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Extra bin bags set to be banned under plans to scrap 'side waste' in Sunderland

City leaders have backed plans to phase out the collection of side waste bags across Wearside, with a view of scrapping the service next year.

By Chris Binding
Thursday, 9th June 2022, 3:16 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th June 2022, 4:45 pm

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Sunderland is currently the only one of 12 North East councils that collects bagged waste placed next to wheeled bins.

Current arrangements allow residents to place side waste next to the green household waste bins which are collected as part of the fortnightly service.

However, information and research presented to councillors this week said that collecting side waste discourages recycling, is inefficient and more costly for the waste service and council tax payers, and has impacts on staff safety.

Pictures of side waste in Washington area Credit: Sunderland City Council.

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This includes potential risk of injury when staff handle heavy bags and bags with sharp objects inside.

At a meeting of Sunderland City Council’s ruling cabinet on Thursday, June 9, council chiefs backed proposals to wind down the service over the next six months.

According to a report prepared for cabinet, current side waste arrangements are a “growing concern” and it is not uncommon to see four to five bags out for a property and at times, between ten and twenty bags for a property.

Labour council bosses have said the current arrangements have impacts on the environment and the council’s ability to support lowering carbon emissions and increased recycling rates.

The current side waste policy also means refuse crews have to make more trips to the transfer station, placing additional time and cost on collection rounds, the service and the council.

Members of Sunderland City Council’s cabinet discussed the ‘no side waste policy’ at a meeting at City Hall, where both the potential difficulties and the benefits to the plan came up in debate.

Councillor Linda Williams, cabinet member for Vibrant City, said the policy would be “difficult to implement” but welcomed the programme for the changes, which includes a phased approach and education.

“Hopefully any issues that might come up would be reported back to cabinet so it could be that we do need to look at something else,” Cllr Williams said.

“I think it’s absolutely right people need to take responsibility for their own waste and recycle but there’s always going to be issues and there will always be hotspots at certain times of the year.”

Councillor Louise Farthing, cabinet member for children, learning and skills, stressed that the council is providing a “free waste bin for anyone that hasn’t got one” this year.

Cllr Farthing added the Government had a role to play in developing “national standards” to help make recycling easier for residents.

‘There will be sticking points’

Liberal Democrat opposition councillor, Paul Edgeworth, who attended the cabinet meeting, raised concerns about the impact of the no side waste policy on street cleaning and the potential for increased waste dumping.

Cllr Edgeworth also asked whether the council could review existing policies so that more families could qualify for bigger bins if problems arise in future.

In response to concerns, Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said the new no side waste policy was about “trying to get people to recycle more” as well as other improvements.

He said this included creating a more efficient waste service, reducing the council’s carbon footprint and providing a safer working environment for staff.

“There are going to be sticking points but the council is fully aware of them and I’m confident that we will work through all those issues with residents and have a better waste system at the end of the day,” Cllr Miller added.

“I do appreciate the comments on this, it is important that we get it right”.

The cabinet report outlines that three years ago there were around 4,550 recorded instances of excess side waste and in the 12 months to March 2022 it had nearly doubled to a figure of 8,476.

Council chiefs also heard that an option of continuing with a policy of collecting side waste was “considered and rejected” as it would mean the service would “continue to face adverse environmental, health and safety and operational issues”, as well as difficulties around increasing recycling rates.

Following cabinet approval, a campaign will be launched to make residents aware of the upcoming changes around side waste.

This will include a “countdown announcement” for phase one, which would see no more than two bags of side waste collected.

Phase two would then follow, with the council collecting no more than one bag of side waste per property before side waste collections are scrapped in the new year.

The cabinet report adds that for large families or in special circumstances, additional bins can be provided and that arrangements will be made to collect side waste during the “Christmas period” when levels were usually high.

Backlash over bins

Speaking after the plan was discussed at cabinet, Councillor Julia Potts, Liberal Democrat councillor for Millfield ward, has labelled the overarching no side waste policy as “totally reckless”.

Cllr Potts, speaking after the cabinet meeting, added: “It doesn’t take a genius to work out that not collecting extra bags of rubbish on bin day is going to lead to even bigger problems and a tsunami of rubbish being left to rot in back lanes which is not only unsightly but also poses a public health risk.

“Council bosses urgently need to commit to introducing more street cleaning staff and offering bigger wheelie bins for large households if they don’t want this change to be a total disaster.”