resources.”

Low recycling rates across the district, which stood at just 34% in 2019/20 – significantly below the national average of 44% – must be tackled, NFDC has warned. In 2018/19, the council’s performance was ranked 286th out of 345 councils in England.

But at the meeting, resident Lewis Hibbard told councillors: “A major percentage will have to store the containers outside of their property – more than likely on the pavement, blocking safe passageway.

“Wheelie bins left out during the day, pre or post-collection while residents are at work, will create an easy target for crime as it will show the properties are vacant.”

He said the consultation had been “a poorly advertised and conducted survey” and was “heavily weighed” in favour of the strategy.

Objector Ralph Kent added: “NFDC’s waste strategy will affect this region for decades. Let’s not waste vast amounts of taxpayers’ money and tonnes of virgin plastic on replicating a flawed system just because it exists elsewhere on other local Hampshire authorities.”

Cllr Allan Glass told the meeting he had shared a leaflet outlining the plans to members of the local Men’s Shed – which he said had caused much “consternation”.

Cllr Malcolm Wade said: “Families create rubbish – it doesn’t just disappear if we give them a smaller bin. I’ve said it all along: if we minimise waste, we haven’t got to collect as much.”

Will wheelie bins mean fewer scenes like this?
Will wheelie bins mean fewer scenes like this?

What’s next?

The environment and sustainability scrutiny panel voted with just two absentions to back wheelie bins, sending the proposals to the ruling cabinet.

Members of the administration will meet at Appletree Court on 6th July to decide whether to press ahead.

If they do, as expected, a final decision is made in a vote by the full council on 11th July.

Cllr Steve Davies (pictured), the Conservative cabinet member for environment and coastal services, told the A&T it was important that residents knew what was happening and when, and promised a “detailed communication plan” for residents about the scheme’s roll-out.

He said: “We must reduce carbon emissions and waste, and we want to offer better recycling opportunities – in quantity and range, in particular.

“To help residents we will be performing a comprehensive survey to identify which properties are not suitable for wheelie bins. We expect that to be about 10%, which is around 8,000 dwellings.

“We’ll certainly continue to offer help to those who need it – we already have a lot of assisted collections with the demographic of the area – and we will even supply larger bins to larger families, if that is requested.”

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