15 October 2011

A Load of Rubbish

By Rupert Read

How Norwich shows the way: Regular food-waste collections renders Pickles’s bribe to Councils to abolish Alternative Weekly Collection a white elephant

Eric Pickles’s recently-announced hare-brained plan to incentivize local authorities to bring back weekly collections of rubbish-to-landfill is an anti-localist move by an allegedly localist Government; an extraordinary waste of a quarter of a billion pounds at a time, allegedly, of austerity; and a measure that has been proven by the Government’s own research likely to decrease recycling rates by at least 5%. (‘Alternate-weekly collections’ have tended to increase recycling rates by between 5 and 15%:

Things are however even worse than that, in at least two respects:

It is an integral part of Pickles’s Department’s plan to seek to damage-limit the dangerously negative impact on recycling rates of this measure by encouraging Councils to ‘commingle’ more recyclate, to help increase recycling rates. As I have shown previously it can actually be a move in the wrong direction to increase headline recycling percentages, if the quality of the recyclate is lowered by so doing. And this is exactly what happens under commingling.

And secondly, the main premise of the drive to bring back weekly rubbish-to-landfill collections is, in Pickles’s words, that It’s a basic right for every English man and woman to be able to put the remnants of their chicken tikka masala in their bin without having to wait a fortnight for it to be collected.’ .

But this premise is fatally flawed. For, here in Norwich City Council area, where I am writing from, as in various other parts of the country, we Councillors added a food waste collection component into the job of dustmen

In Norwich, which is among those Councils to have consistently year after year increased recycling rates over the last decade (in rough correlation with the increased numbers of Greens on the Council…), recyclate is collected every fortnight (alternating with rubbish-to-landfill), but food waste is collected every week. Anyone’s tikka masala remnants are collected regularly without stinking out the neighbourhood – and without the vast additional expense and negative impact upon recycling of abolishing Alternative Weekly Collections.

Once this is understood, the case for the bribes that Pickles is seeking to introduce is entirely eliminated.

'Never mind’, though: We’re all bin this together, as they say…

This is an updated version of an article first published in Left Foot Forward.

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