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Saturday, 3 September 2016

Southport food caddies bringing in maggot infestations

Sefton’s food caddie collection extended timing is bringing in maggots and potentially placing public health at risk, according to residents and councillors. 

In June, the press reported that in Sefton the collection of food waste would move from weekly to every fortnight. This controversial move has created difficulty for some residents, via maggot infestations and smells. Some Southport councillors have already expressed serious concerns about this unacceptable situation.

Concerned Southport councillors are seeking a re-assessment of the council's food caddie collection programme. 

Churchtown & Crossens Lib Dem Councillor Jo Barton said: "A number of councillors in Southport have been contacted by local residents who have been trying to 'give the new system a go' regarding the new two-week cycle for food waste collection.  Unfortunately, the hot weather of the past couple of weeks has meant that this recycling effort has included, for some, an unacceptable level of both smells and maggots."

"We are asking the Council's officers to take stock of what is happening here as the new system has, so far, only been in place for one summer month.  But next year, we will get occasional weeks of hot weather from April onwards, so the problem might be more severe and widespread. I would not wish to see people abandoning the food waste collection if the Council are able to find a way of reducing this problem."

Naturally, councils need to save cash wherever they can to balance their budgets but at what cost to public health? Waste collection by councils has been a divisive issue for many years. Collection expense and timing matched with disgruntled residents complaining about smells, maggots and rats have brought communities to loggerheads with local authorities in many regions. Maggot infestation and rat incursions have been reported as serious issues for many households, following spells of warm weather. 

In South Lanarkshire for example the council changed the recycling system last May, meaning residents must dispose of food waste in their red bins. Households across Rutherglen and Cambuslang were told to store food waste in their burgundy bins, whereas a food caddie was delivered to help with recycling. Homeowners have herein been apparently plagued with maggots. 

Reducing our food waste is a good idea and the use of gardening composers is also a great way to utilise food waste. It’s estimated that the average family could save £700 a year by throwing away less food. We throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink every year from home, costing us £12.5bn a year.

The so-called kitchen caddies (once known to some as 'slop buckets') for food waste that councils supply, are frequently a genuine source of public concern and menace to health. 

Flies can lay eggs in literally seconds. These eggs later hatch into maggots (within 0 - 18 hours) although partial development may occur within the female bluebottle. Therefore as soon as you open a wheelie bin or caddie to place refuse inside they will strike extremely fast. Pungent smells from stagnant waste left for two weeks attracts them like a beacon. Larvae take 7 to 12 days to mature.

One of the major pests of public health is the Bluebottle or Blow fly. They are infamous for their habit of landing and then feeding on decomposed meat and faeces and will characteristically translocate particles and microbes to fresh meat and food that’s planned for human consumption. These repulsive activities have been linked with the incidence of food poisoning and illness.

Have you ever watched flies land on uncovered fish for sale in a supermarket? Potentially, one can buy a fish at such places and find that it is walking with maggots when it reaches our home. That is the rapid speed that fly larvae can hatch, Therefore, weeks of leaving stagnant caddie bin food waste in hot weather is highly questionable. 

Sefton’s increased collection times for food caddies, from one week to two, is a very unwise measure prone to potential health risks. Has Sefton Council taken this serious point into proper consideration or is expense taking precedence over health?  

In 1875 the 'Public Health Act' dictated that seven day frequency of waste collection was essential. This was to interrupt the life cycle of the housefly and thereby combat lethal diseases.  Our ancestors clearly had more common sense than many of today’s councils.

Public health must be their top priority. Getting the balance right between financial costing of food waste collection and health is clearly essential to us all.  

Pat Regan ©

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