Councils across Sussex are facing a "bin backlash" after approving schemes to cut rubbish collections by half.

Campaigners predict that, with hotter summers forecast, thousands of households will find their uncollected waste drawing flies and rats and forming a breeding ground for maggots and disease.

Two councils in the county have already moved to fortnightly collections, with three more due to follow by the end of the year.

This means about 200,000 households in Sussex will have their bins picked up every 14 days, despite council tax bills doubling in many areas in the past ten years.

Councils, backed by the Government, say the move is needed to boost recycling rates and avoid landfill penalties, which would cost authorities millions of pounds.

But campaigners warn leaving smelly food waste and dirty nappies to rot for up to a fortnight is a threat to public health.

Dorreta Cocks, of the Campaign for Weekly Waste Collection, said: "I do approve of recycling and care about the planet but people are getting maggots and rats because of the change.

"Residents are having to leave chicken carcasses, nappies and incontinence pads in the bin for two weeks.

"I have been asking myself: Do we really live in 2007?' "

Hastings, Rother and Mid Sussex are to give out new wheelie bins and introduce what the Government calls alternate weekly collection. Recycling is collected one week and seven days later the rest of the household waste is picked up.

Weekly rubbish collections were established by law in 1875 to stamp out cholera and other plagues, which claimed huge numbers of lives.

But the Government has recently pushed councils to drop weekly collections and start the fortnightly pick-ups.

Hastings rat-catcher Lee Walker, of 1066 Pest Control, said: "With the warm winter, I have had my busiest year to date so far.

"The fortnightly collection is going to cause problems with rats and flies and it has the potential of being a massive problem.

"Rats can still get into the wheelie-bin containers - they can jump up to 6ft.

"And, like any animal, if you give them perfect conditions, then they will breed a lot more."

Households in Chichester and Wealden already receive the fortnightly collections.

The two district councils said people had grown used to the frequency.

But Labour Mid Sussex councillor Paddy Henry said downgrading the frequency in Mid Sussex was a mistake.

He said: "In 1875, Disraeli said rubbish collection should be weekly and I really believe that fortnightly collection is not hygienic.

"It is not just turning back the clock. We have gone back to before the clock."

Lib Dems in Rother are also concerned. Activist Stephen Hardy said: "I can envisage this will become a real issue - like it has elsewhere in the country."

Conservative-led Hastings, Rother and Mid Sussex councils have defended the decision, saying it will increase recycling and that there is no link between fortnightly collections and increases in vermin.

Research by the Local Government Association found recycling rates averaged 30 per cent in areas with fortnightly collections.

And a Government report, released in March, concluded there was no evidence of negative health effects from alternate weekly collections.

But the investigation also included a survey of residents in Wycombe, where the fortnightly collection had been introduced. This concluded reports of insects, vermin and odours may increase as a result of the change in frequency.

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