Harrogate man sets up waste firm to boost waste collections

A businessman in Harrogate has set up a private waste collection service to offer residents more frequent waste collections in reaction to the council’s alternate weekly collection (AWC) service.

Andrew Brown set up the company, Rubbish Service Ltd, in response to what he deemed to be an ‘insufficient’ waste service from Harrogate Borough Council. The council offers alternate weekly collections of both recycling and refuse, but Brown said that some residents ‘can’t cope with having their rubbish collected once a fortnight’.

As such, Brown’s ‘pay-as-you-throw’ service works by offering residents weekly or fortnightly collections for between £15 and £28.45 a month. Residents or small businesses that sign up to the service will be permitted to leave up to three bags of waste on their doorstep for collection. However, if residents wish to leave more waste than that, a roll of 25 bags can be bought for £2.75 per bag.

All waste collected from Rubbish Service Ltd will go to an unnamed ‘bulk disposal partner’ for processing. The company will apparently sort waste from the rubbish bags, with an initial aim of achieving 85 per cent recycling.

The service is being trialled within HG1, HG2 and HG3 postcodes from the end of May, with a view to extending the service to other towns and boroughs in the future.

Business ‘not a political statement’

Speaking of the service, Brown told Resource that the business was not set up as a ‘political or aggressive’ statement, but was merely created to fill a gap in the market and offer a service to residents who require more help with their waste, such as the elderly (who may have difficulty pushing the council’s wheelie bins), or those with young babies (who may wish to have their used nappies collected more frequently).

He said: “Some households will produce more waste than others on a weekly basis, because they have more people in them, while others might benefit from occasional extra collections. Rubbish Service will cater for both of these categories of customer: we’re offering a flexible and very personal doorstep waste collection service…

“We have seen strong demand from small businesses too. We want to be a friendly, regular visitor, and offer an old-fashioned, helpful service that we’re proud of.”

Referring to a very informal (and controversial) BBC One Show straw poll that found that 71 per cent of viewers supported weekly collections, Brown added that there was also high interest in weekly collections in Harrogate. When pressed by Resource as to the research that led to the conclusion, Brown commented: “The research was based on general discussions and debates with friends, acquaintances and businesses over an 11-month period.”

He said that ‘dozens of keen customers’ had already signed up for the Rubbish Service, which will begin at the end of this month,

He continued: “We are totally supportive of the move away from landfill and incineration towards more recycling, but the simple fact is that many households simply can’t cope with having their rubbish collected once a fortnight.”

At odds with evidence

Despite the claims that people prefer weekly waste collections, research carried out by the waste industry and universities has found that AWC collections are actually more effective in boosting recycling rates than weekly collections, and can often be just as popular.

Indeed, a University of Southampton report found that recycling rates could rise by nine per cent under AWC, which also reduces collection costs. And the often-cited Icaro Consulting 2011 report 'Attitudes to Waste and Recycling in Great Britain', found that 74 per cent of households with AWC were satisfied with their current set up (compared to 83 per cent with a weekly collection).

Currently, 69 per cent of local authorities offer some sort of AWC waste and recycling service, with 27 of the top 30 collection authorities opting to do so. Pairing weekly collection of food waste and/or recyclables (which Harrogate council does not currently offer) with fortnightly collection of residual waste is generally seen to be the most effective method for reducing waste and increasing recycling.

Council response

When contacted by Resource, a spokesperson for Harrogate Borough Council highlighted that the new AWC system was set up to ‘optimise recycling of waste rather than landfill’ and in 2013/14 saw the council divert more than 40 per cent of its waste.

The spokesperson added: “By using the scheme, which is similar to schemes adopted in other areas of the country, we have reduced reliance on landfill, reduced costs of disposal and are recycling more materials, which helps protects the environment and benefits the customers with a more efficient service.

“We would thank residents for their support for the new scheme and would urge everyone to maximise the use of the recycling service, which benefits the economy and the environment.”

The spokesperson did not offer a comment of the impact Rubbish Service may have on the area’s recycling rate.

Find out more about Rubbish Service Ltd.