BIN lorry training is helping to tackle the loss of drivers in Rossendale over the past year – but the number of missed household collections is still high.

Domestic collections and waste recycling levels for the January to March 2022 did not meet council performance targets, and were highlighted in ‘red’ categories in a performance report for councillors.

The loss of bin lorry drivers to other sectors, such as parcel delivery firms, after Brexit and problems with residents’ cars blocking bin lorry access to streets were cited as some of the factors impacting on household waste collections in recent months.

In other work, the council has been looking at launching commercial waste recycling services to create new sources of income . However, this was not named as a cause of the household waste issues. Work is under way to tackle various  issues, councillors were told at the latest meeting of Rossendale Council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

A performance report stated the percentage of total tonnage of household waste recycled and composted from January to March was 31.5 per cent. The target recycling rate was 34 per cent.

The number of domestic bin or recycling collections that were missed per 100,000 bins in the period was 154. The target figure was 100.

Mandy Lewis, the council’s economic development director, said the performance report set-out a wide range of  work and projects with progress coded as green, amber or red. Household waste collection and recycling activities were one of two red categories. The majority of projects across the council were making progress or had been completed.

The launch of ‘Operation Trident’ had seen a significant increase in enforcement action against fly tipping. Rossendale Council has also introduced new street cleansing routes, resulting in a major increase in the amount of litter and other waste collected, the report added.

However on recycling it stated: “The main area that has not progressed as quickly as hoped this year is the implementation of a recycling pilot [scheme] and a borough-wide campaign. In quarter two and and three [summer 2021 and winter 2021-22], we found it difficult to obtain HGV drivers for refuse services, due to the national shortage. This resulted in supervisory staff driving refuse vehicles rather than focusing on recycling. The plans and campaign are completed and decision was taken to implement these in quarter two of 2022/23 [summer 2022].”

Councils are under pressure to find new sources of income, owing to changes to funding and grants. Rossendale Council is looking at various ideas including commercial waste recycling and vehicle MOT testing services.

The report stated: “Income generation pilots were completed and it was concluded that our focus should be on commercial waste to maximise income. We are however still considering an MOT centre.”

Conservative Cllr Laura-Beth Thompson said: “Regarding the bins still being in the red category, the report refers to the pandemic and driver shortage issues. Is there action being taken to remedy it?”

Mrs Lewis replied: “It’s an ongoing problem. There are streets blocked by cars but the bin crews do try to reach the bins. If someone calls the council, the bin crews will go back and try to get the bins. Yes, the category is shows as red but, proportionally, from 100,000 bin collections the number missed is not a significant amount. We are constantly working on it.”

She added: “Regarding bin lorry drivers, we are on an even keel, more-or-less. We are doing skills work so we don’t need to rely on agency workers. We are looking to reduce the number of agency staff. At the moment, we seem to be OK for drivers.”

Conservative Cllr Anne Cheetham said some town centre litter bins were overflowing after bank holidays. Some residents telephoned her, saying it was not their job to pick up litter. However, some children were being raised differently and did pick up some litter. There were different attitudes.

She also highlighted residents’ worries about disposing of their personal medical waste.

She said: “Some residents or families have medical waste but we don’t seem to have medical waste bags. Some people are distressed by having to put  waste in ordinary bins which would be classed as medical waste in other areas.  It’s an issue for older people rather than babies nappies.  A number of people have told me they are embarrassed by this and feel concerned when they put this in green bins. Some authorities collect this type of medical waste once or twice a week. “