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Feature: The general collection campaign

People don’t like change. They definitely don’t like change if they think that along with a load of disruption they will no longer be getting something they have paid for.

It is unfortunate, then, that with the mere mention of alternate week collections people have mentally ticked both these boxes. Up and down the country the public have stamped their feet in protest; they pay their council tax so why won’t the council collect their bins each week? Rats, rubbish mountains and disease have all been predicted. But in among all the arguments and wrangling, local authorities have pushed ahead with the scheme and for many it is, quite simply, working.

Peter Mansfield, operations manager at Abitibi Consolidated, is a true believer in the logic of alternate week collections. Having closely examined the experiences of local authority partners, he is convinced of the economic and environmental sense of this system. “Alternate week collection is a pleasant way of forcing people to recycle,” says Mansfield. “It is not a compulsory system or one where bins are weighed. It is not draconian; there is less space in people’s bins so therefore they must recycle.”

North Lincolnshire Council has been at the cutting edge of alternate week collections having had the scheme in place for 6,000 homes for the past 10 years. This has recently increased to 16,000 homes with a multi-materials service for glass, cans and textiles. A population of 153,000 and total household waste arisings of 105,000 tonnes per year, this unitary authority has made the most of recycling at its eight civic amenity sites, 57 bank sites and a waste paper kerbside service that covers 65,000 homes.

The powers that be at North Lincolnshire will vouch for the fact that fortnightly collections do force people to recycle and, allowing for what is recycled through their CA sites, they should be able to achieve a 40% recycling rate when the trial is extended throughout the borough. Furthermore they believe that by optimising all the schemes they should be able to achieve a 50% recycling rate.

All of this, however, comes only from meticulous planning. “It is essential to take steps to communicate to residents what is happening and why,” says Mansfield. “The British public are well educated and if they are given a good reason for doing something they will do it.”

Despite this, Mansfield says that councils will usually go through a “year of pain” when alternate week collection is introduced and must man up the helpline and have staff who are sensitive to the public’s needs. Extra staff may be needed to cope with what could result in around 2,000 calls a day. However, a well planned and executed strategy during roll out will dispel resident’s initial negative perceptions of the scheme.

Equally, cross-party support is critical. Chesterfield District Council was a Labour ward that was later won by the Liberal Democrats. However, the fact that both were sold on alternate week collections certainly made the process simpler. When Chesterfield opted for alternate week collection economics were the determining factor. Due to financial constraints they had to go for this system to release the funds for a green waste collection, which includes cardboard, for 20,000 homes. A kerbside collection of waste paper goes to 10,000 homes and a multi-materials kerbside service covers 32,000.

“Chesterfield had thought about where they wanted to be in 10 years time,&am

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