A new bin collection system to comply with food regulations will have to be in place across the borough by next spring.
And that means councillors will be forced to make decisions on the best way forward when the environmental services committee sits in Armagh this evening (Tuesday).
There are currently two separate dedicated food waste collection services used across the borough which comply fully with the regulations.
There is a 240 litre brown bin and a food ‘caddy’, a 23 litre container specifically for food waste.
All domestic properties must have a food waste collection service under the new Food Waste Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015, which come into place from the start of April.
At present, that means a total of 84,854 homes must be accommodated.
Three options are open to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council as it aims to comply with the new legislation ahead of deadline.
It could expand both collection methods, brown bin and caddy; expand the weekly food caddy to all homes and scrap the brown bin collection; or scrap the caddy and give every home in the borough a brown bin.
The favoured option – certainly the recommendation going to committee and the most cost-effective and practical – is to maintain both systems.
Council brown bin services are currently operating above maximum capacity in periods of peak demand, in terms of staff and vehicles.
But if the current mix of collection systems is expanded, officers are confident it can be achieved through “route optimisation and internal efficiencies”.
Scrapping caddies in favour of all brown bins would cost up to £600,000, together with operating and labour costs of around £340,000 a year.
Scrapping brown bins for weekly caddy across the borough would mean contracting out or keeping ‘in house’ but, either way, would require a complete remodelling of the waste collection system.
At present, the majority of domestic properties in the borough – 71,527 – have a fortnightly brown bin collection, with 11,639 having food caddies.
In all, 1,688 homes in the borough have neither – 540 in the former Armagh Council area, 58 in Banbridge and 1,090 in Craigavon.
Councillors have already indicated that residents would seem to prefer the brown bin system, so it would be most likely that this would be extended to those homes which are currently without.
It has also been recommended to tonight’s meeting that 0fficers and councillors examine the various options on waste collection systems across the borough over the coming years in line with “service reviews and harmonisation”.
As is always the case, decisions taken at committee level will have to go before the full ABC Council sitting at the end of the month for full approval.