By the end of 2014, recycling rates in Belfast will have risen by around 10 percentage points in two years to reach 44.5%, a pace that would make most local authorities envious.
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Tim Walker, head of waste management at Belfast City Council, right, says: “For a post-industrial city, whose performance has been shifting around two to three percentage points year-on-year, suddenly to have increased by five percentage points for two years in a row is quite a major step.”
What the secret behind the rapid increase? Walker has no doubts: alternative weekly collections, “plus nagging, pushing and shoving people to engage with the process” and “thinking about it cleverly”.
For example, the council changed collections so that residual and composting bins had to be presented on the same day and recyclate on the alternate week. “This stops householders putting food waste into the composing bin one week, into the recycling bin another and into the residual another one.”
Another important factor was working on direct engagement with householders through tailored door-to-door campaigns.
“We had a professional team of doorknockers,” he says. “We call them resource advisers. They are not there just to talk about waste and recycling. It’s the bigger picture.”