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Health row over Conwy's move to four-weekly collections

Conwy County Borough Council has accused an environmental health professional body of falsely whipping up public health fears over its switch to four-weekly collections of residual waste.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) said it was dismayed by the council’s move, and warned that it would lead to a range of public health problems such as pest infestations.

But the council said the CIEH had “no scientific evidence base” for its concerns.

Conwy is the first council in England or Wales to reduce residual collections to every four weeks.

The CIEH said there were claims during a trial period that some residents had resorted to burning uncollected waste.

CIEH head of policy Tony Lewis said that even if the new schedule did save the council the claimed £390,000 a year, much of this would be offset by a resulting increase in environmental health work.

Lewis said: “We cannot hide our disappointment at this retrograde step, and share the public health concerns being vocally expressed by people in the Conwy area.

“There are real risks with moving to a monthly bin collection system, such as elevated levels of fly-tipping, domestic refuse burning, pest infestations, odour nuisance and fly nuisance, especially in the summer months.”

He said the CIEH recognised the financial pressures on councils, but “we feel that the additional environmental risks and associated costs brought about by this decision will outweigh the immediate cash benefit”.

A Conwy spokesperson said: “We are surprised that an organisation representing professionals with a scientific background would make a statement with no scientific evidence base.

“In Conwy we make decisions based on evidence. The evidence of our trial of four-weekly refuse collections is that there is no significant increase in fly-tipping, that households who recycle can fit all their waste in their bin, that recycling has increased and that landfill has reduced by 30%.”

The council said that reports of the presence of rats were lower in 2018 than in 2016, before the change from fortnightly collections, adding that pest and odour problems are reduced by retaining weekly collections for recycling, food waste, nappies and incontinence products.

Conwy said the CIEH’s stance would “increase the use of natural resources, waste energy and result in thousands of tonnes of valuable, usable material such as plastic ending up in landfill”.

It also pointed to the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management’s view that well-designed four-weekly black bag waste collections could safeguard health and increase recycling. 

Picture: Roland zh/ Wikimedia Commons

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