COLCHESTER is six months into the new waste collection system and there is only one question - have the trials and tribulations been worth it?

Colchester Council’s scrutiny panel met to discuss how the new system, rolled out in June, is going.

The changes were significant, but since the collections changed to three black bags per fortnight, the amount of waste going to landfill has dropped by 34 per cent - or 14 blue whales’ worth of rubbish.

Jessica Scott-Boutell (Lib Dem), who is the Colchester councillor responsible for waste, said the improvements were “dramatic and immediate”, as every tonne of waste sent to landfill costs the taxpayer £86 - as well as the cost to the environment.

Other performance figures show the recycling rate from July to September is 55 per cent, compared to 48 per cent last year.

Annie Feltham (Lib Dem) praised the council but said there was room for improvement and she said more education is needed to support university students who still may not understand the rules.

She also mentioned a rise in fly-tipping as a result of the changes.

Zone warden Gary Cole said it had been his job to educate residents - a job which had paid off.

He said: “The enormity of the job didn’t hit me until we started when we were going around looking at people who were putting out more black bags. The number was enormous.

“If you had asked me before whether we would get to the stage we are at now, I would have said no. We take great pleasure and pride in these figures. They give us a lift.”

However, there was some criticism. Christopher Arnold (Con) said charging people for an extra four garden sacks for winter, a service which used to be free, was “perverse”.

He said: “Our leaves are blocking up footways and carriageways and we have a legal obligation to clean up.

“Residents will show goodwill and put the leaves in their white sacks, we are taking away their ability to do this for us unless they pay.”

Sue Lissimore (Con) also highlighted how the amount of waste being taken to the tip at Shrub End has increased by 124 tonnes from August last year to the same time this year.

She said: “Queues have been down Shrub End Road, Maldon Road towards the zoo and towards Gosbecks Road.

“The Conservatives believe the services should be gold standard. Is it right then that residents should have to take time and fuel to take their rubbish to the tip?”

A number of proposed changes were suggested. These include having more powers to enforce rules on fly-tipping and considering a voucher system for all recycling containers to stop some people abusing the system, however councillors said vouchers would discourage recycling.

They are also looking at introducing a recycling scheme for people living in flats as a priority.