A battle of the bins is brewing in Luton.
The town appears set for a political row as to whether black bin collections should be weekly or fortnightly.
A new recycling and waste strategy is being drawn up by Luton Borough Council centred on a contract with every resident.
Green waste collections would remain free of charge, but the Labour executive wants to move towards a bi-weekly household rubbish collection.
This is being opposed by the Liberal Democrats, who argue that weekly emptying of black bins is what people in the town expect.
“I think in a town like Luton it’s totally inappropriate to have a bi-weekly collection,” Liberal Democrat Wigmore councillor Peter Chapman told an overview and scrutiny board meeting on Monday.
“In a place where we have a fox and rat problem, if we leave food waste for two weeks then it will appall people,” he said.
“It will directly affect you once the bin down the street starts to have maggotts in it.
“We already have a contract with people and we’re unable to enforce that,” he added, referring to the existing bin collection arrangements.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Chapman vowed the Liberal Democrats will campaign on the issue “to the end”.
Cllr and executive member Tom Shaw, said disposing of food waste costs the local authority around £3m a year.
“We could make £1m in savings annually if we cut food waste by around a third,” he told the meeting.
“We’ve got to stop some of the cross-contamination we’re getting in the bins and buckets.
“Glass alone going to the tip costs us a fortune,” he said. “But food waste is the worst as it costs an absolute fortune.”
The council will employ two people “dedicated to educating people about recycling”, using money saved from approving the new strategy.
He suggested a three-stage enforcement approach with residents initially given an educational explanation, then sent an official letter, before then being fined for further breaches.
“It costs £89 a tonne for every tonne of waste we put into the ground,” said Cllr Shaw.
Around 50 per cent of people in Luton “proactively recycle”, but there are still a third of residents “who can’t be bothered”, said the council’s service director, public realm Alex Constantinides.
One idea is for bins or boxes to have slots to encourage the right recycling in the correct receptacle, he added.
Cllr Shaw told the board he is due to visit Cambourne in Cambridgeshire later this week to see a system there outside flats adopted from the continent.
This involves dropping recycling down chutes into underground storage facilities, and could work for new flat-building projects in Luton.
But councillor Chapman said it’s effective in Cambourne because that area has a “specific demographic of people working at Cambridge Science Park” and not of people with English as a second language.
He suggested the council should study what happens in Tower Hamlets and Lewisham before it draws any conclusions.
Speaking after the meeting councillor Shaw admitted the council hasn’t switched to fortnightly black bin collections as quickly as it should have.
But he said it will happen so the rest of the strategy can be implemented.
Extra bags will be provided for people to recycle materials if they need them, and work will continue in schools to encourage children to play their part.
Money saved is expected to provide extra street cleaning facilities and more recycling education officers, he added.
Members of the overview and scrutiny voted six-five to support a proposal that the strategy be adopted by the council, but strongly oppose the introduction of fortnightly black bin collections.
This issue is now due to be considered by the executive committee in July.