Waste industry experts have lined up to rubbish the proposed government attempt to bring back weekly landfill bin (disposal) collections should the Tories be returned in the next general election.
A story in the Sunday Telegraph (June 29) says local authorities could be legally forced to empty landfill bins every week if the Conservatives win next year’s general election.
One industry insider insisted, simply, it is not necessary, it is a retrograde step and the cost would be prohibitive.
“It owes nothing to fact, good sense or sound financial management.
“WRAP has spent thousands of pounds and thousands of hours studying the issue and it has concluded fortnightly collections of landfill waste are the way to go.
“The people who lobby for the return of weekly landfill bin collection don’t realise councils are so strapped for cash it might mean they will have to rob funds from other essential services such as social services or education, if Eric Pickles get his way,” added the insider.
“The majority of councils collecting general waste either fortnightly or less frequently provide weekly collections of food waste,” he said. And this removes virtually all the public health issues.
Stephen Didsbury, secretary of the Association of London Cleansing Officers (ALCO) is also against any move to return to weekly landfill bin collections.
“It is a matter of common sense,” he believed.
Local government secretary Eric Pickles has tried this move before. But most of the incentive money he gave to councils which complied, paid to set up weekly food waste schemes, insisted Didsbury.
According to the Sunday Telegraph, Pickles said: “The government will continue standing up for hard-working people who deserve a decent bin service”.
One option being considered by the Conservatives is the introduction of a minimum service standard, which would re-instate the previous legal requirement for councils to collect rubbish weekly, added Pickles.
“This move would hurt their own Tory-controlled boroughs more than it would others,” suggested Didsbury.
He cited his own London Borough of Bexley.
Only after much consultation did Bexley decide to move to a fortnightly landfill bin collection.
“Those households which were against the move were under 30 and we polled thousands and thousands. And Bexley residents’ satisfaction rates are above 80%.”
Didsbury added cutting the landfill bin collections to fortnightly had encouraged people to use the food waste bins.
“If we were forced to bring back weekly landfill bin collections, then I believe food waste refuse would fall and, indeed, all recycling would drop by between 8% and 10%. And we cannot afford this at a time when recycling rates are flat-lining.”
Why that figure? “This is the figure by which it went up when Bexley changed to fortnightly landfill bin collection.”
The Local Government Association (LGA) claimed most householders are happy with their current waste collection systems, while the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) said evidence suggests that moving away from weekly waste collections contributes to higher recycling rates.
An LGA spokesman said: “Our own polling shows the vast majority – about 80% – of people are happy with the way their bins are collected and satisfaction rates are broadly the same regardless of whether people have weekly or alternate weekly collections.”
And, LARAC said the change over the years for many councils towards a fortnightly or less frequent collection service “has been a technical one backed by evidence and a desire to increase recycling levels and not a political one”.
A spokesman for LARAC said: “Moving residual waste away from weekly collections has been shown to contribute to higher recycling levels and when combined with weekly food waste collections will not give rise to any problems.
The Chartered Institution of Waste Management (CIWM) has expressed concern about the impact on both the environment and the taxpayer if Pickles’ weekly landfill bin disposal plan were to go ahead.
“This is potentially a lose-lose situation,” said CIWM chief executive Steve Lee.
“Many councils have moved to alternate weekly collections as a way of increasing recycling provision and participation while keeping costs down.
He added the potential cost to the public purse if Pickles’ plans to restore weekly collections went ahead would be around half a billion pounds.
“CIWM wants to see local councils supported and allowed to decide how best to provide the right collection services for residents to encourage recycling, keep council tax down, and protect other vital council services. This surely is in line with government’s stated commitment, through the Localism Act, to devolving decision-making from central to local government and the communities it serves.
“It is a shame that we are still having this unhelpful debate, which undermines local authorities and damages public perception around recycling and the need to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill.
“This sector needs a government that supports our collective efforts to put waste back to work and realise the benefits to the UK economy.”
ALCO’s Didsbury reckoned in his borough of Bexley there would be a need for 30% more vehicles and the staff to crew them.
“And this at a time when central government had already cut local authority grants by a third and was going to cut them again by another third.”