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Backlash over Pickles' weekly collections promotion

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has faced widespread criticism by the waste industry and councillors after publishing a ‘Bin Bible’ in an attempt to push local authorities into weekly refuse collections.

The document, which was initially published “in error” on Boxing Day and re-published nine days later, has been derided for containing grammatical errors and for being ‘insulting’ to hard-pressed councils.

Here MRW rounds up some of the views that have been expressed so far and examines some of the fine detail.

Inconsistencies in the Bin Bible case studies

MRW contacted the councils mentioned in the Bin Bible. Milton Keynes Council told us an anaerobic digestion plant mentioned in their case study is scheduled for 2015, not 2014 as was claimed.

Milton Keynes has also nearly completed a community recycling project with Coca Cola, whereas the DCLG guidance implies the project is ongoing.

The guidance also claims Bournemouth Borough Council was collecting glass separately. But a council spokesperson told us this was not the case and said: “Separate collection of glass is still on the cards and under investigation. Priority now is separate food collection.”

Bible bashers: reaction from industry and local authorities

Barry Dennis, director general of the Environmental Services Association:

Ross Barry

“In ESA’s view, local authorities are likely to find the DCLG ‘Bin Bible’ deeply unhelpful. It is not objective Government guidance, couched in measured language, but a one-sided argument against fortnightly collections which uses loaded terms like ‘lazy’ and ‘idle’ to describe councils which have gone down that route.”

Chris White, Lib-Dem councillor, Herefordshire County Council:

Chris White

“There are questions around whether [weekly collection] is really necessary. The number one thing is to make recycling as simple as possible for residents, and recycling will go up.

“It involves being able to mix as many dry recyclables as possible. There is certainly a cost at the other end to separate them, but I would suggest that the costs are outweighed by the benefits.”

Alex Perkins, Lib-Dem councillor at Canterbury City Council:

Alex Perkins

“We have fortnightly collection and it has been a huge success.

“Pickles is fixated with the idea of weekly collection, I don’t know why, he insists on cutting anything else and wasting money on weekly collections.”

Gill King, Programme Manager Waste Strategy at Milton Keynes Council:

“Our councillors, cross-parties, all wanted to keep weekly collection. They wanted to maintain that level of service and were concerned with the issues that there had been with alternate weekly collection in other local authorities, which had a lot of bad publicity.”

Keep Britain Tidy campaign:

“The guidance, consisting of a list of waste myths and case studies could be seen as headline-making propaganda. The evidence within it is weak and many of the examples given are cherry picked and selected from across the 84 local authorities currently receiving a share of the department’s £250m weekly bin collection funding pot.

“Whilst Keep Britain Tidy does not disagree with all of the myths ‘busted’ by DCLG in the document, we do not believe they represent a true and evidence-based picture as to the current challenges of the waste sector to recycle more.”


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