How to stop rising tide of rats in Belfast? Bring back the weekly bin collection
A return to a weekly bin collection could help reduce the rising number of rats in Belfast, a local rat-catcher has claimed.
But with many cash-strapped councils committed to fortnightly household collections, the rise of the rat in our alleyways looks set to continue.
The rodents have been thrust into the spotlight after the Belfast Telegraph published footage of rats on the counter of a coffee shop on our website.
A branch of Caffe Nero in Donegall Square West, Belfast, remains closed after rodents were filmed scurrying around it in the early hours of the morning last month.
The vermin were videoed by a couple who spotted them while returning from a night out.
The coffee shop has been closed since Wednesday.
Caffe Nero is a European coffee house brand with more than 600 stores globally.
However, a local pest controller has claimed part of the problem is not enough funding to deal with the rampant rodents.
Until relatively recently, household waste was collected weekly. However, now it is collected fortnightly - with most councils heavily promoting recycling.
Belfast City Council also offers a commercial waste collection service, which operates daily.
But speaking in a personal capacity, pest controller Geoff Kennedy said: "I think if there was more funding available then there could be more proactive preventative measures in place to prevent a rise in rat numbers."
In addition to this, Mr Kennedy argued that everyone has a role to play in deterring rats - and that a key component of this is the management of household waste around the city.
He claimed this too could be helped by extra funding.
"For example, bins being collected again on a weekly basis instead of a fortnightly basis," he said.
However, a spokeswoman for Belfast City Council said: "A sewer baiting programme is in place across Belfast and is carried out by council staff.
"Rats are not uncommon in major cities, however social habits such as littering and discarding food scraps can attract them, and this is something council actively discourages through its various campaigns..
"As part of its waste management strategy, council introduced an alternate weekly collection system to encourage more recycling, as required under EU law. As a result we have seen an increase in recycling in Belfast and a reduction in the amount of waste being sent to landfill."
As Caffe Nero continues to investigate its infestation, Belfast City Council on Wednesday said it was "investigating the integrity of the external drainage infrastructure in the area and liaising with the management of the Scottish Provident Building who carried out immediate maintenance to the drainage".
Belfast City Council said it has a contractual agreement with NI Water to bait sewers "and it continues to carry out this work".
NI Water denied that there is not enough money coming from Stormont - despite experts claiming the number of rats in Belfast is on the increase.
The agency also confirmed that it is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of publicly adopted sewers across Northern Ireland.
A spokesman said: "NI Water is satisfied that we have presently available to us the appropriate level of funding to maintain publicly adopted sewers and drains."
Trevor Clarke MLA, the chairman of the Department for Regional Development's watchdog committee, told the Belfast Telegraph he is content that as much as can be done is being done.
The DUP Assemblyman said: "Some of the cutbacks we have had in terms of drains are more for storm drains, which are certainly a problem, and it's something that should be addressed.
"However, I can't see a direct correlation between that and what happened in the cafe."
Head of the technical training academy at Rentokil said that "prevention is always better than cure". David Cross said: "Where pest control is concerned, prevention is always better than cure. "Mice and rats constantly seek new sources of food, so eliminating these is critical."