WHEELIE bins could be introduced in the New Forest under plans to shake up the household waste collection service.

New Forest District Council is reviewing its existing system after being told to boost its recycling rate, which has stalled at 25 per cent.

Council chiefs are planning to hold a referendum so residents can vote on any proposals.

Options include the use of wheelie bins, which are already deployed in Southampton, Eastleigh and other parts of Hampshire.

The news comes just days after neighbouring Test Valley Borough Council became the

latest local authority in the county to introduce the Alternative Bin Collection (ABC) scheme.

Residents have to separate rubbish into two bins - one for waste and another for recyclables - which will be collected on alternate weeks.

ABC could be introduced in the New Forest, even though it was recently axed in Southampton.

Forest residents are currently issued with pink plastic sacks for ordinary waste and clear sacks for recyclable items such as paper, cardboard and plastic bottles. Both types of rubbish are collected at the same time.

However, the council's waste management partner, Project Integra, is seeking an increase in its recycling rate, which has "levelled off" at 25 per cent.

Council leader Mel Kendal said: "We're under pressure to introduce an alternate week collection system using wheelie bins, as most other districts do already. One week will be for recyclables, the next for non-recyclables.

"We have employed consultants to study the effect of various collection methods. We shall also see how much more efficient we can make our sack collection scheme for recycling purposes.

"When the options have been thoroughly evaluated I intend that they will be summarised, along with the cost per household of each option.

"We'd then like to hold some form of referendum and ask council taxpayers for their preferred method and cost."

Asked if the council would abide by the result of the referendum, Cllr Kendal replied: "I believe we should, but external forces over which we have little control may intervene."

The Lib Dem opposition group is holding a public meeting next week to gauge public reaction to the possible introduction of wheelie bins.

l The public meeting will be at Totton Community Centre on Tuesday at 7.15pm.