YORK householders will open their wheelie bins a little more gingerly having read of Gemma Faulkner's experience.

Rearranging the contents of her wheelie bin, she came face-to-face with a live rat.

All but the most ardent rodent fanciers would consider this a highly unpleasant ordeal. Not only can rats inflict a nasty bite, they are associated with disease.

Gemma, who has a two-year-old daughter, can be forgiven for feeling quite distressed.

Shocking though her discovery was, the only real surprise was the timing. When City of York Council first announced plans cut the weekly black bin collection, forcing 60,000 households to assemble two weeks' worth of waste, many people warned this would encourage rats.

But most assumed the problem would occur in the summer, when uncollected leftovers will let off a malodorous calling card to York's pest population.

Quite the opposite seems to have happened. The cold snap has turned the bins' overspill into a welcome fast food source for the rat.

The council's ill-considered waste strategy was clearly to blame for Gemma's unwanted guest, so it was rich that the authority then sought to profit by charging her £30 to remove the rat. Thankfully, this bill was later waived.

But will sanity be restored to the council's wider waste strategy? We fully support sensible measures to encourage more recycling, but have argued throughout our well-supported Bin It! campaign that a two-week wait for refuse removal was unhygienic. That point has been proved beyond a whisker of doubt by this disagreeable tale.

Updated: 10:43 Friday, November 25, 2005