Guidance on weekly rubbish collections

9th January 2014 Posted by

Waste managers are likely to read the Department for Communities and Local Goverment’s (DCLG) recent Guidance on Weekly Rubbish Collections with, at best, a sense of disbelief.

In my view, the response of professional and trade bodies to date has actually been mystifyingly polite.

Firstly, the document doesn’t provide “guidance … on how councils can and should deliver weekly rubbish collections”. It is a highly skewed and self-fulfilling compilation of local authority experiences, selected solely from the 82 recipients of the £250 million weekly collection support scheme.

For every case study in the document, it is possible to identify equally impressive environmental and performance outcomes from some of the 200-odd local authority schemes deploying fortnightly residual waste collections.

It is also not clear how these recipient authorities intend to ‘safeguard’ their collection practices when support scheme funding comes to an end. Can the authorities make weekly collections financially viable with council tax income alone? This seems an obvious question for the Department for Communities and Local Goverment to have asked, but it didn’t.

Secondly, while seeking to address ten so-called ‘myths’, largely of the Department for Communities and Local Goverment’s own making, the document offers a myth of its own.

In the context of the High Court case in March 2013 on the interpretation of the ‘Technically, Environmentally, Economically Practicable (TEEP)’ test applied to the separate collection of recyclates, the report states “councils are not required by any diktat to make householders separate rubbish into five separate bins.”

On the contrary, local authorities will be required to provide facilities for separate collection if they cannot demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the competent authority (and that is not the Department for Communities and Local Goverment), that this method of collection fails the ”Technically, Environmentally, Economically Practicable’ test. The High Court judgement does not alter the fact that, under the Waste Directive, separate collection remains the default option – not commingled collection.

The most puzzling question raised by the document is where Defra now sits within England’s waste policy formation. The extent to which Defra appears to have ceded its responsibilities in waste management to other Government departments should alarm everyone involved in our industry, whether in the private or public sector.

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