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Wed, 25 November 2020

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Government Push for Weekly Refuse Collections: A Step in the Wrong Direction

Confederation of Paper Industries

2 min read Partner content

Earlier this week, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Eric Pickles, called on local authorities to prove their residents do not want weekly refuse collections.

Delivering a speech on waste collection frequency at the RWM exhibition, Mr Pickles criticised the ‘extinction’ of weekly refuse rounds in Wales and Scotland and suggested that the public should not be “treated like naughty children who need to be kept in their place”.

This follows Mr Pickles’ recent suggestion that, if re-elected, the Conservative government would consider the introduction of a minimum service standard for waste and recycling services, which would reinstate the previous legal requirement for councils to collect rubbish weekly.

CPI vehemently opposes the stance adopted by DCLG on all counts.
According to the best available evidence, moving from weekly to fortnightly waste collections, on average, results in an additional 25kg kerbside dry and organic recycling per household per year.

Further recent research suggests that a wholesale return to weekly collections would result in additional costs of approximately £200M annually, and a commensurate reduction in England’s recycling rate of around 2%.

Commenting on DCLG’s ongoing position, CPI’s Recovered Paper Sector Manager, Stuart Pohler, said:

“Widespread evidence suggests that councils offering reduced refuse collection frequency, alongside good recycling collection systems, can reward taxpayers with higher recycling rates, reduced waste disposal costs and income from the sale of good quality recyclable materials such as paper. Weekly refuse collection just doesn’t make sense, particularly once food waste is collected separately.

“Around half of England’s households currently receive fortnightly refuse collections, and local authority organisations generally agree that refuse collection frequency has little impact on customer satisfaction levels.

“Furthermore, a variety of reports (from Defra, WRAP and even the National Pest Technicians Association) have found no evidence of a link between well-designed fortnightly refuse schemes and increases in vermin.

“According to government statistics published last month, paper and card account for around 42% of household dry recyclables. Clearly, DCLG policy thinking risks diverting hundreds of thousands of tonnes of this valuable resource away from recycling, only for it to be recovered or landfilled further down the waste hierarchy.

“Mr Pickles would do well to recall that Article 4(2) of the Waste Framework Directive allows Member States to depart from the hierarchy for specific waste streams in order to deliver the best environmental (as opposed to political) outcome. However, this has to be justified by life-cycle thinking on the overall impact of generating and managing these waste streams.

“CPI would be interested to know where Mr Pickles’ current thinking fits in relation to this requirement.”

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