Antrim and Newtownabbey householders face prospect of fourth recycling bin

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Antrim and Newtownabbey households may have to use a fourth recycling bin, if there is new legislation on the future of recycling and resources.

Councillors were told at a meeting of the council’s Operations Committee, at Antrim Civic Centre, on Monday evening, that a weekly food waste collection may be introduced.

The Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is consulting on the future of resources and recycling in Northern Ireland.

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A report to the committee said: “The aim is to improve the quality and quantity of household and non-household municipal recycling, reduce food waste, decrease the amount of waste we send to landfill and help enhance the services offered to households and businesses.

Food waste bin. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting ServiceFood waste bin. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service
Food waste bin. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service

“The responses will be used, along with expert advice and evidence, to develop new policy and legislation. Proposals to increase the collection of food waste from households include the possibility of weekly food collections.

“Councils may be required to collect a core set of dry recyclables from households, including glass bottles and containers, paper/card, plastics and metal packaging. Household dry recyclables should be collected separately, as per the wheelie box scheme, to ensure the quality of the recycled materials.”

In reply to a query from Antrim DUP Alderman John Smyth about a potential weekly food waste collection, an officer said: “Research would indicate you get a higher rate of food waste when it is collected weekly.”

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Food Waste

Brown bins are provided by the council for food waste which are emptied fortnightly. However, the officer reported food waste still accounts for 30 per cent of black bin waste in the borough. He indicated a new food waste bin could be emptied alongside wheelie boxes and placed in the same vehicle. He also said that householders could have four bins.

Macedon Alliance Councillor Billy Webb MBE asked if new food bins would be “dog proof and magpie proof”. He was told they would have a locking mechanism and could contain 30 to 40 litres of food waste and would be “quite easy to carry”.

“They were used in legacy Antrim for a while in country areas,” the officer recalled. However, he stressed no proposals have been approved or “put in place” by the Department, suggesting “it seems to be the direction of travel”.

Ballyclare Independent Cllr Michael Stewart stated: “It just sounds like it makes things really complicated for people, all those different bins. People have got used to the brown bin. There would be another bin for food waste.

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"It is like the ‘Krypton Factor’ to know when to put out bins. It just seems crazy. It is difficult enough to get people to use the right bin to recycle. I think it is really complicated.”

The officer commented: “There is no doubt there are challenges informing the public what bin to put out. The drive behind this consultation is about the quality of recycling materials. At present, a lot are of low quality and get shipped off around the world and do not get processed close to home.”

Extract Bio-gas

He explained food waste would be processed to extract bio-gas, which he said, can’t be created from brown bin waste.

Cllr Stewart remarked: “It would need a good marketing campaign behind this. It will be difficult to bring the public along with us if we do not explain why it is important.”

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The officer stressed no changes are happening “straight away” and householders should continue to place food waste into their brown bin. He pointed out it is turned into compost for use in council parks.

“It looks like councils will be asked that they do not landfill any biodegradable waste out of black bins.”

Cllr Stewart asked if householders would still be able to place food waste in brown bins in the future.

“If we bring in a food waste collection, we will be trying to promote it as much as possible that we will be creating a better product,” the officer said.

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He went on say he believes funding may be provided through the UK Government’s New Burdens Fund.

Airport Sinn Fein Cllr Annemarie Logue suggested a new food waste bin would need to be a different colour to any used by householders in the borough at present. She asked where food waste processing would take place to produce bio-gas.

The officer said that this could take place in anaerobic ingestion plants which are usually located at agricultural sites.

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Cllr Webb asked about the frequency of future black bin collections. Currently 180 litre black bins are used by households in Newtownabbey and 240 litre versions in the Antrim area.

The officer said “harmonisation” of the waste collection service would mean the roll-out of 180 litre black bins in Antrim. These would be provided alongside wheelie boxes.

He added that some councils operate black bin collections every three weeks. “That is not within our plans at the moment,” he stated.

“With this consultation, there has been quite a bit of discussion and disagreement from some other councils. It is getting the quality of material to produce bio-gas because it is of higher value.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter