Belfast council must get its waste rethink right
Some people may claim a little cynically that there is a good deal of rubbish in the routine exchanges in our local council chambers, but Belfast City Council is taking the subject of literal rubbish very seriously indeed, and rightly so.
Under new proposals being considered at City Hall, there is a possibility that black bins could be collected just once a month, and that is a serious matter for every householder in the city.
The council is seeking the views of residents on the future of waste and recycling in all parts of Belfast. They are being asked to respond to a consultation they will be informed about in great detail. It will set out three clear options for the future of recycling and the collection of household waste.
One option would lead to a four-weekly collection cycle for black bins, which hold the usual kinds of varied household waste.
Another option would be the introduction of a smaller black bin of some 180 litres for general household waste, and this would be collected fortnightly.
Yet a third option would be no change to the size of the black bin, but the introduction of a three-weekly collection cycle.
We are all familiar with the important need to recycle, and most people are conscientious about disposing of their rubbish in a responsible and appropriate way.
However, the need to recycle should not be conflated or fused into what appears to be the council's real desire to provide fewer collection services for its ratepayers.
There has long been a perception, which is not entirely subjective, that bins have been getting smaller while collections are becoming less regular.
This is a social phenomenon not entirely limited to the Belfast area.
The reality is that thorough recycling for even a medium-sized family would require regular access to a proper facility.
This in turn would necessitate access to private transport, and this is not something every family possesses.
Whatever conclusions Belfast City Council reaches after its consultation, the authorities must balance the need to recycle with the ability of families to do so.
The disposal of household waste is important to all of us. When it runs smoothly we hardly notice, but when there is a hitch we quickly see the result of waste piling up, so the council needs to get this right.