South Hams District Council apologises for the disruption to our refuse and recycling service by the severe weather last week.

South Hams District Council refuse and recycling crews lost a greater number of working days than many of our neighbouring authorities. This has affected our ability to catch up quickly, as we cannot simply roll the days forward. Despite the disruption however, South Hams Council were one of the few councils who were able to operate a normal service in all other areas, with over 200 of our staff working remotely to keep benefits, planning, environmental health and many other service areas up and running.

In order to get our waste collections back on track quickly and without further disrupting all collections we are asking for your co-operation. We know that storing additional waste can be challenging and is not ideal, however all additional waste from the delay will be collected.

We know that food waste is a big issue, so you can put this out with your next grey bin collection if it was missed last week, although if you do this it will not be recycled.

As there should not be any food waste in your grey bin, there should be less issues with wildlife attacking your uncollected grey waste. If it does not fit in your bin please put it in bags next to your grey bin on your usual collection day and we will collect it all in one visit.

We have received a number of enquiries online and over the phone, and we have answered the most commonly asked questions here:

Why can't you run extra collections, or operate as if it was a bank holiday?

Some councils have offered Saturday collections and have rolled forward all collection days to catch up. Unfortunately, the weather and the rural nature of many of the roads in the South Hams meant we lost 3 days' worth of collections. Councils elsewhere locally didn't get the snow until the day after the South Hams, or are more urban and recovered more quickly.

We were unable to work on Saturday 3 March either as the roads leading to our depot sites were still not safe to travel on. We are not able to work on Sundays as the disposal sites (which are run by Devon County Council) are not open. It would also be difficult to secure drivers and loaders to staff our refuse and recycling rounds over both weekend days. Although we can offer our workforce overtime, we cannot force them to take it.

If we were to catch up over the next three Saturdays, it would mean that collections would be out of kilter with the published service guide for over five weeks, as the catch up would run into the Easter catch up period. This is likely to cause confusion, resulting in more residents missing their collections. Our proposed method of catching up with waste collections means that collection days don't change until Easter.

Why can't you just not bother with recycling this week and collect the grey bins instead?

If we collect grey bins instead of brown bins next week, the food waste in the brown bins would be uncollected for a longer period. The food waste element of the waste stream is the portion which we wanted to deal with most quickly. We would also have to delay grey bin collections in the other half of the district, which would extend the problem - in fact, it would extend the problem into the Easter bank holiday weekend and cause even more disruption.

Why can't you collect my waste on a different day instead?

We only have a limited number of staff and vehicles with which to carry out our collections. The collections alternate, so that if Ivybridge is on brown bins for example, Kingsbridge will be on grey bins and vice versa. Rather than disrupt all collections for customers we have kept our core service unchanged where we can. We understand that the stormy weather and snow has caused disruption for many households and we are very sorry for that. We are trying to catch up quickly, continue to recycle your waste and allow for our crews to work safely in this recovery period.

If I put extra waste next to my grey bin it will be attacked by wildlife/pets?

We know that bagged waste next to our bins is not ideal but again this situation was extreme. We would ask that you try to put waste out on collection day. Food waste should be placed in the brown bin so that there is less in your black sacks which might attract animals. You could also double bag your refuse, and rinse out plastic tubs or meat trays for example.

Can't you put communal skips at the Recycling centres or in local car parks?

Communal skips are not allowed by law. Waste going into a communal skip has to be regulated and the skip site would have to be staffed. We will catch up with collecting all additional waste as quickly as we can - please do bear with us.

Can I put additional black sacks in my brown bin instead and put that out for collection?

If you wish to store your additional sacks in your brown bin until your collection day, this is up to you. However, extra sacks will need to be presented alongside the grey bin on your collection day and not presented in the brown bin.

How else can I reduce my waste volume?

Make sure that you are using the service correctly. It's estimated that 23% of grey bin waste is food waste that can go directly into the brown bin instead. And although plastics like trays, yoghurt pots and bags can't be placed in the clear sacks, you can take these to our recycling centres at Totnes, Kingsbridge and Ivybridge - many residents have reduced their grey bin waste by collecting these separately. If you have a wood burning stove, the ash can be composted once cooled, or placed on your garden.

Why do I pay council tax when you don't collect my waste? Can I have a refund for this disruption?

The Council does everything it can to recover after extreme events. This type of weather event requires additional money to be spent on recovery and it is essential that we prioritise safety and protect the area.

Only 9% of your council tax goes to South Hams District Council, and that 9% is used for all the services we provide, not just waste and recycling. We would not be able to offer a refund but we would ask that you recognise our efforts in getting things back to normal as smoothly as possible and assist us with helping the whole area to recover.