Belfast City Council has blamed “staffing levels” for a disruption to bin collections over the festive season, which has left residents outraged and facing a potential four-week wait for collection and festive rubbish piling up.
Ratepayers across the city were advised that, if their regular collection days fell on December 25 or 26, bins would instead be collected on December 22 and 23.
There was widespread anger, however, as many bins were left out on schedule but not collected - a situation made worse due to increased levels of rubbish, food waste and recyclables over the festive period.
Councillors have said there is an ongoing industrial dispute and this newspaper has reported of workers wanting "triple pay" to work over the festive period.
“My elderly dad's black bin not collected last sat or Sunday still out!!!” one resident wrote on Facebook.
“A lot of older people do not have access to a dump or access to information on the Internet!!!”
It has now emerged that some residents will have four weeks worth of recyclable refuse piled up by the time their blue bins are collected.
While alternative collections have been scheduled instead of those due on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, blue recycling bins will not be picked up this weekend.
For many, this will mean a wait of more than two weeks - on top of the time already accrued prior to Christmas.
Many residents voiced their outrage over the further delay on social media.
“Absolute disgrace not emptying the blue bins for 4 weeks. What a way to discourage recycling,” one resident wrote.
“People will either burn excess paper and card if they have space to do so or bung it all in black bins or black bin bags for general waste.”
In a statement, Belfast City Council said the disruption was due to staffing levels and apologised for any inconvenience.
“Due to staffing levels, it has not been possible to provide an alternative collection for blue recycling bins over the Christmas and New Year period,” said a council spokeswoman.
“This information was communicated to residents last week as widely as possible, via council’s website and social media channels.
“We apologise for the inconvenience. Where possible, we would encourage residents to bring any recyclable materials to their local recycling centre and keep an eye on our website www.belfastcity.gov.uk/holidayarrangements and social media for the most up to date information.
“We would ask residents who have a scheduled black/brown bin collection this weekend and their bin does not get emptied on the day, to please continue to leave it out and we will collect it as soon as possible in the coming days.”
In the days leading up to Christmas, a confidential memo by a senior council official was leaked, stating that bin collections could be disrupted due to a pay dispute with staff and trade unions.
Nigel Grimshaw, City Hall’s strategic director of city and neighbourhood services, said that staff would be paid time and a half for working on a Saturday (December 22), and double time on Sunday (December 23).
"However, trade unions and some staff have asked for more money to work on the above days,” he added.
"Their proposal would in effect equate to triple time."
"To accept this proposal without proper consideration would likely cause a precedent and would mean applying the same arrangements to other service areas that are provided over this period.
"This could cost the council up to £100k additional payroll costs and would have to come out of council reserves as there is no budget for their proposal.”