The Daily Mail has corrected a story blaming fewer residual waste collections for an outbreak of rats after another complaint from Eunomia’s senior consultant Peter Jones.
The trade union Unite linked complaints about rats in Bury and the introduction of three-weekly bin collections, which the Mail reported in February.
The newspaper substantiated the claim by saying the council had “almost 20% more complaints about rats than before making the three-weekly switch”.
But Jones told the paper the research was not substantial enough to prove the link, as it had claimed, with nearby Bolton also reporting an increase in rat complaints despite not changing collections.
Although the Mail did not remove the article, it added a qualifying phrase: “However, other councils which have kept more frequent bin collections, have also seen increases in complaints, and Bury has fewer complaints than some other nearby councils.”
daily mail rat correction
Jones said: “No doubt we’ll see more of this sort of thing as other local authorities consider reducing their residual waste collection frequency, and I hope I won’t be the only one pointing out the absence of evidence to support such claims.”
He successfully complained about a story in January by the Mail’s environment editor, ’Great green rubbish farce: Hundreds of thousands of tons of recycling is burned or buried after being carefully sorted by homeowners’.
The story centred on an increase in rejected material from local authority recycling, suggesting it was mostly composed of recyclables. It was also issued through the Associated Press and picked up by the Daily Telegraph and Daily Express.
Jones contacted the papers to say the 338,000 tonnes of rejects reported in 2014-15 represented only 3% of the 11 million tonnes of recycling collected by councils, with most of the rejects being the product of the MRF sorting process.
As a result, he said, the Telegraph removed the piece while the Express and the Mail “argued the toss at some length” before retracting their stories and issuing corrections.
“There’s a lesson for those of us in the resources industry. We forget that we are involved in a complex supply chain whose components and rationale may be obvious to those involved, but completely opaque to those outside,” said Jones.
“We therefore need to be very careful about how we communicate regarding difficult issues like contamination.”
The Mail was forced to correct parts of a Richard Littlejohn opinion column originally published in August 2015 about local authority household collections after Jones complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
In March 2014, the same paper was compelled to remove articles on waste and recycling issues and publish corrections after Jones complained to the Press Complaints Commission.