From Monday next, Waterford City Council will conduct ‘content survey’ inspections of brown bins due to growing incidences of bin contaminations.

While the Council’s Environment officer stressed that the vast majority of city residents are using the three-bin system properly, several households continue to place inappropriate materials in the brown bin.

“The main problem we are having in recent months is that householders are putting plastic into the brown bin,” according to Ella Ryan.

“Due to the fact that plastic takes hundreds of years to biodegrade, it cannot be accepted. When a plastic bag is put into a brown bin, it splits into smaller pieces and becomes scattered throughout the material.”

She continued: “As a result, the material may be rejected by the compost facility and sent to landfill for disposal at a high cost. This greatly increases the cost of running the compost facility and will eventually increase the cost of the brown bin collection, if it continues.  It also delays work at the facility.” 

The contents of the brown bin are brought to the compost facility on the appropriately named Green Road in the city, where it’s treated and turned into compost.

Any contaminated material is rejected here and subsequently sent to landfill. The green bin’s contents are brought to a recycling facility in Dungarvan.

If considered necessary in time, the Council will also expand its survey to include green bin checks.

The survey will be carried out as follows: bins will be selected at random daily from those presented for collection, with its contents emptied into the back of a bin lorry on the street and then searched.

When the bin is returned to the residence, a note will be posted through the letterbox, doing one of two things: congratulating or warning the householder depending on whether the bin has been contaminated or not.

Anyone found to be abusing the bin service is served with a fixed penalty notice of €75. If that remains unpaid after three weeks, legal proceedings are initiated and a fine of up to €1,905 can be issued in court – making that misplaced plastic bag very expensive indeed.

“The vast majority of householders are making a real effort to recycle properly but a handful of people are misusing the €2.50 collection of the recycling bins,” said Ella Ryan.

“The careless actions of a few can cause the efforts of all others to go to waste.”