A HUGE increase in complaints about rats should lead to a swift return to weekly rubbish collections, it was argued last night.
Figures obtained by the Western Mail show an increase of more than 80% in complaints about the rodents since fortnightly collections were started in Newport.
The city’s council began piloting alternate week collections in October 2004, and has been extending the scheme throughout the city as part of a drive to encourage residents to recycle.
Yesterday a report from a committee of MPs said fortnightly collections were not appropriate everywhere, especially in urban areas with a lot of shared accommodation
In Newport, Tory councillor Peter Davies has opposed the scrapping of weekly collections from the outset. Figures released to him by council officials show that in the three month period to June 2006 there were 290 complaints about rats. In the equivalent period this year, there were 533 such complaints – an increase of 84%.
Mr Davies, the father of Monmouth MP David Davies, said, “I have no doubt that the increase in complaints is directly related to the decision to move to fortnightly rubbish collections. Of course I support increased recycling, but that should not be linked to a policy which encourages rats and is a potential health hazard.”
The Communities and Local Government Select Committee of the House of Commons urged that alternate week collections – used by 140 councils in England and Wales – should not be introduced everywhere. “The adoption of alternate weekly collection systems in around 140 local authority areas has been accompanied in most of them by rapid and substantial increases in local recycling,” the committee said.
“Whether there is a direct causal link between those two facts is, however, unproven: alternative week collections, where they have been introduced, is always part of a package of measures aimed at encouraging householders to sort more of their waste for recycling.
“Alternative week collections are clearly not appropriate to all areas, particularly highly urban areas characterised by much shared accommodation.
“Whether a weekly or alternate system is best for a particular area is a matter of local circumstance and a matter for local choice.”
There was no clear evidence of adverse public health effects but there should be research into claims about increased vermin.
Ministers have to cut the UK’s level of landfill waste to avoid large European Union fines. The EU Landfill Directive requires a 25% reduction on 1995 levels by 2010, and a 65% cut by 2020.
A Newport City Council spokesman said, since 2004, they have progressed from a 17% recycling rate, to 31% in 2007. In pilot schemes, 88% of residents now recycled every week, and 72% agreed with the scheme.
“Having already trialled a large-scale food waste collection service, Newport City Council is now working with a neighbouring local authority to reintroduce food-waste collections. Not only will this further reduce the amount of rubbish in the domestic refuse bin, it will also mean that Newport is receiving a weekly collection of such food waste.
“A series of common sense measures can ensure against the issue of pests and odours. All Newport residents are provided with appropriate bins and boxes in order to contain waste in as safe and hygienic a way as possible. If the bins are used properly, by keeping waste tightly wrapped and bin lids closed, many of the perceived problems can be avoided.
“The National Rodent Survey Report for 2006 concluded that 50% of brown rat infestations were caused by problems with drainage/sewerage systems and that 35% of reports of rats in gardens were related to bird feeding. Alternate week collection schemes can only be seen as a smaller factor within a much wider picture.”
Rats by numbers
3: the average life span in years of a black rat (rattus rattus) and a brown rat (rattus norvegicus);
12: the minimum body length of a rat in centimetres;
500: the maximum weight of a rat, in grams;
75 million: the number of people who died in the Black Death, an epidemic linked to the black rat in Europe, the Middle East and Asia in the mid to late 14th century;
26: the percentage of electrical cable breaks blamed on rats chewing;
18: the percentage of telephone cable breaks blamed on rats chewing;
25: the percentage of all fires of unknown origin blamed on rats;
56: the number of rat species;
44: the typical length of a rat whisker in millimetres;
680,000: the estimated rat population of Wales.