COUNCIL snoops are checking waste bins to make sure people are recycling, say residents.
Two council workers were spotted in an alleyway, at the rear of homes in Newtown, lifting wheelie bin lids, apparently checking that metal, plastic and glass were not being dumped into the general household rubbish.
And, days later, a letter arrived to householders in Victoria Street, warning them they face prosecution if they fail to recycle their rubbish.
Now one of the recipients – who insists that he does recycle – has blasted the “heavy-handed approach” from town hall chiefs. He also hit out at the terminology used in the letter, claiming that it could worry his elderly neighbours.
But Cuthbert Jackson, council environmental education and enforcement manager, said: “It is not unreasonable to remind residents of their responsibilities.”
The communication to residents has a factsheet reminding residents of the different types of waste that must be put into the black, brown and green bins, along with the waste paper sack.
On the front, Mr Jackson warns: “I am writing to remind households that you are obliged to deal with the rubbish you create in a responsible way.
“This means making full use of the recycling services provided, abiding by the rules of your waste collection service and avoiding incorrect disposal of any waste.
“Failure to do so may leave you open to fines and prosecution.”
A highlighted panel on the letter warns ominously that failure to comply can result in a fixed penalty notice of £100 or a fine of up to £1,000.
One resident said he feared the tactics could be counter-productive, leading to less recycling, rather than more.
He said: “I looked up the alley and saw two fellows rummaging in the bins and wondered what they were up to.
“At first I was worried it may be these people who go looking for bank statements and the like, but then I had a look at them and I could see they had Metro badges on and they were obviously sifting through to see if stuff for recycling was mixed up with the general waste.
“Around here there is a high concentration of older people, and maybe some of my neighbours, who are a good age and can’t see too well, have accidentally mixed up the colours of the bins and put the wrong thing in each, but I think that this is a very heavy-handed way to go about things.”
Mr Jackson said the communication was a “standard letter” sent to households.
He said: “The letter was a general letter delivered to all properties in the surrounding area because of concerns about bin fires and fly-tipping.
“In no way are we targeting him as an individual and we are absolutely not snooping on anyone.
“Some councils issue Fixed Penalty Notices when people break the rules on collections, but Wigan Council’s policy is to provide residents with a calendar and a duty of care letter before any formal notice is issued, and well before any enforcement action is taken by fixed penalty notice or prosecution.
“We have attempted to contact the gentleman, but he has said he would not accept any explanation for our letter and wanted to go to the press.”
He added sending unsorted household waste to landfill means “higher costs to every tax payer”, so the council provide services to allow residents to recycle their waste.
He said: “Inside their homes, people sort the tins, bottles and papers that they choose to buy, and so we ask them to take a moment to place these items into different bins when they have finished with them.”
A council spokesman confirmed there had been a sweep of the area to protect the community from the risks of fires and dumping.
As part of that, some bins were checked before delivering notices.