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Closing the lid on collection

August might usually be the month when Bournemouths thoughts are dominated by its busy tourist industry but this summer the residents were being confronted by the fact that they produce 120,000 tonnes of household waste a year, far more per person than the national average. With high targets, but only 23% of rubbish being recycled in Bournemouth, the council has introduced tough new rules that make overflowing wheeled bins a thing of the past. Any rubbish preventing the bin lid from closing properly is now left behind and any extra bags of rubbish left next to the bin also go untouched.

Despite achieving some national notoriety, with predictions of rotting bags being left all over the borough, the council chiefs insisted it was necessary to make the town greener, avoid heavy financial penalties and keep Council Tax down. This isnt just about grabbing headlines in the press, its about saving the environment for future generations to enjoy and, incidentally, its also about reducing the increasing cost of waste disposal, which has to be paid for by every single household in the borough, said Roy Osborough, waste manager.

We as a community have an enormous challenge ahead of us. I am confident that Bournemouth has both the desire and the ability to meet it.

While the new zero-tolerance waste policy will not allow people simply to dispose of excess waste, the council is hoping that by spelling out the stark situation, residents will want to become more environmentally aware. The council has posted 101 ways to reduce rubbish on its website at www. bournemouth.gov.uk and is also offering hard copies of the information.

Councillor John Hayter, cabinet member for sustaining our environment, affirmed: It is vital that residents try to cut down on the amount of rubbish we are creating. If everybody plays a small part we can make a massive difference.

For Bournemouth, the scheme is one part of an objective for zero growth in the amount of municipal waste produced by 2005. The council needs to recycle and compost 40% of household waste by 2005/6 and it wants to achieve 100% participation in recycling schemes. By 2010 it aims to recover value from 45% of municipal waste and by 2015 to recover value from 67% of municipal waste.

But the council recognised it had a long way to go. In devising its plan, Bournemouth looked at its recycling rate for 2000/1 of 28% but this included recycled building rubble. Removing this reduced its recycling rate by about 9%. The bin analysis showed that there were significant quantities of waste still in the wheeled bins that could be recycled and Bournemouth determined that its strategy must include some means of separating this. Indeed, 59.8% of the total rubbish produced was from wheeled bins and a whopping 83% of waste that went to landfill came from those bins. Population growth is also high, running at around 0.9% per annum.

As part of attempts to address this, Bournemouth decided to implement its closed-lid policy, which began on August 1. The move was preceded by heavy local publicity; a part of the programme that has been key to its acceptance, says Osborough. I think we recognised that we have been guilty in the past of not putting enough resource into the PR, he says. This time we won a decent chunk of investment to hire professional PR consultants, who were project managed through our internal communications department. We produced high-quality leaflets for every household, panels for our vehicles and developed a good relationship with the local press. That was critical, the local papers were very supportive. If they hadnt been I think that might have created problems for us.

In fact Osborough says that the most notable aspect of the project so far has been the lack of complaints since it began. Weve had a few calls in from people who are unhappy but by and large everyone has been very supportive. We did this as part of a wider waste management initiative and one of the key principles was to get people thinking more abou

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