By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
Kirklees Council has dramatically reined back on confiscating green bins from residents.
The policy, which has been widely criticised, was introduced in April.
By mid-May the authority had seized more than 1,300 bins in the south of the district as part of a crackdown on recycling contamination.
But when the roll-out continued in North Kirklees the hardline policy had been relaxed.
Only a further 300 bins have been impounded, taking the total to 1,650.
Now the council has admitted its practice was flawed and that it will make changes after the public backlash.
Coun Rob Walker (Lab), the council’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Environment, said: “We need to be honest about this: we didn’t get this entirely right but we’re going to learn from it.
“We have listened to our residents and we’re going to make changes as a result.”
The authority launched its scheme on April 1 and has been using 12 advisers at a cost of £80,000 to check the content of bins to see if residents were putting non-recyclable items out for collection.
Anyone throwing away the wrong items receives a yellow warning sticker. If residents continue to break the rules their bin can be confiscated.
When bins are seized they are held for six months before they are returned – and residents have to apply to get them back.
It is understood the responsibility will now pass to binmen employed by the council as the advisors’ temporary contract ends this month.
The council began its crackdown in an attempt to tackle the number of green bins contaminated with non-recyclable waste such as food and nappies and to drive up recycling rates.
It led to a sharp reduction in the amount of green waste being rejected: down from 33 per cent to six per cent.
Coun Walker thanked those residents who had backed the scheme. “People have had their green bins taken away in recent months,” he said.
“Some of those people showed absolutely no desire to recycle at all. Our staff have collected green bins, which are supposed to be used for recycling, that are filled to the top with food waste, nappies, even concrete in some cases.
“However, some people who had their bins removed simply got it wrong and do genuinely want to recycle.”
He said in future the authority would talk to residents who use their green bins incorrectly and advise them on how to recycle appropriately.
And he revealed that green bins would only be taken away “as a last resort”.
“The only people who lose them moving forward will be those who make no attempt to use them to recycle,” he added.
In June Liberal Democrats in Kirklees called for a “bin amnesty”, which the council chose not to address.
Group leader Coun John Lawson (Cleckheaton) said the move towards relaxing the seizure of green bins seemed to signify a shift in council policy that should be welcomed.
But he cautioned against having new rules that did not address residents previously penalised by having bins seized.
And he reiterated his group’s call for a bin amnesty. He said: “It makes the case for an amnesty all the stronger.
“There’s an unfairness at work here because there are two categories of rules for those that have had their bins confiscated and those going forward that will have a warning only.
“I have deep concerns about the way that decisions are being made by cabinet and the consequences of those decisions on residents, which are not being fully considered.
“They are responsible for them and for putting right what has been done. Let’s be frank: the green bin confiscations have not been done with people, the council have done it to them.
“Cabinet bears the responsibility for that.”
The Conservatives’ Coun Lisa Holmes (Liversedge and Gomersal) urged the council to act quickly to hand back the bins it had seized.
“I wouldn’t have a problem with the policy if Kirklees had a decent recycling offer and if it informed residents what that was.
“But they have massively messed it up.
“You cannot possibly have two different approaches. They have punished people in South Kirklees but when they moved to North Kirklees they realised they’d got it wrong.
“It’s got to be fair. At least now they’re not going to carry on with a stupid policy and have made a U-turn. They’ve held their hands up and they’re trying to put it right.
“I’m all for that. Maybe next time they should listen first.”