Thousands of wheelie bins and seagull-proof sacks, which Liberal Democrat campaigners say were due to be given to every household in Cornwall two years ago, are being stored at a secret location at a cost of £300,000.

The Lib Dems have strongly criticised Cornwall Council’s Conservative leadership for storing the bins since 2021 and “wasting taxpayers’ money”.

The Lib Dems say every household in Cornwall was due to receive a new wheelie bin or reusable sack as part of the waste collection contract signed with Biffa before the 2021 council election, but when the Conservatives took control of the council, a decision was made to leave the bins in storage at a secret location which is believed to be near Newquay Airport.

The council states residents of Cornwall will still receive the bins and sacks, as well as an outdoor food waste caddy and kitchen food waste caddy, as it rolls out its new waste collection system which has been delayed to allow for upgrades at recycling sites.

Acting Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Colin Martin says the delay is bad for the environment as well as being a waste of money: “Every day across Cornwall, hundreds of bin bags are torn open by birds and animals, and rubbish is spilled into the environment. Aside from looking unsightly, the litter can be a hazard to health and, of course, much of the plastic ends up stuck in our rivers and seas.

“This problem could have been solved years ago if the council had stuck to the Liberal Democrat plan to provide every household with either a wheelie bin or a seagull-proof sack in 2021. There is simply no excuse for spending our money on warehouse storage when these bins could be in use outside our homes.”

The precise cost was revealed by a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Liskeard town councillor Naomi Taylor. The council’s response states that £303,511.18 has been spent so far on storing the bins. Last year the council agreed to spend an extra £62m on getting ready for a new waste and recycling collection service, which includes new vehicles and facilities to process waste, particularly in relation to food waste.

A Cornwall Council spokesperson said: “As part of changes to rubbish and recycling collections being rolled out in stages over the next two years, every household in Cornwall will receive a new wheelie bin or protective reusable sack, an outdoor food waste caddy and a kitchen food waste caddy. There will be no cost to households for the new bins and the changes will ensure we recycle far more waste in Cornwall than we do currently.

“We purchased the bins in 2021 to ensure prices were fixed as low as possible, and to prevent supply chain issues and inflationary costs of production. To date it has proven cheaper to store these bins than to purchase them at today’s prices. There have been delays while work continues to upgrade our waste and recycling transfer sites to allow the new waste collection service to start.”

Cllr Taylor says that new lorries with bin lifts have been on Cornwall’s roads since 2021. “Hard-working Cornish taxpayers will be horrified to hear how much money is being wasted by the Conservative-run council. Their excuses are quite simply a load of rubbish.”