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Alternate-week collections defended after health fears

By Greg Pitcher

The councillor at the centre of the storm about alternate-week

collections has declared himself mystified by the furore over health fears.

Concerns that bin men would be harmed by fumes from rubbish left for 14 days at a time were voiced last week by GMB union branch secretary Jim Cairns.

And opposition Labour councillor Brian Lloyd is leading a campaign against the fortnightly collections Vale Royal Borough Council launched last Tuesday.

But lead councillor for waste services Malcolm Gaskill this week told MRW that Labour first touted the idea and GMB has never raised a problem with it.

Liberal Democrat Gaskill also insisted the Cheshire council could not afford to collect household waste every week and hit Government recycling targets.

Im mystified by Labour, he said. A scheme so similar you could not tell it apart was put forward by them in 1994.

They opted not to pursue it because there was not the same level of funding available from Government then. But that doesnt detract from the validity of the idea.

We have had 45 objections from the public, but principally these are from people concerned their bin wont be big enough. They are fine when they realise that if they have too much genuine non-recyclable material we will give them an extra bin.

GMB has been consulted by SITA every step of the way, and Ive sat in regular meetings with them and not heard a single word of complaint.

Its members seem happy enough you do not get disgruntled workers putting in 14-hour days for you, which is what these guys have been doing to get the scheme going.

We are collecting recyclables every other week to ensure we hit our 30% statutory target in 2010 and the Household Waste Recycling Bill.

To collect household waste every week as well would cost us an extra £1 million per year, which is about 17% on Council Tax.

And this extra collection would encourage people to recycle less, which would mean we could fail to reach our target and be hit with high penalties from the Government.

So we dont really have a choice but to use this scheme if we want to take Cheshire from 10% household recycling now to 30% in 2010.

Cairns said of the alternate-week collections last week: It is a bit concerning. If our members run into problems then we will see what they want to do about it.

The council has issued a page advert telling people to wrap their rubbish up properly but why are they doing this if there is no danger?

Lloyd added: Research from Scandinavia has shown that waste left in bins for a fortnight will start to putrefy and give off gases that inflame the lung tracts of those working with them.

Concerns over the health of refuse collectors played a part in the London Borough of Suttons decision to scrap alternate-week collections in September 2001.

Sutton Council changed its policy after it found increasingly high levels of contamination in the green recyclable-waste bins, said a spokesman.

There was also an increase in the numbers of black bin liners put out for collection, which raised health and safety issues for our refuse collection teams.

But Vale Royal Council pointed out that it had conducted a risk assessment on its alternate-week scheme and concluded there was little risk to residents. After analysing the potential for problems with flies, odours, capacity, handling and storage of bins, the council concluded the risks were very low. u

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