Seagulls and rats have trumped an initiative to clean up the city centre by “setting their watches” to match the timings of a new trade waste scheme.
Traders in Rose Street have reported that vermin are ready and waiting to attack and rip open bin bags after learning when the waste is allowed on to the key thoroughfare.
The behaviour has circumvented a city council scheme which aimed to improve the street by restricting the time businesses could leave their waste out for collection.
Under the trade waste scheme, which launched early last year, businesses are allowed to put out waste for up to an hour from 9.30am to noon, 2pm to 4pm, and 6.30pm to 11pm. Rubbish is supposed to be stored within company properties at all other times.
The changes were introduced in a bid to remove large refuse containers, which were previously stationed in public space, with many firms now using plastic bags.
But the News has learned that some traders feel the scheme is failing because vermin simply lie in wait until the appropriate time.
The birds have been witnessed flocking three times a day before descending and attacking bags containing food-smeared waste from cafes, restaurants and takeaways.
Rubbish is then left strewn over pavements and lanes, with warnings that the mess is turning the avenue into a night-time magnet for rats.
Business owners today attacked the scheme, claiming that miscellaneous rubbish from cafes and restaurants – which often comes into contact with food before being put out in plastic bags – had become a major attraction for gulls, crows and other vermin.
And they have criticised local workers who dispose of food waste in bags rather than recycling boxes.
Charlie Galloway, area supervisor for DM Stewart Ltd, said: “The trade waste initiative in Rose Street was implemented by the council to claim the pavements back for pedestrians by the removal of bins.
“Will the council now claim the pavements back from the seagulls and crows which flock to the bags when they are put out for collection?
“During consultation meetings with the council prior to the trade waste initiative, businesses on Rose Street expressed concern that using plastic bags would cause an increase in vermin activity. The council did not agree that there was an increase in vermin activity.”
He added: “Rose Street looks worse now than it ever did with bins. At least bins contain rubbish safely and prevent bags bursting open.”
One restaurant owner, who asked not to be named, said: “It would be fair to call [the collection windows] a feeding time for vermin.
“Seagulls congregate during the pick-up windows and the bags get ripped and the contents are strewn round the street. Rats are an overnight problem.”
City bosses insisted that fixed collection windows were having a “very positive” impact on cleanliness. Councillor Lesley Hinds, environment leader, said: “Waste presented for collection is the responsibility of the trader until it is taken away. There are a range of containers available, including smaller and collapsible bins.
“Recycling food waste, rather than putting it out for collection, will also make the bags less attractive to vermin and we are happy to provide advice to businesses about this.”