Special sealed sacks set to battle flying nuisance

Observer Chief Reporter Sol Buckner tests out Hastings Council's new refuse sacks
Observer Chief Reporter Sol Buckner tests out Hastings Council's new refuse sacks

DEVOURING every scrap of food in sight and breeding like rabbits, the herring gull is the curse of bin men in coastal resorts across the country.

But bosses at Hastings Borough Council have come up with an ingenious plan to stop the birds pecking through plastic bin bags and leaving trails of litter across our streets.

Chief reporter Sol Buckner went along to the council’s street cleansing depot at Bulverhythe to investigate......

NO matter what street you go down or what time of day it is, you are likely to see or hear one of the most unpopular creatures in the country.

Seagulls are part of the daily life of our town but they have become a major problem for our street cleaners and binmen.

Whether they are snatching your lunch out of your hands on the seafront or pecking holes through binbags, the herring gull has earned itself an unenviable reputation.

But during the spring, the council is set to go on the offensive.

Over the next few weeks, 500 homes will receive a seagull-proof sack aimed at stopping the birds getting into bin bags and leaving trails of litter strewn across our streets.

They will be sent to homes which currently do not have wheelie bins in the central St Leonards, Bohemia, Castle and Tressell areas.

The sacks have been designed with a special woven, polypropylene plastic which give it extra strength and durability.

Measuring 45”x45”x90”, they can be sealed off with a lid which can be fastened with Velcro.

And putting the sacks to the test, it’s easy to see how they should outfox even the smartest seagull.

Putting the sacks to the test, firstly I tried throwing it about and wrenching it apart with my bare hands which proved impossible.

Then I tried to set it alight with a cigarette lighter to see whether it will deter vandals. The twine will melt slowly but I could not spark a flame.

Then I tested it for space. I could squeeze my 5”11’ inch frame inside at a push, so there is ample room for two or three bin bags.

And the weight issue should not be a problem. Builders use the sacks to fill with rubble on building sites.

The idea is to seal the rubbish bags inside the sacks so the gulls can’t see or get to them.

The sacks will be on the street for only a few hours until they are collected. The only problem could come from foxes or badgers pushing them over. So it is advisable to raise them off the ground when putting them out for collection.

The sacks are made by Glasgow-based firm J & HM Dicksons and cost £5 each. They have supplied up to 200 councils nationwide including seagull-plagued places like Torbay which has reordered more every year.

They will be trialled here between March and July and if successful will be rolled out to the remaining 12,000 homes without wheelie bins.

HBC has worked closely with Thanet District Council in Kent which succussfully trialled the sacks last year.

Peter Mead, waste and street scene services manager, said: “Seagulls are a major problem here and people are sick of them getting into our bags. They make extra work for our street cleansing team which has to be stopped.

“Our colleagues in Thanet have reported 25 per cent less rubbish left on streets after the sacks were introduced which is very encouraging.

“We are rolling them out at a time when the seagulls are most active during the breeding and nesting season. The sacks are very durable and strong and should keep the most determined gulls out.”

Bohemia councillor Andrew Cartwright, who sits on the council’s Waste Advisory Group, said:“Residents are already anticipating the sacks. I am sure they will help keep our streets clean and also save time and money in the long run.”