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Feature: Clean Streets

Leeds has every right to be pleased with itself. Late last year, the city collected an MRW gong acknowledging its recycling achievements for Metropolitan Boroughs, and the council has boosted the amount of waste the city recycled or composted from 11.86% in 2001/02 to 21.58% as of the end of December 2005, with a total recycling tonnage of 55,410.

This increase was based on several successful initiatives, building on the launch of kerbside collections two years ago. These developments include the city-wide introduction of SORT recycling bins, which means that 88% of the population now has access to a kerbside collection of recyclable materials; a weekly collection of SORT recycling bins has been introduced for around 10,000 households throughout the inner wards of the city; while an innovative cement recycling scheme has been running — although this is currently on hold.

Eight household waste sorting sites have been re-developed into model amenities — including a zero waste site — to allow the recycling of a wide range of products. These are achieving recycling rates of
between 50 and 70%. There are also around 340 drop-off sites throughout the city available where news-papers, cans and glass can be deposited for recycling.

The council was boosted by funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the money from which has provided communal recycling bins for multi-storey residential properties previously not able to contribute to recycling collections.

Approximately 184 of these bins are for general recyclable materials and 128 are for glass, and these are emptied every week.

In order to strengthen the council’s recycling message to the population, Leeds also chose to adopt a uniform approach for its street facilities. Consequently, there are approximately 1,200 twin-compartment litter bins throughout the city which are suitable for both recyclable materials and non-recyclable products. These are emptied at least twice every week.


“We wanted to make sure that the street bins reinforced the same message as the kerbside collection,” says Pippa Milne, recycling and waste officer with Leeds City Council. “To be perfectly honest it’s a slow process educating the public with facilities such as these, but it demonstrates a consistency of approach from us and sends out a very positive image.”

That image is also extended to the litter picking staff on the city streets, who are equipped with twin bags so that they can collect recyclables using highly visible white and green bags to both boost recycling rates and to get the message across to residents.

Meanwhile in a trial area in Headingley, the council switched last year to a two-week collection of SORT recycling bins to try to drive higher rates in an area with a high proportion of students. “Leeds is a complicated area,” says Milne. “We have urban, high-population density areas in the city centre and then rural areas and market towns. So it’s a question of finding different solutions for different areas.”

Last year, Leeds addressed the households it could not serve around the city with wheelie bins by introducing green recycling bags for households not suitable for the standard household collection. The bags were issued in March last year to around 16,000 households to ensure that residents no longer miss

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