Residents of parts of Cornwall where the council’s new waste collection service has started are trying to get a handle on why their rubbish hasn’t been collected. They’ve been told it’s because they are using seagull-proof sacks with black handles rather than white handles.

A number of people have accused Cornwall Council of wasting money and are annoyed by the irony that the black-handled refuse sacks they have been using up until now will have to go in the white-handled bags as they can’t be recycled. The council argues that a new standardised service will be much more effective and encourage recycling.

Gary Miller wrote to us asking: “I wonder if you are aware of the amount of people who had been refused their bin collection because the seagull-proof bags have ‘the wrong colour handles’? My collection was refused today and upon asking the collection team why they were not taking my rubbish, their answer was that the bag doesn’t have white handles. This is a bag that was purchased from the Cornwall Council one-stop shop less than a year ago.

“We were not given an option to have a new bag when the new bins were delivered and there has been no mention of this relayed to my property. I have noticed today that this has been the case in many towns across Cornwall where the new bin collection scheme is in place; Facebook appears to have a lot of such incidents mentioned.”

He added: “Unfortunately I am in a position where I cannot have one of the large wheelie bins as I have no rear access to my property and there are no pavements outside of it either. My only option would be to leave the bin in the road exacerbating the limited parking issue we already have in this street and quite frankly making the area look very untidy. As a Cornwall Council taxpayer and resident I find this far from satisfactory.”

A resident of Millbrook on the Rame Peninsula, who did not want to be named, also contacted us: “Do you know or could you find out why residents in Millbrook and surrounding areas have had to give up their perfectly good seagull-proof refuse sacks for exactly the same sacks, capacity, etc, but with white handles instead of black? Does this not seem like a total waste of money when councils are trying to save?”

A Saltash resident posted a picture on social media of the two bags side by side, commenting: “I am quite disgusted! Spot the difference – on the right is my old seagull sack that I purchased not long before they issued the one on the left. Bin men will not take my rubbish from my old one as it’s not the one the council issued. So I thought this was all about recycling? The only difference is the colour of the handles! I suppose my old one will go to landfill? Cornwall Council!”

“My parents had exactly the same issue yesterday. Rang the council and was told there was nothing they could do. Mum was told the old seagull bag just had to go in the bin as they can’t be recycled,” added another.

Another resident came to the council’s defence: “But we were all told not to use our old bins or bags and I know this is frustrating. I know people that had perfectly good wheelie bins but can’t use them but the new rules are the rules (wrong or right). All your rubbish must fit in the bag or bin that the council brought out and I’m afraid that’s it. We have had months to sort this before the new bins were delivered. I received information about it in January/February.”

A spokesperson for Cornwall Council responded to the criticism: “Our new recycling and rubbish collection service is aimed at encouraging everyone to reduce their waste and increase their recycling. To help with this we are supplying all residential properties with a new and standardised 180-litre bin or sack which we will collect from the kerbside every fortnight.

“All rubbish must fit into the new bin or sack which our crews can monitor to ensure that residents are not exceeding the amount of rubbish they can put out. It also ensures that every household has a bin or sack that is the correct size and in good working order. Once the new waste service is in your area our crews will only collect rubbish from the new bins or sacks that we have provided. If you have an old bin or sack, we encourage you to repurpose it where possible, for example as garden storage.”

We asked specifically about people’s concerns that the bags are exactly the same bar the colour of the handles, so why couldn’t residents carry on using them.

“As part of our new waste collection service for Cornwall we are asking residents for the first time to limit the amount of rubbish they can dispose of to what can fit in their bin or protective sack every fortnight,” added the spokesperson.

“In order for our collection crews to apply the new rule for limiting their rubbish they need to be able to see clearly that only the new grey bins or white-handled sacks that we have issued are being used to put out rubbish and that no additional rubbish containers which residents may still have are being put out for collection as well.

“We’re encouraging anyone who has an existing sack to repurpose it or alternatively we can collect residents’ old sacks once their new rubbish collection starts if they book it online at”