The amount of food recycled in Sandwell has fallen by nearly 40 per cent in seven years  because the council protected weekly refuse collections.

The borough’s weekly food caddy bins collected an estimated 3,876 tonnes of organic foodstuffs this year compared to 6,362 in 2012.

The fall comes despite nine out of ten users saying they are satisfied with the services which costs Sandwell council approximately £640,000 a year.

The waste is delivered to an anaerobic digestion treatment plant in Cannock were it goes through an enclosed ‘speeded up’ composting process which produces gas and a compost-like material. The gas is sold to the grid and the compost-like material is used on site to remediate the land.

A report to the authority’s Economy, Skills, Transport and Environment scrutiny board says  less than one in five households take part in the scheme and evidence suggests the council’s determination to save the weekly bin collection service is the likely reason for the low take up.

Alan Caddick, Director of  Housing and Communities, said:  “There is national anecdotal evidence that indicates that when people become more aware of the food waste they are producing such as participating in municipal food waste collection services, they change behaviour and take measures to reduce this waste thus reducing tonnages placed out for collection.

“In addition, there can tend to be a natural ‘tail off’ of participation or initial usage especially when a resident has a weekly general waste collection.”

This argument is supported by the Waste and Resource Action Programme who in response to the authority’s request for advice on how to increase recycling, told the council: “Due to Sandwell having a weekly collection of residual waste it is unlikely that we would be able to work with you on food waste interventions as our recent projects have shown that where food waste collections operate alongside weekly residual there is limited scope for improving yield.”

Last month, government Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced a new consultation looking at separate weekly food waste collections for every household in England and Wales.

Sandwell Council is now looking at the possibility of running a publicity campaign  to get more households to recycle.