Food waste in a bin

Waste strategy could lead to monthly bin collections

Monthly bin waste collections more likely following government's long-awaited resources and waste strategy.
10 January 2019 , Katie Coyne

Monthly bin waste collections, which have been heavily criticised by the CIEH, could become more likely following publication of the government’s long-awaited resources and waste strategy, according to experts.

The strategy sets out how the UK can improve recycling, reduce waste and move towards a circular economy – and one of its proposals includes introducing mandatory food waste collections. Not all councils provide food waste collections and some have suspended them to save costs. Consultations are now beginning into how councils would fund them.

The strategy also plans to extend the responsibility of packaging manufacturers so they will pay for collection and recycling, which in theory should free up council budgets for food waste collections. (You can read more about recycling and plastic waste in the next issue of EHN magazine, due out at the beginning of February.)

Victoria Hutchin, associate waste and resource management consultant at professional services firm WYG, said: ‘Although the strategy acknowledges that appropriate resources at local authorities will be needed to meet the new net costs arising from the policies – both in terms of initial set-up investment and ongoing costs – where this funding will come from and what form it will take is presently unknown.

‘It could be that if the separate weekly collection of food waste became mandatory that this would provide a catalyst for reduced-frequency collections [of residual waste], ie, every three or four weeks.’

Research has shown that less frequent residual waste collections ‘encourage’ households to use their organics recycling. This could act as an incentive for local authorities to reduce the frequency with which they collect residual waste to save budget for other service areas.

In September Conwy Council announced plans to collect residual waste just once a month, netting itself a saving of £390,000 a year. CIEH hit back, citing public health concerns such as elevated levels of fly tipping, domestic refuse burning, pest infestations, and odour nuisance and fly nuisance especially during the summer.

CIEH has previously criticized plans for monthly residual waste collections over public health concerns and has also argued that any financial benefits will be wiped out as EH professionals must then deal with pest and nuisance-related issues.

In 2017-18, some 47 per cent of authorities in England and 53 per cent of authorities across the UK collected food waste at the kerbside. The majority collect it separately, while the remainder is collected mixed with garden waste.

Currently just 3 per cent of local authorities collect residual waste once every three weeks and less than 1 per cent collect every four weeks – all of these have a food waste collection service.

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