Council’s blue bin contamination policy highlighted on national radio

March 3, 2014

By Christine Keighery

An elderly Newry resident took to the airwaves last week to voice her concerns over the failure of local council refuse collectors to empty her blue bin.

The 86 year old, who was only identified as “Marie from Newry,” called Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan show last Tuesday morning after her blue bin was left unemptied with a “contaminated” sticker attached to it.

The frail pensioner was extremely upset and confused as to why her bin had been overlooked and appealed to Nolan to advise her on the situation.

She claimed that, despite limited mobility, she precariously made her way out of her home on Tuesday morning to check her bin after she noticed the refuse truck pull off, only to discover that her bin had not been emptied and that a “contaminated” sticker had been placed on it advising that the bin contained food stuff which contravened blue bin regulations.

The elderly resident said she would have appreciated if the refuse collector had called to her door to explain to her why the bin was contaminated.

Marie also admitted that, although she is aware that foodstuff should not be disposed of in the blue bin, her carers may have mistakenly placed the items in the bin.

Stephen pledged to find out more from Newry and Mourne District Council and later in the show he read out the council’s response.

The statement read: “A blue bin was reported by refuse collectors this morning as being contaminated. The bin contained items such as bread and teabags which do not conform to items which are allowed in the blue bin.

“In accordance with the council policy, the refuse collectors put a contaminated sticker on the bin and reported it to the Customer Services department of Newry and Mourne District Council.”

Nolan condemned the statement, accusing the author of reading straight from the council’s “corporate book.” and said whilst he understood that the council did not have to empty the offending bin or explain to the lady in person, he asked if there was “any chance that any human being in Newry and Mourne Council could go out and help an 86 year old lady?”

The Examiner contacted Newry and Mourne DIstrict Council for a clarification of blue bin regulations and a response to the suggestion that refuse staff could inform a resident in person of their bin contamination issue.  A spokesperson told us:

“The blue bin becomes contaminated when incorrect materials are placed into it. In order to reduce contamination and improve recycling within the district, our refuse staff are checking blue bins thoroughly. If the blue bin contains incorrect material, the refuse staff place a contamination sticker on the bin to indicate which materials are not accepted. The sticker explains that once the material is removed the blue bin can be presented for the next collection.

“With regards to asking staff to call to the door of elderly residents and explain why the blue bin was not collected, this would be quite difficult to implement. However a letter is sent to residents the following day explaining why the bin was not collected and advising on what materials can be recycled. There is also a contact number on the sticker and the letter if anyone would like more information or advice on recycling”.