COUNCILLORS may soon take on an extra responsibility - patrolling the streets, to see if residents are recycling properly.

The scheme is the brainchild of Ian Robertson, Southend Council's newly-appointed cabinet member responsible for public protection and waste disposal.

Mr Robertson, a Chalkwell Tory councillor, said the council was doing well in meeting its 30 per cent recycling targets, but could do better.

He said: "At the moment, we are at 32 per cent recycling, which is higher than our target. However, we still have to improve and everyone has a part to play in getting the highest possible level of recycling."

Mr Robertson believes councillors can play a big part in helping educate people to recycle more.

He said: "Councillors should be out and about in the wards, learning the problems residents face.

"When you do go out, you often see which properties are not recycling - where there are black bags and no pink ones.

"I would hope councillors would then be finding out why people are not bothering to recycle.

"They may be elderly or disabled and councillors and staff may be able to help or educate people in the best ways to recycle."

Mr Robertson said he would like to see a councillor in each ward appointed as a "recycling champion".

Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinators and other voluntary workers who regularly visited members of the community could also have a part to play, he added.

"A lot of it is about education," he said. "I used to put out two or more black bags and one pink one. Now it is three pink bags and only one black one."

However, Mr Robertson rejected the idea of introducing wheelie bins in the near future.

He said: "The simple truth is the council could not afford the cost of their provision in the town.

"We are renegotiating our waste disposal contract next year and we will have to see what the new contractor's proposals are."