BLAENAU Gwent Council are considering picking up black bag refuse every three weeks instead of the current two weeks.

They are also considering bringing back recycling boxes instead of the current bags residents argue have improved recycling rates, and may also replace all the recycling vehicles with new ones which sort recycling at the road side.

On Thursday July 31 Blaenau Gwent Council’s Environment, Economy and Infrastructure Scrutiny Committee met to hear an update on the Waste Services Collaborative Change Programme (CCP) task and finish group.

The changes, if they go ahead, will cost the council between £4 and £5 million.

The cost of the service change will be funded by a £2 million capital grant from Welsh Government, which has been agreed in principle if the council’s business case is approved - subject to Executive agreement of service change, and prudential borrowing against an annual saving in the revenue budget which is expected to be around £370,000 a year for six or seven years.

Some residents are outraged by the proposals and believe it is a ‘total waste of money’, adding they think even more black bag rubbish will get fly tipped as a result of the changes.

A report presented to councillors gave three different options, but the preferred option was a three weekly residual collection using the existing 240 litre bins.

The report said: “The full service change will cost between £3.8m and £4.3m but by April 2016 could be generating a potential income of between £150,000 and £250,000 per year from the sale of recyclable materials. The above saving is sensitive to both participation and changes to the open market prices of recyclable materials but based on current participation and market prices £250,000 is achievable.”

Keith Pritchard, owner of Sweets and Things in Ebbw Vale, said: “I am of the mindset, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Even now some people fill a bag every week and just chuck it outside, where it splatters all over the lane. If they move it to three weeks that problem is going to get worse and the streets will be covered in mess – the council will have to hire people just to clean all the muck up and keep away the rats."

Mandy Withers, director of Talk HR Solutions based in Ebbw Vale, said that the proposed changes would pose a problem to her company and other businesses in the area. The company relies on the council for all of their waste collection.

“The Innovation Centre has around 60 to 70 businesses that rely on the councils refuse collection,” she said. “We are based in an office block in a central location, where hundreds of people work and contribute to the waste produced.

“We don’t produce a great deal of waste as a company but would see a significant increase left waiting to be collected should the councils proposal go ahead.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The proposed option two outlines that residents will keep their existing 240 litre wheeled bins, and residual waste will be collected every three weeks. Recycling and food waste will continue to be collected on a weekly basis, with additional items collected as part of the recycling such as batteries, small electrical items and textiles.

“Those materials classed as ‘smelly’ will be continued to be picked up on a weekly basis. Therefore if the residents and community thought about what can be recycled, the non recyclable (black bin) waste to be collected should be minimal. “ The scrutiny committee recommended that the next executive meeting in September approve option two from the business plan, and subject to agreement the new changes will start to be implemented by spring / autumn 2015. The council say if the service does not change they could be fined by the Welsh Government if they do not reach new recycling targets.

In 2009 the Argus reported the council bought 29,000 recycling bins at a cost of £551,150, which were later replaced with the plastic recycling bags.