Brighton and Hove prides itself on being one of the greenest places in the country. But it has been a difficult few months, with refuse collections and now recycling being branded “rubbish” by residents. So why do rubbish collections appear to be such a problem?

With five fewer lorries and one less crew member on every truck, Cityclean workers are facing a growing number of complaints about the city’s recycling collections.

As the new routes introduced in February continue to “settle in” many residents are already becoming disillusioned with the Brighton and Hove City Council service.

Some are even threatening to give up on recycling altogether after their boxes have been left uncollected for weeks.

Changes to the recycling rounds were brought in after the council opened a purpose-built sorting facility at Hollingdean.

While it is good news for the environment that lorries no longer need to travel to Beddingham, near Lewes, it is important that teething problems with the rounds are sorted out quickly before people’s frustrations begin to show in the city’s recycling figures.

Brighton and Hove currently has a recycling rate of 29%, a number which could increase to 37.5% if every resident recycled all of their paper, card, cans, plastic bottles, glass and batteries.

But if services are struggling to cope in areas, some people fear the recycling rate could drop, especially with the introduction of communal bins in some areas of the city which critics say could make it easier for people to dispose of all of their waste in one go.

The council says the new rounds and communal bins have been introduced to make the service more efficient and a saving of nearly £2million has been made.

Mark Turner, the GMB union’s branch secretary for Brighton and Hove, said Cityclean crews are trying hard to keep up with the extra workload after five vehicles were taken off the road and each crew was reduced by one person as part of the changes.

He said: “The council is making savings and we are giving it a go. We are keeping our end of the bargain, but I can imagine the frustrations for some members of the public.

“There have been difficulties since the removals and if things continue over the next two or three weeks we will start to make some serious noise to the council and to local management.”

Gill Mitchell, leader of the labour group, criticised the changes. She said: “Councillor Theobald is saying the service is more efficient but I don’t think so because it has just made direct cuts. If you reduce the cost of the service the money saved should be ploughed back into it.”

Green Councillor Jason Kitcat added: “Since 2007 the cabinet member for the environment has been promising a waste strategy document which would say here are our goals and this is how we are going to move to redirect our environmental impact and deal with all the changes as a city.

“We have been promised it but we still haven’t seen it.

“But it hasn’t stopped the council from completely reworking the bin collections and recycling without any form of overall city strategy.

“It’s extraordinary, if a patient went to a doctor with a number of different systems he wouldn’t look at them all individually, they would be considered as a whole.

“The council is trying to do the same thing for less money but is not trying to be any more ambitious. Other councils around the country are providing kitchen waste collections.

“But instead of doing things which would reduce the amount of waste they are just trying to carry on as they are but for less money.”

A council spokeswoman said a draft waste strategy which sets out how the council plans to manage waste and recycling services in the city over the next 10 years will be considered at the council’s Environment Cabinet meeting on May 7.

It includes a three year action plan which aims to increase recycling to 32% and decrease the amount sent to landfill from 60% to 12%.

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, cabinet member for environment, defended the council.

He said: “We accept that in some areas of the city the new collections haven’t gone as smoothly as we would have liked. We apologise to residents and thank them for their patience.

“One of the problems that we have encountered is that some residents are still putting glass in with their other recycling. We would like to remind householders that glass must be separated. However, cardboard, paper, plastic bottles and tins can be placed together in the recycling boxes.

“Householders may remember that we experienced similar problems when we changed household waste collection rounds last year, but we are pleased to report that this service is now running smoothly and we receive very few complaints.”