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Commingled wheeled bin collections lead to most improved recycling rates finds WYG report

Local authorities making the greatest improvements to their dry recycling rate are those which have moved to commingled wheeled bin collections, a follow-up to consultancy WYG’s controversial 2010 report has found.

The WYG research, which was supported by collection contractor Biffa Municipal, analysed WasteDataFlow figures and calculated kerbside dry recycling yields for unitary and waste collection authorities in the UK in 2009/10 and 2008/09.

 It found that of the 13 councils whose recycling diversion rates had increased by over 1kg per household per week, 11 had switched to a commingled collection service.

According to the report, Surrey Heath borough council increased its dry recycling rate by 129.8kg/household/week, rising from 48.3kg/h/w to 178kg/h/w following a change to alternate week commingled wheeled bin collections for refuse and recycling.

It was also found that of the top performing 30 councils for kerbside dry recycling, 23 used fortnightly recycling collections, 70% collected refuse fortnightly and 23 collected 75% or more of their dry recyclables using a commingled system.

However, the report was less conclusive over the impact of alternate week collection systems on increasing recycling rates.

WYG principal consultant Zoe Goodman told MRW: “Of those top 13 improvers, 12 moved to commingled recyclables, half of them moved to fortnightly waste collections and half kept weekly [collections]. Some of them did move to smaller [residual waste] bins. It shows you can improve recycling by reducing your refuse collection service, but there are also some that improved their recycling and did nothing to their refuse [collection service] by moving their commingled system to a wheeled bin. So there are various different factors that local authorities can choose and we’ve highlighted the ones which have been most successful.”

WYG project director Len Attrill told MRW that the report was “very much a follow-up” to the consultancy’s 2010 report, which was criticised as selective and operating a pro-commingling agenda.

Attrill said: “We were criticised in some quarters, primarily by those who didn’t like the conclusions, that we weren’t scientific enough. We’ve tried to take a more scientific approach in this, rather than being anecdotal, we’ve looked at the effect of deprivation on recycling because there’s a suggestion that there was a skewing factor in our last report. We’ve emphatically showed that’s not the case.

 “In terms of the economics of the different systems, basically, it’s another bit of weight in the scales in favour of commingling being a cheaper option as well as an option that captures more [materials]. We make it clear in the report it’s not a panacea, it’s not what every authority should be doing, and we’ll continue to support local authorities in whatever they want to do to achieve excellence and value for money, but they do need to look at this when they’re making their choices.”

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