Four-weekly collections can increase recycling, says CIWM

Four-weekly residual waste collections can boost recycling rates and provide a good standard of service, as long as residents are provided with extra provisions such as weekly food waste and separate nappy collections, according to the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM).

LA Profile: Moving mountains
The Welsh county of Conwy has recently moved ahead with plans to extend its a four-weekly trial
CIWM made the assertion in a letter to Conwy County Borough Council as the council moves forward with its plans to roll out a local authority-wide four-weekly residual waste collection service after a successful trial, which saw recycling increased by 14 per cent with four-weekly collections and the total amount of refuse placed in black bins reduced by 31 per cent. The council is now looking to phase-in the changes by the end of 2019.

Concerns have been raised by residents and councillors that a reduced collection frequency would increase incidents of fly tipping and the presence of pests, although there was no evidence during the trial indicating an increase in either fly tipping or pests.

More and more councils are taking steps to reduce the frequency of residual waste collections in an attempt to drive materials into the recycling stream, which drives up environmental performance and can provide an income for local authorities, while reducing the costs of disposing general waste at landfill or through incineration.

Most so far have taken on three-weekly collections, to virtually constant success. These include councils in the Greater Manchester area, which needed to greatly reduce residual disposal costs, and many councils in Wales, where the Welsh Government has set ambitious recycling targets.

However, first Falkirk in Scotland and now Conwy have moved to make residual waste collections monthly to drive improvements even further.

In order to assuage the fears of residents and to ensure that a move to a four-weekly residual collection service does not negatively impact on the quality of service provided to residents,  CIWM has outlined which elements should be in place to mitigate against potential negative outcomes.

The letter states that ‘when rolling out three- or four-weekly residual waste collections, the following elements should also be part of the service:

  • Weekly food waste collections
  • Separate nappy collections
  • Good recycling provision in terms of material types, container capacity and frequency – either weekly or fortnightly
  • A comprehensive communications strategy to ensure residents understand the system and know where to go if they need further advice or assistance
  • Direct engagement with residents during the roll-out phase
  • Additional help for large families and those requiring special assistance
  • Assistance where a collection has been missed for a valid reason
  • Consideration of additional recycling collections during peak periods.’

CIWM stated that it supports the principle that local waste collection services exist to protect people and the environment and must also be delivered at an appropriate cost to the council and the taxpayer. CIWM’s letter went on to note that it was reassuring to see that Conwy County Borough Council’s latest proposals take the above elements into account.

Commenting on the move by Conwy and other councils to explore how less frequent ‘black bag’ waste collections can drive up recycling and control the cost of managing household waste, CIWM’s chief executive Dr Colin Church said: “Councils are committed to providing a good waste collection service and they know how important this is to households. The shape of these services has been changing for a while now as we have all got into the recycling habit, and extending the collection frequency of ‘black bag’ waste is a logical next step.  

“Meeting the principles set out here means that householders have access to the right type and frequency of collection for all things we put in our bins. If, as residents, we work with our local councils and use the services provided, there should be little if any offensive or ‘smelly’ material going in the residual waste bin that might lead to odour or hygiene issues. When it comes to littering and fly-tipping, there is no excuse for this illegal behavior, which evidence suggests is not linked to the type of collection services provided but rather to irresponsible and anti-social behaviour.”

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