More rubbish recycled than taken to landfill, claims Defra

This story contains two diametrically opposed views of how the boost in recycling rates has been achieved. The councils suggest that fortnightly collections help to encourage residents to think more carefully about how they dispose of their refuse. A pressure group believes it to be no more than necessity because of the loss of weekly collections.

Given that it takes a lot of time, effort and resource to change the habits of the public, the councils may have a point. However, I think the government is, not for the first time, missing an opportunity. If the government and in particular Eric Pickles, are so keen to see weekly collections continue, why don’t they encourage councils to fund these through increased recycling? The current arrangement of recycling credits paid from county councils to districts (in 2 tier areas) is just recirculating the same local government money, not providing any new funding.

Daily Telegraph 1 January 2013 – ENVIRONMENT
By Christopher Hope

HOUSEHOLDERS are recycling more waste than they throw away for the first time following the widespread introduction of fortnightly bin collections, figures released yesterday show.
Official figures published by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) show that councils in England recycled, composted or reused 10.7 million tons of the waste they collected, compared with 9.6 million tons that went to landfill.
Analysis shows that most of the 10 councils with the biggest increases in recycling rates have brought in fortnightly collections and food waste recycling in the past two years.
The most improved was Runny­mede council in Surrey, which increased recycling rates from 29 per cent in 2010-2011 to 47 per cent last year.
The council put its success down to widening the range of what could be recycled, including food waste. It also switched from weekly to fortnightly collections in January 2011.
Bury council in Greater Manchester increased recycling rates by almost 50 per cent by changing to fortnightly household rubbish rounds and bringing in food waste collections for 56,000 households which already had bins for recycling garden waste.
Vale of White Horse and West Oxfordshire district councils boosted recycling rates to above 60 per cent of total waste in the latest figures. Both authorities introduced a system of fortnightly rubbish and separate weekly food waste collections in the past two years.
The combination of fortnightly rubbish rounds and separate food waste collections also proved a success for Cheltenham council, which improved recycling rates by a third from under 35 per cent of waste to 46 per cent in a year.
Of the 10 councils with the largest increase in recycling, only the London borough of Newham, which had the second best increase, has weekly bin collections and no food waste pick-ups.
The council started from a low base, raising recycling levels from just under 15 per cent to almost 23 per cent over the past year.
Ministers have been fighting in vain to stop councils dropping weekly collections and moving to fortnightly collections to save money and increase recycling.
In November, councils caused outrage when they said they would be using a £250 million cash fund which was meant to finance weekly waste collections to pay to empty household slop buckets.
The debate continued yesterday after the figures were released, with a local government minister, Brandon Lewis, insisting that people wanted weekly collections.
“Research shows that residents overwhelmingly prefer a regular and frequent rubbish collection, but under the previous administration the numbers of weekly services across the country halved while council tax doubled,” he said. “Cutting the frequency of collections is a lazy and unnecessary move.
“It is possible to increase recycling and still have comprehensive weekly service, through better procurement, more joint working and using incentive schemes.”
Campaigners said people were being forced to recycle more because bins simply could not hold enough waste to avoid overflowing after 14 days.
Doretta Cocks, founder of the Campaign for Weekly Waste Collection, said: “The idea of reducing frequency of residual waste collection is that people are forced to recycle by the lack of capacity in residual waste bins.
“This is a far speedier way of changing attitudes than education, which is costly and time-consuming. Unfortunately the end result is contamination of recycling materials.
“Residents are rarely asked whether they are happy with reduced frequency. If they are surveyed they are presented with the option of weekly collections with the most exaggerated costs quoted.”
A Defra spokesman said: “Across the country, people are cutting the amount of waste going to landfill by recycling more. They are not only protecting the environment, but fuelling a growing industry that reuses the things they throw away.
“More still needs to be done and we continue to push towards our aim of a zero waste economy, with businesses, councils and householders all doing their bit.”

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