THOUSANDS of recycling boxes across Wokingham will be replaced with waterproof recycling bags over the next four months.

Wokingham Borough Council approved plans to buy the sealable, plastic bags for £288,000, at a meeting on Friday, September 11.

The Conservative-run council says all of the 60 litre recycling bags will be delivered to 67,000 properties in Wokingham by the end of January 2021, and each property will receive two bags.

Recycling plants no longer accept wet card and paper, and the council says around 4,000 tonnes of Wokingham’s rain-soaked recycling will be rejected each year if it does not replace the open-top black boxes.

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According to the council, it costs around £600,000 a year to dispose of this rejected recycling, but it can keep all of the card and paper dry by spending £197,000 a year on the plastic bags, which are expected to last at least five years.

Councillor John Halsall, leader of the council, told Friday’s this “interim solution” will save the council around £400,000 a year.

He said several other options, such as wheelie bins and lids for the black recycling boxes, have been explored but the plastic bags were found to be the most cost-effective solution.

He added: “We have to, in our current circumstances, do something about £600,000 going down the drain.

“We don’t have unlimited financial resources. Covid has hit our P&L (profit and loss statement) and balance sheet very hard and we’re in a recovery situation.

“We have to do something and anybody who is impeding us doing it is actually working against the public interest.”

At Friday’s meeting, Mike Smith criticised the decision, claiming the bags have not worked well in Cornwall.

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“Four years on from when they were issued, they are tatty, they do blow about and they don’t seal very well to keep the water out,” he said.

“How can you justify to the residents of Wokingham, not having done any practical trials, before spending £250,000?”

Cllr Parry Batth, executive member for the environment, said a 12-month trial was carried out in Monmouthshire County Council and they found the bags were “robust”, “convenient” and “straightforward”.

He said council officers have tested the bags, which were recommended by specialist waster consultants, to ensure they are waterproof.

He added: “I’m confident the proposed bags have been fully considered against other options and are the best short-term solution to wet waste.

“They will save a large amount of money and increase our recycling.

“If we don’t do anything, we’re going to carry on losing £600,000 a year.”