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‘This could put recycling in Orkney back years’

The black caddy bins are not being accepted by Orkney Islands Council at present. (Orkney Photographic)

A Kirkwall councillor has blasted the curtailment of the use of black recycling “caddy” bins as a nonsensical retrograde step that could have a significant impact on the ethos of recycling for years to come.

Councillor John Ross Scott, who represents Orkney Islands Council’s (OIC) Kirkwall East ward, says he has been “bombarded” with complaints, after full caddy bins were left uncollected by the authority.

OIC is currently using refuse carts to assist with recycling collections, and operatives are not permitted to hand tip caddies into the rear of the cart, due to the automatic bin sensing lift mechanism.

People are being encouraged to use green wheelie bins to store their glass, tins, plastics and paper and thin cardboard, while green boxes and canvas bags are still accepted.

Councillor Scott said it was “grossly unfair” to reduce flexibility and “dismantle” a service that appeared to be working well prior to COVID-19.

Penalising people who choose to use the council-provided smaller black bins has implications for the future of recycling in Orkney, he said, after hearing of reports of disillusioned people throwing recyclable materials in the domestic black bag waste.

Councillor Scott said: “While I accept, it’s not the role of councillors to involve themselves in operational issues, this decision to stamp out flexibility, regardless of the any valid issues relating to health and safety, is a nonsense which is likely to put back the ethos of recycling in Orkney for years.

“I have had at least ten folk, who have been, over the years, staunch advocates of recycling, say in the past week that from now on they are not going to bother, and instead just place their recycled material in with their normal rubbish.

“To me, this is an issue on par with the black bags catastrophe back in May, when the public were getting mixed messages about what to do.”

He also raised concerns surrounding the consultation on the issue, saying he felt sympathy for OIC employees on the ground.

The councillor added: “I’ve been informed that the decision to cut out the flexibility and stop the black caddy collection was taken without full consultation of staff.

“Surely they should have had some say in this move, or has micro management reached an extreme?”

Responding to Councillor Scott’s concerns, an OIC spokesman explained that the health and safety of crews was the main driver behind the change in policy.

The spokesman said: “During this period of weekly single-stream recycling collections, we need to use refuse trucks as well as our fleet of recycling wagons to bolster our ability to pick up recyclable items from the kerbside.

“These refuse trucks are designed to empty wheelie bins safely using a lift attachment at the rear of the vehicles.

“Some residents have been issued with green boxes rather than bins that they put out for collection. When a refuse truck is being used, these need to be emptied by hand into the rear of the vehicle. To do this, the lift mechanism needs to be temporarily disabled to protect our crews from the risk of injury.

“As relatively few green boxes need to be emptied, this can be managed safely.

“Caddies also need to be emptied by hand into the back of the trucks. A growing number of these have been put out at the roadside in recent weeks. The increased need to disable and then re-engage the lift mechanism while emptying caddies, in addition to green boxes, unfortunately increases the potential for risk of injury to our crews, should this be done incorrectly.

“This is why we are asking residents to use their green bins and boxes — and not caddies — when putting their recyclables out for collection each week.

“We understand that this can be frustrating, and thank folk for their patience and their efforts in helping to keep our crews safe.

“If householders require an extra green bin to store their recyclable items, these can be requested free of charge by contacting the council.”