Local authorities in Scotland are being warned cuts to household bin collections could spark a surge in the population of rats.
Several councils in the UK have stripped back refuse services in a bid to cut costs and others are expected to follow suit.
But the British Pest Control Association (BPCA) says the policy could lead to a significant increase in the number of rats and is urging authorities considering the move to think again.
Simon Forrester, chief executive of the BPCA, said: “Any move to reduce the frequency of collections is good news for pests and a recipe for disaster for householders.
“Rats and other pests are always searching for food, water and shelter and they can find all three in household bins, particularly those that are overflowing with rubbish.
“Infestations can build up very quickly so bins that are left full on streets and around homes for long periods pose a significant threat to public health.”
Homeowners in some parts of the UK now have most bins emptied every three weeks, rather than two, and councils in other areas are trialling a similar regime.
Some are even considering monthly bin pick-ups.
The move can produce significant savings for local authorities by boosting recycling rates and reducing landfill tax fines.
But Mr Forrester insists reducing the number of collections simply to save money could prove to be a false economy.
He continued: “Councils have tough decisions to make when faced with the need to cut costs, but they must also weigh up the potential impact of reducing certain services.
“While switching to collections every three weeks might well produce initial savings, it could easily lead to big problems further down the line.
“It could well create infestations that wouldn’t have otherwise happened and which would be likely to spread.”
He added: “Authorities might then have to step in to eliminate the threat to public health and that would cost much more than simply collecting the bin more regularly in the first place.”