A member of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has criticised the slow response to media enquiries around staff placing food waste in wrong bins stating “councillors were not particularly well served”.  

While expressing concern that householders, through no choice of their own, are placing food waste in the incorrect bins due to delays and absent collections, CCTV footage recently showed council operatives appearing to be doing exactly that.

Last month evidence emerged suggesting the council has been mixing food waste with blue-bin items which can cause contamination of recyclable items.

The footage captured in the Newtownbutler area showed brown kitchen caddies containing food waste left out by householders for collection, being opened and emptied into blue bins containing recyclable items such as plastics, paper and glass.

The blue bins were then emptied as normal into the collection lorry, thereby contaminating not just the bins in question but the entire lifted load.

It is understood this occurred on at least three occasions.

Councillor Mark Oven’s Ulster Unionist drew attention to this with his comments coming during a discussion of waste management in which he highlighted “What’s seems to be very significant disruption to certain bins on a number routes. This seems to predominantly be the brown (kitchen) caddy and sometimes blue bins are being impacted.

"If you have a caddy filled and leave it out in good faith over a fortnight expecting the council to collect it and you see a notification saying ‘don’t worry – it’ll be collected in another fortnight’ that’s causing huge problems.

My fear is what households are doing, often through no choice [of their own] is, it’s going on so much and happening so often. Quite often I suspect more and more households will be putting that food waste directly into another bin and that has a huge financial impact on the council in terms of landfill and costs associated with that.”

Councillor Ovens said he has raised this with officials who: “In fairness always come back quickly, but in terms of this council’s stance, I think we are in the wrong place. It has been happening for so long, We are relying on staff goodwill and a casual list of staff. It isn’t working and I get the sense that the strict prohibition on overtime is having a detrimental impact.”

Turning to the issue of council operators caught on CCTV pacing food waste from kitchen caddies in blue bins, Councillor Ovens remarked: “I’m not going into specifics because I know there is an investigation underway, but in terms of the media reports, I do feel as councillors we weren’t particularly well served around the council’s response. When I read that it would take ‘X number of days’ to provide a response.’ The council did not respond until well into the following week and that could easily have been dealt with in a much better way.”