Wiltshire residents have been warned not to leave extra plastic bags of rubbish out during the bins strike – in order to avoid attracting rats.

Because of the risk of rats, which have been breeding significantly, Wiltshire Council has issued new instructions that all household waste should be bagged before being binned and anything that smells, including food and nappies, should be double-bagged.

Although the two-week strike of bin workers at Hills Municipal Collections depots at Calne, Trowbridge and Salisbury has caused the suspension of the collection of recycling bins until the week beginning March 21, household waste collections are continuing.

But due to delays caused by the GMB union strikers, who are picketing depots as part of their action in demands for a seven per cent pay rise, the council has warned that normal collections of household waste may be late “by a day or so”.

This has led to fears that any rubbish left out for longer than usual may attract rats, especially if it is left beside bins in bags, which the vermin will chew through.

Due to the lockdown, when rats enjoyed the tranquillity of quiet urban areas with plenty of waste food, the UK rat population has grown to 150 million.

Peter Hatt, of Devizes-based Apest Solutions, said: “Without a shadow of a doubt there has been an increase in rats. If plastic bags are left out next to bins and not stored off the ground the rats will chew straight through them.”

A council spokesman said: “Our advice for household waste is that all waste should be bagged before it is put in the bin; anything that may cause smells, like food waste and nappies, should be double-bagged, and to avoid pests the bin lid should be securely shut.”

Cllr Dr Mark McClelland, Wiltshire Council’s cabinet member for waste, said the council was doing what it can to minimise disruption.

He said: “We are working hard to catch-up on any missed household waste collections and we don’t envisage household waste collections bins having to stay out for more than a day or so if they aren’t emptied on people’s normal collection day.

“Given this short timeframe, we don’t expect a need to, nor would we encourage, additional household waste bags to be left by people’s bins, as this may attract vermin.

“The suspension of recycling collections services should also not cause any sanitary issues, as items should be washed and squashed before placing in the blue-lidded recycling bin, but people can bring items to their nearest household recycling centre if there’s too much to keep at home.

“We know this is far from an ideal situation, but the industrial action is between Hills Municipal Collections and GMB is out of our direct control. We’re doing what we can to limit the disruption.”