Coronavirus: Belfast defends cutting back bin collections, other councils maintain normal services for now

Belfast City Council has stripped down its bin collection services due to pressures from the Coronavirus, so that only the main black bin will be collected until further notice.

All other councils across Northern Ireland have said their normal bin services continue for now, although a number asked for bins to be left out earlier than normal.

Belfast City Council (BCC) said the measures are being introduced to protect the health and safety of its workers and the public, by being compliant with the government directive on social distancing.

It is understood that some 10% of BCC staff are currently off work, potentially as a result of self-isolation or family isolation.

Lord Mayor Councillor Daniel Baker said: “The health and safety of our staff is paramount and it is imperative that we do all we can to protect our workers, and the general public.

“If we are to be compliant with the social distancing guidance, it is impossible for that not to have an impact on our day to day operations. Introducing these temporary measures will allow our resources to be focussed on the collection of black bin waste only, and will take some pressure off our service which is already feeling the strain of this unprecedented public health emergency.

“Scaling back the waste collection service will mean each bin lorry will be limited to one worker per cab, with additional workers travelling in convoy in separate vehicles.”

Blue and brown bins in the BCC area will no longer be collected until further notice to allow resources to be redirected.

The kerbside box trial serving around 5,000 households in north Belfast has also temporarily been suspended, BCC said, adding that it will keep the collection of recyclable waste under review.

Residents who are on a Bryson Recycling collection will have their boxes collected as usual, although Bryson may also experience some operational difficulties in coming days and weeks.

Belfast City Council serves the largest geographical area out of all the 11 councils in Northern Ireland and has the largest population.

Meanwhile, an organics recycling company, Dunmurry-based Natural World Products, says that it expects a spike in the amount of discarded food scraps and garden waste as result of most people being home based.

It is important and that householders put such waste in the correct bin, it said, and that councils make organic waste collection a priority to ensure such waste is not put in general refuse bins and ends up in landfill.

It is understood other NI councils are prioritising resources to keep bin collection services operating as normal, for now.

Derry City and Strabane District Council is asking the public to leave bins out at an earlier time of 7am to allow crews to get around all households, as did Fermanagh. Newry Armagh and Down District Council asked bins to be presented no later than 6am on the day of collections, giving clear access to the bins, wiping down handles before and after use and keeping at least two metres away from employees. Many councils have suspended bulk item collections.