Children at King’s Park Primary School in Lurgan are being told to bring their rubbish home with them due to the introduction of a charge to have their waste paper bins emptied.
The school is facing a potential cost in excess of £1,000 a year as a result of the £1.50 charge being introduced by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council for emptying each 240 litre bin.
The charges will take effect from April 1, however, angry parents have asked the council to think again.
DUP MLA Carla Lockhart said she has raised the matter with party councillors.
“I have asked for it to be taken back to committee to discuss this decision further and engage in extensive communication with school principals,” she said. “I would have concerns about the ramifications of this decision and therefore I feel it needs to be looked at again.”
In a letter to parents the school explained: “Over recent years we have been sending on occasion 20 of these bins to recycling. Due to the ever-increasing pressure on school budgets we will be unable to pay the additional £1,000+ to recycle our waste paper.
“Over recent days everyone in school has been asked to significantly reduce the amount of waste paper/card they throw away.
“Further, from April 16 children will be asked to take all of their waste home and families are asked to dispose of this waste on a daily basis.”
It has been the school’s practice over many years that children who bring packed lunches bring home their food waste and this will continue.
The school is now asking parents to supply children with a small plastic bag in which they can place their paper waste and take it home to be binned.
Parents have reacted with incredulity to the move, with one asking was it an April Fool’s joke. Another said the council charging to empty the bins was ‘like robbing Peter to pay Paul’.
School principal Terry Shields said the move was due to pressures on school budgets and that he was looking at alternative measures ‘to mitigate’.
A council spokesperson that up until now, trade customers, including schools, had their recycling bins collected free of charge.
Up until a few years ago the collection cost was balanced out by the sale of recyclables, however the market has moved on and this no longer provides any income from this waste stream; plus the new charge of £1.50 charge per 240L bin per week will only recoup 50% of council costs.
Any move that stops waste going to landfill is positive, the council said, so it is “great to hear” that some schools are helping pupils understand the impact of their waste “by asking them to take responsibility for their own rubbish”.
Private waste management suppliers are also available as an alternative, the council added.