Belfast council supplies run low after food waste ban
Belfast City Council is struggling to keep up with demand for food recycling bins and bags after it announced a ban on putting food waste into black bins.
Under new rules, bins will be inspected and stickers will be placed on those containing food. If it happens three times, black bins will not be emptied.
Enforcement will begin when all homes receive food caddies - small plastic baskets designed for food waste.
But the council admits caddy supplies are low after "unprecedented demand".
Since the ban was announced at the start of this month, staff have been bombarded with thousands of calls from householders who are still waiting on the delivery of food caddies and biodegradable bags to line the caddies.
'Longer than usual'
Some are also still waiting on the delivery of large brown compost bins, which is now the only wheeled bin into which Belfast households are permitted to place food waste.
In a message to ratepayers on its Facebook page, the council said it had received orders for 10,000 food caddies over the last two weeks alone.
Their post added that "due to the high demand, our delivery time has been a little longer than usual as we work our way through orders".
The council thanked residents for their "patience" while the recycling changes are rolled out.
Despite the delay, food waste stickers have already started to appear on black bins across the city, which has caused some concern among residents.
One Facebook user complained to the council that the implementation of the changes had been a "shambles".
"I had to explain to a very upset OAP that she wasn't going to get fined because of the sticker," he wrote.
The man complained that his "entire street hasn't received brown bins yet, while most have requested weeks ago".
In a statement to the BBC, a council spokeswoman said: "Stickers that are being put on bins at the moment are reminders only - not warning stickers".
"We haven't started enforcement yet as we're aware some residents are still waiting for their food caddy and/or brown compost bin."
She clarified that the reminder stickers are being being placed on all black bins, regardless of their contents, and that the move was in conjunction with leaflets sent out by the council explaining the changes.
A date for the start of bin inspections and enforcement has not yet been confirmed.
The aim of the food waste ban is reduce the amount of un-recycled rubbish that is currently been thrown into black bins, which ends up on landfill sites.
Councils are required by law to reduce landfill waste, or face fines which will ultimately have to be paid by ratepayers.
'No supply problem'
Belfast City Council currently supplies biodegradable bags to line food caddies free of charge, at householders' request.
However, several Facebook users replied to the council's message, complaining that bags they had recently ordered had not been delivered.
The council replied: "We understand some residents have been having issues when requesting green bags, and this is something we're working hard to address."
Its spokeswoman told the BBC that during the last two weeks the council's recycling team had handled "almost 18,000 calls and we've distributed almost 23,000 rolls of green recycling bags".
"We still have orders for 15,000 green bags which will be delivered in the coming days.
"It is keeping up with the unprecedented demand for caddies and green bags that is causing delays, not a supply problem."