Black bins food waste ban proposed in bid to save Belfast £800k
Belfast City Council is set to implement a complete ban on food waste in black bins, a move that will cost £65,000.
The council is planning to write to householders warning them that bins will be monitored and that those found to contain food waste after two breaches won't be emptied.
The proposal was supported by the people and communities committee last month and is expected to be approved at a full council meeting tonight.
City Hall chiefs say that the initiative could lead to 1,500 tonnes of food waste being recycled - saving the council £800,000 in landfill charges every year.
The initiative has divided councillors. The DUP's Graham Craig heralded it as an "excellent idea".
But the SDLP's Declan Boyle said that many people would be concerned about storing rotting food in their homes for an extended period, and he asked if the savings the council made would be passed onto householders in the form of lower rates bills.
The move follows new legislation requiring the separate collection of food waste which will be implemented by all councils across Northern Ireland. It is already in operation in Ards and North Down Borough Council.
Other areas preparing to implement the new rules include Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council.
Literature due to be sent to households across Belfast says that under the new regulations both raw and cooked food waste must now go in brown bins.
"This includes vegetables and meat - including bones - leftovers and plate scrapings, vegetable peelings, teabags, coffee ground, egg shells, breads, pastries and out of date food," the leaflet says.
It warns that council staff will be "monitoring bins" and will operate a three-strikes policy.
The first time that food waste is found in a black bin, a warning sticker will be placed on it. On the second occasion, the sticker will be followed by a letter to the offending householder.
If there is a third breach, the bin won't be emptied until the householder has removed the food waste.
The council will provide food waste kitchen caddies and compostable bags to households. The initiative will cost £55,000-£65,000 on 32 temporary staff and vehicles and £10,000 on bin stickers.
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs is to fund the stickers but the council is paying for the rest of the project.
An internal council document says that 25% of material in black bins is food waste. "If this waste was diverted into a food waste caddy or brown bin for composting instead of landfilling, the council could save around £800,000 each year," it states.
DUP councillor Graham Craig said: "I warmly welcome this excellent initiative which could save the council a lot of money. Belfast urgently needs to increase its recyling levels, and we all have our part to play in that."
Councillor Craig said that he recognised the new rules may initially cause problems for some households.
"Those with bigger families or limited space mightn't find this easy at the start but I believe that, with the right equipment over time, recycling food waste will become part of people's normal behaviour.
"I already compost raw food waste in my garden and put the cooked material into the brown bin."
However, SDLP councillor Mr Boyle said: "This initiative won't be an issue for people with bigger homes and gardens. But storing all the receptacles could be difficult for those in smaller houses. There are hygiene and smell concerns about food waste gathering in the kitchen in summer. It could well attract vermin and flies.
"This project should save the council £800,000 or more. Will those savings be passed on to ratepayers?"
Mr Boyle also asked if the new policy on domestic food waste would be extended to street bins.
"If householders have to separate their waste, then the general public should have to recycle too," he said.
"The natural progression is to have separate food waste bins on the street so those leaving carry-outs at two or 3am would be expected to put their fish and chip or kebab left-overs in one bin, and their wrappings in another."