Refuse collections to go on into the night to clear backlog

East Devon District Council is advising residents to keep rubbish sacks containing food indoors - to avoid problems with vermin.

EAST Devon District Council says is doing all it can to catch up with a backlog of recycling and landfill waste across the district.

Refuse teams are working into the night to clear the mounds of rubbish.

Officials at the council say the backlog was caused by a “perfect storm of severe weather and the festive holiday”.

“We understand how important it is to people that their recycling and waste is collected at the first available opportunity,” said a spokesman. “We take this task very seriously and we apologise for any inconvenience caused by the disruption to services.

“Whilst much of this has been due to circumstances beyond our control, we will be conducting a thorough review of our contingency plans, which were tested to breaking point by the recent weather. We want to learn from this situation so we can improve our response if the same conditions arise again.”

The spokesman added: “Our crews are working into the evenings to catch up with the backlog, but without doubling the number of vehicles and operatives – at great extra cost to the council tax payer – we simply cannot get rid of such a serious backlog overnight. We collected from as many homes as we could reach prior to Christmas, but some areas were just too dangerous for the lorries to reach”.

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In Exmouth, some 75 tonnes of food waste was collected yesterday (Tuesday), compared with 25-30 tonnes on a normal day; the crews finished off-loading the last vehicle at 10.00 p.m. last night.

Collections were made on December 29, 30 and 31 and crews returned to normal duties on Tuesday 5 January. They are now working to the holiday schedule sent to every household before Christmas.

The revised dates are complicated by the rota system that alternates between recycling (weekly) collections and landfill (fortnightly) collections.

Many households may have found that their food and dry recycling has been collected but their landfill bin is still full or overflowing. Crews collect landfill every two weeks and so will return for this collection in the next few days.

The council says it is not possible for one crew to take away recycling and landfill in the same vehicle, or on the same journey. The job has to be done in two operations.

Now that food waste is collected weekly and is stored in a container with a lockable lid, the landfill waste should not contain items that attract vermin. Anyone who is concerned that animals may plunder waste sacks is advised to keep the sack indoors until shortly before the collection.

The spokesman said: “There have been lurid pictures of waste sacks ripped open with food spread over the street in some parts of Devon. That should not be happening in East Devon, as all unwanted food should be in a locked bin.

“We appreciate that the combination of Bank Holidays and compacted snow have caused an unprecedented problem, but we are working hard to overcome it. The bulk of the backlog should be cleared by the end of this week, although collections will not return to their scheduled day until later in the month.”