Wheelie bins could replace black sacks on the streets of Birmingham in a bid to increase the city’s household waste recycling rate.

The issue has been a hot topic for several years, with one councillor branding nearby Tamworth – which uses wheelie bins – “dirty” in a heated debate on the subject last year.

The council also had reservations over the cost of buying new dustcarts and bins for up to 400,000 households.

But, with the authority’s current fleet of bin lorries nearing the end of their working life and Government funding available, bosses believe the time is right to make a change.

The city's current rate of recycling is 31 per cent.

Coun James McKay, responsible for Birmingham’s green policy, said: “We believe Birmingham will become a cleaner and greener place if we are successful in our bid.

“We want to enhance what we provide and we do all we can to keep the streets clean.

“But the current system of bags makes this an almost impossible job. Introducing wheelie bins will improve our living environment.”

It has been argued that wheelie bins are not suitable for many roads and apartments, particularly in the densely-populated inner city.

But advocates suggest that piles of black bags on street corners are ugly and make a mess as they are torn apart by foxes or dogs or hit by cars.

Tory Coun Graham Green hit out last year during a debate, saying of wheelie bins: “They are not necessarily cleaner – just go to Tamworth.

“It is an absolute disgrace, there are bins and rubbish all over the place and no-one with the wherewithal to clean it up.”

Coun McKay said black bags may continue to be used in a small number of roads where wheelie bins were not practical. And he said the council would restate its guarantee of weekly rubbish collections in its bid to the Government’s £250 million weekly collection support scheme.

Council chiefs believe wheelie bins could help lift Birmingham’s household recycling rate towards its 50 per cent target on the back of evidence from elsewhere.

The authority has already piloted a nectar points recycling incentive scheme in Erdington and Bournville and this could also be rolled out across the city if the bid is successful.

The council will discover in October whether it has earned a share of the cash. If so, wheelie bins may be introduced early next year after detailed consultation.