The news out of Preston's recycling and waste management division has been pretty good in recent times, so much so that senior recycling officer, American Amy Troner, ended up scooping Recycling Officer of the Year at last November's National Recycling Awards.
Ask Troner why Preston is getting noticed and she will start by dividing its waste management and recycling initiatives in two. Certainly Preston residents' attitude to recycling has been transformed and the results have steadily escalated, she acknowledges.
"What I will say first and foremost is that the results we've achieved have been down to the huge amount of passion that all the people on the team have. That's what has helped to shift attitudes," says Troner in an expansive Miami accent.
In 2000/01, Preston City Council households recycled only 4.8% of their rubbish; in 2001/02 that figure rose to 12% of the refuse, coinciding with the introduction of the first twin bin and blue box scheme. By 2002/03, Preston was recycling 16% of its total rubbish and a year later that climbed to 19%. For 2004/05, the city had reached 21% and Preston is aiming to recycle 25% of its rubbish in 2005/06.
"I certainly think we'll make that," says Troner.
"We might even beat it by a percentage point."
The city council made a successful bid for £450,000 to help it to recycle 40% of all household waste by the end of 2006, and extended its twin bin recycling scheme to cover almost every home in the city in mid-May. Now 58,000 households in Preston are able to recycle items such as cardboard, plastic bottles, glass, paper and cans.
The extension of the twin bin scheme across almost all homes in the city builds on the council's success with the scheme during the past few years. In 2001, the twin bin scheme was introduced to 26,000 homes, and the extension to more than double that number necessitated changes to the day of the week that bins were emptied.
Householders were sent leaflets setting out the new arrangements.
The council is also piloting a kitchen food waste recycling scheme in some areas, which began in June and has been targeted particularly at areas with high ethnic minority communities.
"It's about tapping in to how different sections of the community operate and what it is they need," explains Troner.
"From our research - we do a huge amount of analysis of what people throw out - we found that the Asian community in Preston generally produces a high level of plastic waste from soft drink bottles and milk bottles and also a lot of food waste because of a focus on cooking fresh food within their homes. So these became obvious areas of the city to trial a food recycling scheme."
The move to reach out to Asian residents began just over a year ago when Troner recruited Muhammad Tajyab as a trainee recycling and waste management officer. He joined from nearby Rochdale and speaks Urdu and Punjabi.
"From a council policy point of view, the only level where we could specify languages in recruitment was at trainee level," says Troner.
"If I could make one recommendation to other local authorities it would be to invest whatever money you have in a 'door knocker'. Muhammad has worked really hard to meet people in the