The next big debate – harmonisation of waste collection systems in England

28th July 2015 Posted by

With former Secretary of State Sir Eric Pickles out of DCLG and into his new post-election role of anti-corruption tsar, the brakes appear to be lifted off the previously taboo subject of waste collection frequency.

Rochdale Council is the latest local authority to be considering reducing residual waste collections to once every three weeks along with dry recyclates, but with food waste and garden collected weekly.  Our extensive operational experience with household waste collections has shown, that properly designed and communicated system changes that benefit both local taxpayers’ pockets and the environment, have been well received by residents.

DCLG’s unwelcome intervention over the life of the last government, with its insistence on weekly collections as a “human right”, has  in effect deprived local taxpayers of the reduction in collection costs that a more rational system would have delivered. The significant funding put up by DCLG to support this hobbyhorse could have been deployed on other more deserving issues – combating waste crime or setting up an infrastructure challenge fund, for instance.

Under Greg Clarke’s stewardship, one hopes that DCLG will join with Defra in leading a more informed debate on collection frequency, allowing local councils the freedom to design a system that best suits their needs. But we would like government to take the discussion much further and facilitate a collection charter between local authorities similar to that announced by Scottish Environment Minister Richard Lochhead.

Harmonisation of waste collection systems in England is the next big debate. A single one-size-fits-all model is clearly out of the question, but opportunities to rationalise and systematise certain aspects of waste collection should still be explored – bin colours, collection frequency for food waste, universal separate food waste collections being some issues up for discussion.

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