Councils urged to cut bin days to boost recycling

Adopting fortnightly bin collections enables councils to increase recycling rates by nearly a third, a Local Government Association (LGA) report has concluded.

More than a third of English councils now collect landfill waste and recycling on alternate weeks. The LGA found these now have an average recycling rate of 30 per cent, compared to average rates of 23 per cent for councils that collect refuge every week.

All of the top ten councils with the best rates for recycling have adopted fortnightly rubbish collections. North Kesteven in the east Midlands is the best performing council, recycling 51.5 per cent of rubbish. It was followed by Rushcliffe and south Cambridgedshire, both recycling nearly half of all waste.

The UK throws away more landfill waste than any other country in Europe, with landfills now equalling an area the size of Warwick. Unless landfill rates drop “dramatically” over the coming years, the National Audit Office has warned councils will be liable for fines of £200 million.

LGA chairman Lord Bruce-Lockhart said: “The move by some to alternate weekly bin collections is aimed at working with residents to reduce waste, increase recycling and slowing rising costs from EU legislation and higher landfill tax.

“There needs to be an urgent and radical overhaul of the way in which rubbish is thrown away. Local people, businesses and councils all have a vital role to play to protect our countryside before it becomes buried in a mountain of rubbish.”

With landfill taxes increasing, councils can save money by increasing recycling rates. The LGA estimates that if every council performed in line with the top-recyclers, it would reduce landfill waste by 1.2 million tonnes and save council tax payers £22 million a year in landfill taxes.

“There needs to be an urgent and radical overhaul of the way in which rubbish is thrown away. Local people, businesses and councils all have a vital role to play to protect our countryside before it becomes buried in a mountain of rubbish,” Mr Bruce-Lockhart concluded.

While welcoming initiatives that increase recycling, the Green Party said local councils must look at the wider issues, focusing on reducing waste as well as recycling.

Green principle speak Sian Berry said people should not be “forced” to reduce the amount of waste they produce without access to recycling facilities, calling on councils to promote recycling banks alongside doorstep collections.

“In some urban areas, it just isn’t practical for people to keep either waste or recycling for two weeks at a time – there isn’t the space for two wheelie bins,” Ms Berry said, recommending councils take any measures “sensitively”.

She added: “Most importantly, the government should also adopt policies that reduce the amount of waste created in the first place – introducing a tax on packaging to encourage producers to use less.”

The Conservatives have made a commitment to greener councils and more recycling central to their campaign for the forthcoming local elections.

Eric Pickles, the party’s local government spokesman, said people do “genuinely want” to improve recycling and go green, but initiatives to encourage recycling must be properly introduced and have local support.

“Labour have failed to provide proper financial support for councils to promote recycling, relying on complex, ring-fenced grants that fluctuate from year to year,” he criticised.